The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

January 8, 2013

Local historian says courthouse stairs walked by Judge Horton should remain

— The president of the Limestone County Historical Commission wants courthouse renovators to reconsider removing one of two interior marble staircases.

Chris Paysinger told The News Courier Friday he believes the stairs hold too much of the county’s history to be removed.

Limestone County Commission Chairman Stanley Menefee and Brian Moore, the head of the company overseeing renovations to the courthouse, say the staircase on the east side of the courthouse interior must be removed in order to place a new elevator in the building.

“I really would like to see those stairs saved,” Paysinger said. “Many would argue that they should be removed just to expedite the process of the renovation. But those stairs carry the implications of our county’s history. The accumulated weight and meaning of time and history cannot be replaced, or torn out for an elevator. I think of Judge Horton, ducking down those stairs on his way home, after doing likely the most courageous thing anyone in our county has ever done when he overturned the jury ruling in the Scottsboro Boys case.”

That case involved nine black teenagers accused of raping two white women on a train, which a sheriff’s posse stopped at Paint Rock on March 25, 1931. They were convicted in trials in Scottsboro, and all but one was sentenced to death. They won new trials. One of the women recanted her story. Charges against five of the “Scottsboro Boys” were dropped; four were convicted. One of the men, Haywood Patterson, was tried by Limestone County Judge James Edwin Horton in a Decatur courtroom. The jury found Patterson guilty, but Horton threw out the verdict, which eventually cost him re-election.

Paysinger said the stairs “have been polished with the shoe-leather of our people, and once they are gone we will be the lesser for it.”

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