Blind Obedience: A True Story of Family Loyalty and Murder in South Georgia

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9780865547070: Blind Obedience: A True Story of Family Loyalty and Murder in South Georgia

When three teenage boys stood accused of killing two children in another family in 1905, the three were charged with murder and two faced the hangman's noose. But was it really murder? A judge said no, that the boys had simply obeyed their father's instructions. They were guilty, he said, "only of blind obedience."

The trials of Joe Rawlins—a popular, well-to-do South Georgia farmer, a Baptist preacher and father of five—and his sones ended a bitter feud that lasted for more than twenty years. Joe Rawlins and W. L. Carter argued over property rights, stray livestock, fishing rights, even each other's character. Rawlins moved twice and each time he thought he had seen the last of his archenemy. But each time, Carter showed up and bought land bordering Rawlins' farm. Was it a coincidence or was Rawlins being pursued? As the acrimony peaked, Rawlins tried to kill Carter, but failed. Then he hired an assassin and sent his own sons to wipe out the entire Carter family. But the only victims of the attempt were two teenage Carter children.

The trials that followed brought a festival atmosphere to Valdosta, Georgia. Excursion trains ferried several thousand people to town for the trial. Joe Rawlins became one of the most quoted condemned men in Georgia history, and the demand for accounts of the trial and subsequent appeals turned the twice-a-week Valdosta Times into a daily newspaper.

Blind Obedience tells how the testimony of Alf Moore, an African-American man, was critical to putting a white man on the gallows, possibly the first time a black man's testimony was taken so seriously. The book also documents a series of appeals by Macon attorney John Randolph Cooper that delayed the hanging of Rawlins for sixteen months, a respite that was unheard of at the time. Even today, the Rawlins case is remembered as the most famous murder case in the history of Lowndes County, as well as one of the most notorious in Southern history.

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From the Publisher:

Advance Praise for Blind Obedience:

"Blind Obedience is a tragic but true story of a feud between two families, reminding the reader of the infamous Hatfields and McCoys. Boyd's narrative vividly tells this story of love, hate, murder, and lynching."—Margaret Anne Barnes, author of A Buzzard is my Best Friend, The Tragedy and Triumph of Phenix City, Alabama, and Murder in Coweta County.

"Bill Boyd's book Blind Obedience is a dark, disturbing tale of murder and misplaced loyalty. He makes turn-of-the-century rural Georgia a very real place peopled with fascinating characters. It is fast moving—I read it in two sittings—and the characters stayed with me for days after I finished the book."—Jaclyn White, author of Whisper to the Black Candle

About the Author:

Bill Boyd, author of Fat, Dumb, and Happy Down in Georgia, writes a column, "Bill Boyd's Georgia" for the Macon, Telegraph.

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