The personal account of a community and a lawyer united to battle one of the most recalcitrant bastions of resistance to civil rights.
In 1961, Forrest County, Mississippi, became a focal point of the civil rights movement when the United States Justice Department filed a lawsuit against its voting registrar Theron Lynd. While 30 percent of the county's residents were black, only twelve African Americans were on its voting rolls. United States v. Lynd was the first trial that resulted in the conviction of a southern registrar for contempt of court. The case served as a model for other challenges to voter discrimination in the South and was an important influence in shaping the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Count Them One by One is a comprehensive account of the groundbreaking case written by one of the Justice Department's trial attorneys. Gordon A. Martin, Jr., then a newly minted lawyer, traveled to Hattiesburg from Washington to help shape the federal case against Lynd. He met with and prepared the government's sixteen courageous black witnesses who had been refused registration, found white witnesses, and was one of the lawyers during the trial.
Decades later, Martin returned to Mississippi to find these brave men and women he had never forgotten. He interviewed the still-living witnesseses, their children, and friends. Martin intertwines these current reflections with vivid commentary about the case itself. The result is an impassioned, cogent fusion of reportage, oral history, and memoir about a trial that fundamentally reshaped liberty and the South.
Gordon A. Martin —
Gordon A. Martin, Jr., Boston, Massachusetts, is a retired trial judge and an adjunct professor at New England School of Law. His work has been published in the Boston Globe, Commonweal, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Encyclopedia of African-American Culture and History, various law reviews, and other periodicals.
Martin, Gordon A., Jr. Count them one by one: black Mississippians fighting for the right to vote. University Press of Mississippi, 2010. 272p bibl index afp; ISBN 9781604737899. Reviewed in 2011jul CHOICE.
The politically solid South was permanently changed when African Americans won the right to vote. In 1962, three years before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the new era opened with the United States v. Theron Lynd court case in Forrest County, Mississippi, in which federal Justice Department attorneys overrode the Mississippi legal culture to gain the right of black Mississippians to register and vote. Martin (New England Law/Boston) was one of the young lawyers sent in to build the cases against the discriminating voter registrars. Decades later, Martin returned to Forrest County to review the results of the 1961 efforts. Martin's gift as a storyteller invites readers to understand the heroes and villains and why they acted as they did. As a trial judge, and with the use of interview and transcript quotes, he makes the story lively and suspenseful. The scholarly volume offers valuable insight into how nuances, personalities, and appointments determine the outcomes of the US legal system, and affirms the judgment of the civil rights leaders of the 1930s-40s who decided that the courts would offer the most promising path to civil rights and equal opportunity for black Americans.
Summing Up: Highly recommended. All audiences and libraries. -- J. H. Smith, Wake Forest University