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Remembering the Life of Viola Liuzzo, with guest Mary Liuzzo Lilleboe

  • Broadcast in History



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Viola  Liuzzo according to the Levi Watkins learning Center "insisted on helping shuttle people from Montgomery back to Selma. After dropping passengers in Selma, she and 19 years old Leroy Moton headed back to Montgomery. Liuzzo stopped at a red light, and a car with four white men pulled up alongside her. They saw a white woman and a black man in a car together. Because of segregation blacks and whites in the South did not share public facilities and race mixing often led to violence. These men belonged to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a group that supported the continuation of segregation. They followed Liuzzo, who tried to outrun them. They caught up with her car and opened fire. She was shot in the head and died in Lowndesboro, Alabama on March 25, 1965.

On May 3, 1965, the trial of Liuzzo’s killers began. One of the men in the car, Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr., was an FBI informant and thus was protected by the FBI. The three others were indicted on a state charge of murder and a federal charge of civil rights violation. The all-white jury could not come to a decision and a mistrial was declared. The second trial began in October. The defense attorney attacked the credibility of the informant, Rowe, stating that he fabricated information. The men were found not guilty of murder. In the federal trial the defendants were found guilty of conspiracy to violate the civil rights of Liuzzo and were sentenced to ten years in prison, a landmark in southern legal history." Liuzzo-a member of the NAACP and First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit-had five children; Penny, Evangeline Mary, Tommy, Anthony, Jr., and Sally. Mary is the one who's our guest today.