Remembering Anthony S. Pitch, tireless crusader for justice in unsolved lynching

Anthony M. Pitch, 80, died on June 19, 2019. The author and historian sued for release of documents in the Moore's Ford case--the unsolved 1946 lynching of two black couples in rural Georgia. He is pictured during a break at a federal court hearing in Atlanta, October 2018. Photo by Johnathon Kelso / New York Times. Used with permission.
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By Joseph J. Bell, Esq.

Anthony S. Pitch, author and my dear friend and client on the 1946 Moore’s Ford Lynching case, died Saturday, June 29, 2019, in a Maryland hospital. He was 80 years old.

Anthony spent the last six years of his life attempting to expose the truth about the brutal murders of four African-Americans on July 25, 1946, in Walton County, Ga. He was determined to seek justice for the victims and their families.

Sadly, Anthony did not live to see the outcome of the litigation he filed in the courts, seeking transparency from the government entities he believes held documents that could reveal what really occurred on that fateful day.

For those who knew Anthony, it was never about how many books he could sell or how much fame he could achieve.

Anthony’s satisfaction came from digging out and documenting details factually related to the crime that had been long since buried over 73 years of stop-and-start investigations by state and federal agencies.

The funeral of George Dorsey, a black veteran of World War II lynched in Georgia in 1946.
The funeral of George Dorsey, a black veteran of World War II lynched in Georgia in 1946. The ‘Moore’s Ford’ case remains unsolved.

Perhaps the best example of this occurred when authorities in Georgia and the FBI informed him that the 1946 Moore’s Ford Grand Jury transcripts had been lost, stolen, or perhaps destroyed in a flood. Anthony simply was not buying it.

A tireless pit-bull of literary research with the tenacity of Sherlock Holmes, he filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI and the National Archives. Suddenly, 10,000 documents that had never been seen before were at his doorstep – and as you might expect, he devoured every last one.

Morris County lawyer Joseph J. Bell and author Anthony S. Pitch are trying to solve a 1946 lynching that shocked the nation. Photo courtesy of Bell & Shivas.
The late Anthony S. Pitch, right, with Morris County attorney Joseph Bell in 2017. Bell plans to continue Pitch’s quest to solve a 1946 lynching that shocked the nation. Photo courtesy of Bell & Shivas, P.C.

Although you’d have had to know Anthony to understand this, I believe the real prize he sought in navigating the legal minefield of grand jury secrecy was an unshakable belief that every success in court was a way for him to engage in a personal, private, and near-spiritual dialog with the victims and assure them: “See…I told you we’d get to the bottom of this!”

Anthony S. Pitch was a champion of the persecuted, the downtrodden and the marginalized. While I am quite sure his literary successes meant a great deal to him, it was achieving something important for the little guy who could not do it for himself that exhilarated him and gave purpose to his life.

Anthony’s family has asked me to continue the battle to secure the 1946 Moore’s Ford Grand Jury transcripts. At the present time, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has decided it will re-hear the case of Pitch v. USA en banc (with all 12 judges) later this year.

Anthony, the fight will continue…and I will miss you dearly, my friend.

Joseph J. Bell is a partner in the Rockaway firm of Bell & Shivas and is the former Morris County Clerk.

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