A 1941 Army Base Lynching Remains Unsolved

Pvt. Felix Hall was found hanging from a tree at Fort Benning
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2016 1:05 PM CDT
A 1941 Army Base Lynching Remains Unsolved
This 1926 file photo shows construction of the new Quadrangle for the 29th Infantry at Ft. Benning, Ga.   (By U.S. Military (Fort Benning Georgia Construction Report) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

On the morning of Feb. 12, 1941, Army Pvt. Felix Hall went to his job at a sawmill near Fort Benning where he was stationed. After his shift ended, he told friends he was going to the Post Exchange, the only place on the segregated Georgia base where a black man could order a hot meal. He never made it. Hall’s body was found on March 28 hanging from a tree in woods a short walk from the center of the post. Citing never-before-seen documents, Alexa Mills at the Washington Post reports that the lynching—the only one believed to have happened at a military base during that era—was never fully investigated. The FBI and the War Department failed to obtain or ignored important information. Although a military doctor ruled the death a homicide, authorities said the 19-year-old may have committed suicide. Outraged, the NAACP demanded a proper investigation.

Nobody was ever charged and the case went cold until 2014, when students at Northeastern University began digging. Hall was known to boldly converse and flirt across the color line—a dangerous act for an African-American at that time. Rumors spread on base that his lynching was punishment for having “his eyes on a white woman.” On the day he died, Hall was last seen alive walking through a poor white neighborhood. Two suspects emerged, both military men who were never charged. The FBI never followed up on statements by Hall’s friends that his white boss at the sawmill had threatened to kill him. No word from the FBI whether it would reopen the case, though a spokeswoman said the bureau “is committed… to aggressively investigate these types of allegations and bring justice for the victims and their families.” Read the full article here. (More Fort Benning stories.)

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