Landrum: The Cobb County Democrats And Stoner’s Lament

Ed. Note: This is a guest post by Roswell, Georgia, lawyer Charles Landrum, who apparently shares the same devotion to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that I do to the New York Post.

Breaking news down south. The Cobb County, Georgia Democratic Party is getting a new office.

The house is only two or three traffic lights from I-75, and has excellent street exposure. The local party’s formal headquarters will remain in the nearby law office of former Gov. Roy Barnes. But larger meetings will take place at the new location, with an eye toward 2020.

“We hope that as these campaigns ramp up, presidential or Senate or whatever, this will be the first point of checking in,” said Jacquelyn Bettadapur, who chairs the county operation.

Ho hum. (Who’s already ready for February 2021? Is there a skip-chapter button on this thing?) Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

But the address is more than convenient. It is wickedly ironic.

Oh, really? How so?

For years, 591 Cherokee St. was one of Marietta’s most infamous addresses, home to J.B. Stoner, a notorious racist who polluted Georgia politics across four decades. He sparked a race riot in St. Augustine, Fla., in 1964, and served as an attorney appealing the conviction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer.

In 1980, Stoner was finally convicted for the 1958 bombing of an empty church in Birmingham. Federal prosecutors suspected him of plotting many others. Some, presumably, from that Cherokee Street address.

Ah, the patent signs of a notorious racist, polluting politics for decades: inciting race riots, church bombings, and … serving as an attorney appealing the conviction of Martin Luther King Jr.’s killer, James Earl Ray.

Wait, what?

Maybe we need to review some old episodes of Sesame Street, because one of these things is not like the other. Last I checked, starting a race riot was sufficient to be tagged a racist. Same goes for a 1950’s church bombing*. But the mere fact that a lawyer has represented someone accused of murder is not.

Yes, Stoner was a racist. But Jim Galloway offers no basis for his claim that Stoner represented Ray on appeal because of Stoner’s racism. Galloway just tosses “being an attorney, doing what attorneys do,” into a list of horrible, awful evidence of racism.

Maybe Stoner’s racism is why Stoner chose to represent Ray. Maybe not. I’m not defending Stoner. But this is nothing more than “guilt by representation.” This is a dangerous disease, and it needs to be rooted out. Maybe we’re too late.

P.S. If you are looking for irony, there are others that supported Ray’s appeal over the years, including the King family. What does Galloway think of them?

P.P.S. As for the “wicked irony” in the story, it’s a bit more wrinkly:

In a 1972 bid for U.S. Senate, Stoner had gone to court to win the right to use the “n-word” in his TV spots. (And yes, in that and other campaigns, Stoner ran as a Democrat.)

“Ran as” a Democrat? Because no true Democrat would be a racist? “Democrats Open New Office in Former Home of Deceased, Racist Party Member” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

*Ed. Note: Really any church bombing in any decade will do.

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