Byron de la Beckwith knows "But when the shadowy sun sets on the one that fired the gun" in Only A Pawn In Their Game is directed at him, though he was not proved guilty by two all white juries. Much evidence may have gone "missing", charges may have been dropped, but his victim Medgar Evers lives in a song and as a symbol. De la Beckwith was only finally found guilty three decades after the incredible murder he committed. At 73 Byron de la Beckwith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison on 6 February 1994. When I look at the original newspaper coverage of de la Beckwith's deed -- the newspaper coverage which Bob Dylan probably read -- I am chilled by the more harrowing points. Governor Wallace saying, "The State of Alabama does not have sufficient forces to be guarding every pawn of the N.A.A.C.P." [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] Ghana's offer to the United States of a "civilising mission" from Ghana through the Peace Corps. Medgar Evers calm and collected way of speaking, "A close friend of my dad's was lynched when I was 14 or so. He was supposed to have insulted a white woman. His clothes stayed out in the pasture where they killed him for a long time afterward. You'd see the blood turning rust color..." His comments on what he had seen in Germany serving in the United States army in the Second World War and how it related to what he saw at home. And I think you can also see, through the journalism, precisely what a man such as de la Beckwith stands for when you read, "Mr Evers staggered to the doorway, his keys in his hand, and collapsed near the steps. His wife, Myrlie, and three children rushed to the door. The screaming of the children, "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" awoke a neighbor, Thomas A. Young..."
But Bob Dylan does not react to all of this by writing in the narrative style of Seven Curses (The next mornin' she had awoken to know that the judge had never spoken, she saw that hangin' branch a-bendin', she saw her father's body broken) or in the emotive style of Ballad Of Hollis Brown (Your baby's eyes look crazy they're a-tuggin' at your sleeve, you walk the floor and wonder why with every breath you breathe). He does not choose the imitative style, complete with accents, of his rendition of Lord Buckley's Black Cross (White folks around the county there... talked about Hezekiah, they...said uh, "Weeeelll, well old Hezekiah he's, he's harmless enough...but the way I see it... he uhhh, better put down them God-damned books. Readin' ain't no good fer a ignorant nigger!").
Dylan chooses an even more powerful approach. If I were writing the the song I would need to put the screams of "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" in, I would mention what he had experienced in Germany, I would refer to the lynchings he had known in his lifetime. And my song would be largely forgotten. Bob Dylan takes the concept of "pawn" from a racist governor's statement and turns the whole thing on its head, writing about how white Southerners are also victimized by the evils of racism.
Rather than paint de la Beckwith as a major figure of evil Bob Dylan highlights the evil but dismisses the man as someone of no significance.
Clever man that Bobby Dylan. You and I might feel the emotion but be unable to express it. If you recall Sinead O'Connor's rendition of Haile Selassie's speech on racism through Bob Marley's War at The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in 1993 you will know that strong emotion and feeling does not a fine performance make, it can all come out wrong, be inappropriate, be misunderstood, and make all parties look and feel foolish. Not that Bob Dylan always takes the measure of an audience by any means. :-) But when he gets it right, he gets it very right indeed.
Racism is the greatest widespread evil I have seen, both in actions, and in people's minds, especially where it goes unrecognized for what it is. That Bob Dylan should choose the then unusual perspective not so much of the victim but of how it poisons the racist, that put me in some considerable sympathy with his work at an early stage.
Just as Byron de la Beckwith's story is a strange one, similarly William Zantzinger has another tale to tell. He spent less time in jail for The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll than he has more recently when convicted in 1991 of collecting more than $60,000 rent on rural shanties lacking even indoor plumbing, which he no longer owned - or at least fewer nights, the more modern sentence allows work-release during the day. Interesting character, he had taken one of the tenants to court winning a $240.00 judgement against the tenant, five years after he no longer owned the property! In some ways that takes more gall than killing a woman for alleged poor service at a hotel ball. Hattie Carroll lives in a song and as a symbol. So does William Zantzinger. You can meet them any day at a Bob Dylan concert. Unfortunately, while Medgar Evers and Hattie Carroll are literally dead, Byron de la Beckwith and William Zantzinger are not...
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll / The Times They Are A-Changin'" 1963
William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'. And the cops was called in and his weapon took from him As they rode him in custody down to the station And booked William Zanzinger for first-degree murder. But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Take the rag away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears. William Zanzinger, who at twenty-four years Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him And high office relations in the politics of Maryland, Reacted to his deed with a shrug of his shoulders And swear words and sneering, and his tongue it was a-snarlin', In a matter of minutes on bail was out walkin'. But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize fears, Take the rag away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears. Hattie Carroll was a maid in the kitchen, She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage And never sat once at the head of the table And didn't even talk to the people at the table Who just cleaned up all the food from the table And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level, Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane That sailed through the air and came down through the room, Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle. And she never done nothin' to William Zanzinger. And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Take the rag away from your face. Now ain't the time for your tears. In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel To show that all's equal and that the courts are on the level And that the strings in the books ain't pulled and persuaded And that even the nobles get properly handled Once that the cops have chased after and caught 'em And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom, Stared at the person who killed for no reason Who just happened to be feelin' that way without warnin'. And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished, And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance, William Zanzinger with a six-month sentence. Ah, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears, Bury the rag deep in your face. For now's the time for your tears.
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, jeffmad at aol.com says...
>Zanzinger was from Baltimore. There was an article in the Baltimore Sun
>about two or three years ago by reporter Michael Olesker, who followed up
>on the song. I lost my copy of the article and forgot what it said. I
>will try to find out.
Olesker's column came about because Zanzinger was convicted of being a slum lord or something and fined or sentenced to prison. Olesker had the neat idea of tracking down Bob Dylan to find out whether he felt any sense of triumph at the news. But he never got any closer than somebody at his management company. It was an entertaining column, though, and anyway, Zanzinger is apparently still living up to his earlier reputation.
-- Bob G.
email@example.com (bob gill) wrote:
> Olesker's column came about because Zanzinger was convicted of being a
> slum lord or something and fined or sentenced to prison. Olesker had the
> neat idea of tracking down Bob Dylan to find out whether he felt any
> sense of triumph at the news. But he never got any closer than somebody
> at his management company. It was an entertaining column, though, and
> anyway, Zanzinger is apparently still living up to his earlier
National Public Radio did a LONG, LONG piece on the Zanzinger conviction. He was worse than a "slum lord," actually -- he was renting out cabins on the outskirts of Baltimore thant had neither indoor plumbing nor sanitary outhouses. The people simply had to shit in their yards. The buildings were torn down. Zanzinger was sentenced harshly for what he had done.
I was a young woman when i first heard that song -- in my mid-teens -- and i knew at once that i would never forget the names Hattie Carroll or William Zanzinger and that if i ever met up with Zanzinger, i would do something terrible to him. Over the years i have talked to others who say that this song affected them the same way. Obviously someone at NPR felt a similar emotion and decided to really run Zanzinger through the full-court-press media exposure bit when the "slum lord" story first surfaced. His alcoholism was revealed, as was a long series of his business and personal failures. Good for whomever at NPR did this -- and good for Bob Dylan for having made such a memorable song from such a brutal act of inhumanity. Zanzinger will be watched for the rest of his life, and i am glad to know i am not alone in keeping an eye out for him.
cyronwode at aol.com
Date: Sat, 9 Dec 1995 07:59:41 GMT From: Jeff Rosenberg JfryBlair (jrosnbrg at WORLDWEB.NET) Subject: Re: Hattie Carroll /William Zantzinger Don't know if even Sorabh has heard this one, but I e-corresponded last winter with a kid who lives near Z. in Maryland, his dad is best friends with the infamous man, and the story Z. tells these days is that he just "tapped" Mrs. Carroll on the behind with his cane and she died of a heart attack from the shock! A likely story.... In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, ssaxena at coe1.engr.umbc.edu (Sorabh Saxena; Masters) says: > >>From: glynne walley (email@example.com) >>Subject: William Zantzinger >> >>character from Southern Maryland--maybe owned some land, but was not a Rich >>Man. Had more money than she, undoubtedly, but still. . . What happened > >I don't know what your intention were, but they surely were not noble >when you decided to post these false statements. > >Here's proof, which hopefully will stop you from spreading >such rumors again: > >From the 10th Feb, 1963 edition of The Baltimore Sun: > >He is the son of Richard C. Zantzinger, of West Hatton, a former member of the >Maryland House of Delegates and a former member of the State Planning >Commission. > >The Zantzinger home is at Mount Victoria, where Zantzinger grows tobacco, corn >and grain on the family's 600-acre farm. > > >>was that he went to Baltimore, got drunk as young men are apt to do in the >>big city, and bought a cheap plastic cane at a carnival or something. He > >The couple had been arrested earlier at the Emerson Hotel. Mrs. Zantzinger >was taken to the Pine street station and was released after she posted $28 >collateral. She failed to appear at court yesterday. > >Her husband, still wearing tails and a carnation but without his white tie, >pleaded innocent yesterday morning to charges of assault by striking with >a wooden cane and disorderly conduct in Central Municipal Court. He was >released in $3,600 bail. > > >The rest of the posting, in the light of the above, >doesn't really need to be replied to. > > >Sorabh > > > > >-- >****************************************************************************** * >"My love is for both the horror and ecstasy of life > and destined to eternal solitude." -- Baudelaire-Distorted >
Life after a lonesome death - (Guardian feb 25, 2005)