Governor Robert Bentley exonerates"Scottsboro Boys" - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Governor Robert Bentley exonerates"Scottsboro Boys"

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April 19th will be remembered as a day history was made right in Alabama. Today Governor Robert Bentley signed Senate Bill 97 and House Joint Resolution 20.

The measures pardon and exonerate nine black men known as the "Scottsboro Boys" who were accused of raping two white women in 1931. The signing was held at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center. 

The were tears and cheers throughout the entire ceremony. Many people were wearing pens with picture of the men and defense attorney Sam Leibowitz. The pens read "Exonerated. we support the Scottboro Boys".

The son of one of these young men was there today. He says the world now knows his father is innocent.

"Learning that my father had been convicted of something as heinous as rape, it did a lot to me during my childhood to think that people thought that my father and those other eight young boys were criminals," said Clarence Norris, Junior.

Norris never met his father. Everything he knows about the man he was named after came from the memories of other people. He says every story told about his father was that of an upright man.

"My mother told me a lot about him, and the fact that he was a kind and gentle person," he said.

Norris looked on as Governor Bentley signed Senate Bill 97 and House Joint Resolution 20, exonerating his father and the eight others wrongly accused of raping two white women.

It's been 82 years, and all nine men are dead. But Governor Bentley says it's never too late do the right thing.

"This brings us to the point where we realize that a mistake was made and we're going to right that wrong," said Bentley.

Shelia Washington, founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum, is not a descendant of any of the nine "Scottboro Boys". But at age seventeen she became intrigued by their stories and decided she wouldn't rest until she saw this day.

"At seventeen I knew they were innocent. I have always said we have nothing to celebrate until the Scottsboro boys are exonerated," said Washington.

Governor Bentley acknowledge we cannot undo the injustice that took place so long ago, but he hopes this will start a healing process for scottsboro.

"A pardon says that they did something and we pardon them for it. This says that they never did it. And so the exoneration I think is very important," said Governor Bentley.

The story of the "Scottsboro Boys" has gained national attention and was made into a musical on Broadway.

The graves of Haywood Patterson, Andy Wright and Roy Wright have been located. Shelia Washington says she wants to locate the graves of the others and place historical markers at the sites.

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