Advocates for man's pardon seek funds for his memorial

In 1919, he was executed for killing mother-to-be

May 24, 2000|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Advocates seeking a gubernatorial pardon for the last man to die on the gallows in Anne Arundel County are asking the public for donations for a memorial service they are planning for him next month.

With 1,000 invitations being printed and a grave-marking plaque on order for the ceremony for John Snowden, they hope to raise $5,000. The group has raised a fraction of that so far but members said yesterday that with word spreading through Memorial Day weekend church appeals and community organizations, they believe they will cover their costs.

Organizers want to give Snowden a more public memorial service than he had in 1919, and they want to raise the profile of their pardon request.

Requests for a pardon have come from Annapolis activist Carl O. Snowden (no relation), John Snowden's niece Hazel, two chapters of the NAACP, local historian George Phelps Jr. and others. Efforts to win a pardon from Gov. William Donald Schaefer a decade ago were unsuccessful.

Snowden, a black man, was hanged for the Annapolis slaying of Lottie May Brandon, a white newlywed expecting her first child. The execution so riled parts of Annapolis that the National Guard was called out to prevent rioting, and the black community quietly buried Snowden as its pastors cautioned them not to provoke whites.

But over generations, doubts have grown in the black community over whether an innocent iceman was put to death. They point to Snowden's proclamations of innocence, to an anonymous confession shortly after Snowden's hanging, to witnesses changing their stories, and to what they see generally as a rush to judgment.

Carl O. Snowden said he hopes to hear from Gov. Parris N. Glendening by the ceremony at 2 p.m. June 10. But Glendening spokesman Mike Morrill said that it would be "almost impossible" for Glendening, who is on a European trade mission until June 2, to decide by then. The Maryland Parole Commission has not made a recommendation to the governor.

The hourlong ceremony is scheduled for Brewer's Hill Cemetery, where a blank marker identifies John Snowden's grave. The speaker will be lawyer Leroy Phillips Jr., co-author of a book about the 1906 lynching of a black man convicted of raping a white woman in Tennessee who was cleared several months ago. The group will place a plaque on a pedestal at John Snowden's grave.

The service is open to the public. Donations may be made to Asbury United Methodist Church, 87 West St., P.O. Box 2325, Annapolis, 21401.

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