COLUMBUS, Ga, (WRBL) – Eighty years after the fact, Fort Benning acknowledged a painful and tragic piece of its history Tuesday morning – the 1941 lynching of Private Felix Hall was remembered in a ceremony.
The event was held at the spot where Felix Hall was last seen on March 28, 1941. Six weeks later and a mile away, Hall’s body was discovered, hand and feet bound.
“For our country, this memorial is a guidepost for the faults of our past. So we can create a more perfect union which shares its greatness with everyone,” Congressman Sanford Bishop said. “So, that we are truly one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”
Bishop’s office spearheaded the effort to remember Hall, a black soldier, and rifleman in the segregated 24th Infantry Regiment. Lauren Hughes, formerly his communications director, researched the Hill lynching.
Hill’s death was investigated by the Army and the FBI, but no one was charged with the crime and brought to justice. The case resurfaced about eight years ago. It is believed to be the only known lynching on a military installation.
“This is the only one we have known of so that was a big part of my interest,” she said. “And just the lack of resolution. This was a young man who was deeply vibrant. He was funny. He was a jokester. And he was ahead of his time in how he treated everyone equally regardless of their race. And then to have his life taken from him in such a horrific way.”
There are now multiple markers on Fort Benning reminding soldiers and civilians how Felix Hall was lynched on post just before the start of World War II. He was lynched eight months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
His death was investigated, and no one was ever brought to justice. It is the only known lynching on a military installation.
As Bishop put it, a part of our history that had been swept under the rug and the Army is dealing with the ghost of Felix Hall.
“There was nothing to bring closure,” Bishop said.
By placing one monument where he was last seen and another where his body was discovered, it will be a reminder of the past says Lt. Gen. Theodore D. Martin.
“Today felt like we were righting a wrong,” Martin said. “But I know what we were really doing was just acknowledging one.”
And one that has to be recognized.
“(Men and women) serving this country in uniform and can look at the marker we will unveil and say to themselves: ‘Never again in my country. Never again in my Army,” Martin said.
Hall, from Millbrook, Alabama, was only in the Army for six months when he was lynched.
For more than a month, Army officials assumed Hall was AWOL. An investigation showed he had an altercation with his boss in the sawmill just before he disappeared.
Even though Fort Benning is acknowledging the Lynching of Hall, this is still not an apology. The anti-lynching bill in Congress has stalled.
“We have come a long way, but we must recognize that – as the recent news stories tell us – that we have a long way to go,” Bishop said. “And I am hopeful and I’m optimistic that every round goes higher and that we will achieve at some point the Beloved Community, as John Lewis would say.”