SCOTTSBORO, Alabama - On April 19, Gov. Robert Bentley will come here to hold a ceremonial signing of Senate Bill 97, a measure that allows for posthumous pardons of the Scottsboro Boys.
"This is historic legislation, and it's time to right this wrong," Bentley said in a press release. "I want to visit Scottsboro in person and stand together with the men and women who have worked so hard to clear the names of the Scottsboro Boys."
The time and place for the ceremony have not been determined. The Scottsboro Boys Act was passed by the Legislature on April 4.
Nine African-American men became known as the Scottsboro Boys after they were accused by two white women of rape in 1931. The women claimed they were raped aboard a train and when it stopped in Paint Rock, the accused were taken to jail in Scottsboro.
The young men were convicted by all-white juries and all but one were initially sentenced to death despite evidence that they were innocent. One of the accusers later recanted her story.
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned those initial convictions in 1932 and ordered new trials, one defendant, Haywood Patterson was re-tried in Decatur in 1933. Patterson was 18 at the time he was accused. Circuit Judge James Horton of Athens heard the case. Patterson was once again convicted by the jury but Horton, realizing there was no evidence to support the rape charge, overturned it. His career was ruined by the unpopular decision but he is now regarded as a Civil Rights hero.
See a timeline of the case from PBS here.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, who represents Morgan and Limestone counties, co-sponsored the Scottsboro Boys pardon bill with Rep. Laura Hall, D-Huntsville.
They plan to attend the April 19 ceremony, according to a spokeswoman in Orr's office.
An official copy of the legislation will be signed before April 19 so it can be filed by the deadline to enroll the bill, according to the governor's press release.
The bill would pardon eight of the nine defendants. Clarence Norris, the only Scottsboro Boy known to be alive in 1976, was pardoned with the support of then- Gov. George C. Wallace.