Lynch mobs gathered outside the jail, but were warned off by the white sheriff and rebuffed by National Guardsmen called in by the governor.
After the defendants were convicted, the Communist Party seized on the case as an opportunity to make inroads among black people and liberals. It got one of its lawyers named as defense counsel, and also secured the services of famed defense attorney Samuel Liebowitz.
There were years of appeals — some successful, as one of the women recanted and said their claim was a lie.
Decades later, when the idea of pardons was raised, the governor and parole board said they didn't have the legal authority to pardon the deceased. But Sheila Washington, founder of the Scottsboro Boys Museum, which opened in 2010, pursued the legislation.
Washington said Thursday that the pardons would finally shine a light on "this dark injustice."
If the governor signs the bill as expected, a petition would need to be filed for each of the men, said Eddie Cook, executive director of the state parole board. The parole board would then decide whether to grant each pardon.
Previously, there had not been a procedure for pardoning someone who is dead.