Monday, December 05, 2005

Matt Ingram Trial (1951-1953)

While I certainly am not attempting to open old wounds, I believe the trial of Matt Ingram deserves coverage on the CCHA website. If you feel differently, please let me know why. Historian William S. Powell provided some information on the matter in his history of Caswell County (When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977 at 537).

Note that Matt Ingram consistently was called Mack (and even Mark) but not by his proper name, which was Matt.

To fresh your memory, in 1951 black Caswell County farmer Matt Ingram, 44, was convicted in a Yanceyville court of assault on a female because he allegedly leered at 17-year-old white Willa Jean Boswell from a distance of 50 feet. The initial charge had been assault with intent to commit rape, but the court (Ralph Vernon) persuaded the prosecutor (W. Banks Horton) to reduce the charges.

The matter apparently was retried by a higher court (superior court)and resulted in a hung jury. This resulted in the matter being brought before the Yanceyville lower court for retrial; and Matt Ingram was again found guilty and sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term and probation.

Finally, in 1953 a North Carolina appellate court "resoundingly reversed the lower-court conviction, stating that, even if Ingram had leered (which he denied), there had been 'no overt act, no threat of violence ... We cannot convict him . . . solely for what may have been on his mind. Human law does not reach that far.'"

National and international news publications carried the stories, including Time Magazine and The International Herald Tribune. The first Time article (23 July 1951) claimed that the guilty verdict did not even make the local paper, which would have been The Caswell Messenger.

I am looking for contemporaneous materials to supplement my research on this matter. Surely there are photographs and local news articles.I find it difficult to believe that The Caswell Messenger did not cover the trial.

Please submit materials to me either through this message board (if you would like to share them with others) or directly to

Thank you.

1 comment:

  1. The Matt Ingram story was covered twice by Ebony Magazine. Ebony has photographic files in their Chicago offices.