The History of Paint Rock, Alabama
Originally Camden circa 1830, the post office was renamed Redman in 1846 and became Paint Rock on May 17, 1860. After the Memphis and Charleston Railroad Co. built a depot and water tower in 1856, the village thrived as a farm to market center. Four battles were waged nearby during the Civil War and Union troops guarded the railroad.
Early industries included a mill to grind corn and wheat, a pencil mill, and two mills made staves for whiskey barrels. In the early 1900s, the town acquired a hosiery mill and a chair factory. By the 1930s, the bustling town boasted a bank, car dealership, textile mill, drug store, and hotel. The two-story brick Rousseau Store sold merchandise from farm plows to groceries and caskets.
Tornadoes damaged the region in 1870, 1880, and 1932. The 1932 storm killed six people and destroyed the textile mill, half of the town's homes, and most of the downtown buildings. Highway construction widening U.S. 72 in 1975 removed most of the remaining business section of the town.
Paint Rock Arrests in 1931 Began 'Scottsboro Boys' Cases
On March 25, 1931, Jackson County Sheriff Matt Wann ordered an armed posse to stop a Southern Railway freight at Paint Rock after six hoboing white boys complained they had been thrown off by black teens. Two white women from Huntsville, who had also been aboard, told station agent W.H. Hill and Deputy Charlie Latham they had been raped.
At Scottsboro, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates identified Chattanooga teens Clarence Norris, Haywood Patterson, Eugene Williams and brothers Andy and Roy Wright, as well as Georgia residents Charlie Weems, Olin Montgomery, Willie Robeson and Ozie Powell as their attackers. The black men denied the charges. Four all-white Scottsboro juries reached multiple guilty verdicts with death sentences on April 6-9.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions and moved future trials to Decatur where Ruby Bates recanted her accusations. The trials, which created support for the defendants, continued into 1937 with more convictions, but none of the men were executed.
In 2013, the State of Alabama exonerated the nine men, the last of whom died in 1989, and issued pardons.