I’m afraid to watch the trial of Derek Chauvin, but it made me remember a tweet I’d read recently. It was about a New York soldier named Edward Green who was shot to death by a bus driver named Odell Lachney in Louisiana in 1944. Lachney had demanded that Green move to the back of the bus and Green refused. Lachney stopped the bus and walked towards Green. “A white passenger sitting directly behind the drivers’ seat, cautioned Mr. Lachney: ‘Don’t shoot him on the bus.’ Apparently heeding this advice, Mr. Lachney forced Private Green onto the street as he pleaded, “Don’t kill me, I’ll get off.” Lachney killed him anyway. Criminal charges were never filed.
So whatever became of the murderer Odell Lachney? I found a 1951 article in the Atlanta Daily World which indicated that Lachney went right on harassing and abusing people of color. The year before he’d told two African American couples on the bus to be quiet. One of the women refused, and Lachney once again stopped the bus. He went up to the woman and slapped her.
Just picture that. Picture your bus driver coming back and slapping a woman sitting near you. When her husband tried to protect her Lachney attacked him. The only people arrested, of course, were the two African American men defending their wives and themselves. The judge gave them a suspended sentence because they were provoked, he said. “I have also taken into consideration the person who made this complaint and it appears that on several occasions complaints have been filed against him in the city court.” The paper also mentioned Lachney’s murder of Private Green and that “various civic and business groups have petitioned for his removal from his job.”
It’s heart-breaking that horrible people like this can go on, murdering and assaulting people, and there are never any consequences. I’d hoped to find one shred of evidence that justice finally came for Odell Lachney. But I haven’t found much else about him except in the 1930 Census there’s an Odell Lachney who was married at 17 and living with his 17 year old wife Tammie, and a newborn daughter Dorothy Mae. (I think Dorothy Mae was living with an uncle in the next census, and was later married twice.)
The story did make the New York Amsterdam News, an African American-owned newspaper here in New York.