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When Good Men Do Nothing:
The Assassination of Albert Patterson
By Alan Grady
University of Alabama Press, 2003
Hardcover, $29.95
ISBN: 0-8173-1141-6
 
 

During the 1940s and '50s, Phenix City, located in Alabama just across the state line from Columbus, Georgia, was considered to be "the most corrupt city in America." Known as "Sin City," the town's economy was based on prostitution, gambling, and bootlegging. Political corruption was a given. Soldiers from Fort Benning, Georgia spent their leisure time and money in Phenix City. (The town has a cameo in Tony Hillerman's memoir.) 

In June of 1954, a time of great change in the state, Albert Patterson, the Democratic Party's Nominee for state attorney general, was assassinated as he was leaving his law office in Phenix City. Making the cleaning up of Phenix City his primary campaign promise had not endeared him to locals. Illegal income had become a way of life for politicians and businessmen in the area and no one wanted to see the status quo changed. 

Alan Grady has researched his topic thoroughly. Using the transcripts from the state's murder case, Patterson's private papers, National Guard reports, files from the Office of the Alabama Attorney General, and case files as well as interviews, the author has reconstructed the events surrounding Patterson's death. 

Anyone familiar with the good ol' boy system in the Deep South will find the intricate connections and complicated relationships between the judicial, criminal, and political branches of Alabama's government fascinating. 

Alan Grady, a state and local historian, is a contractor for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. His work has appeared in Alabama Heritage.

 

Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews

 

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