COLUMBIA – The nondescript concrete marker that lies on James T. Scott's grave and serves as a reminder of an infamous part of Columbia's history will soon be removed.The James T. Scott Monument Committee met Monday night to wrap up the final details of an April 30 ceremony to unveil a new headstone for lynching victim James T. Scott.
Scott, a civic leader in Columbia's black community and a janitor at MU, was killed by a lynch mob in 1923 after being accused of assault by Regina Almstedt, the 14-year-old daughter of an MU professor. A mob of white, male Columbia residents broke into Scott's jail cell early on April 29 and hanged him from a bridge near the present location of Providence and Stewart roads.
A memorial celebration, set to begin at noon April 30 in the Second Missionary Baptist Church, will be followed by a procession will lead from the church to Scott's grave at Columbia Cemetery for the unveiling of two monuments: the new headstone for Scott and a second monument dedicated to slaves buried in the same section of the cemetery. The church is at 407 E. Broadway, and Columbia Cemetery is at 30 E. Broadway.
The event will recognize three Columbia residents: Charles Nutter, J. Lyle Caston and Hermann Almstedt.
Nutter was a student at the School of Journalism who covered the lynching for the Columbia Evening Missourian and was one of the key witnesses at the trial of George Barkwell, a prominent Columbian prosecuted for placing a rope around Scott's neck and throwing him off the bridge. A jury found him not guilty after 11 minutes of deliberation.
Caston was a minister at the Secondary Baptist Church, where Scott was a member and was married. Caston played a key role in arranging Scott's legal defense for the trial he never had.
Hermann Almstedt, a professor of German, was the father of the girl who was assaulted. He stood up in front of the mob and begged them to wait for a trial.
Representatives of the three families from around the country have accepted invitations to attend and be recognized for the role their relatives played.
The committee formed last September and organized several events to raise money for the headstone and monument, including a memorial service at Second Baptist Church in November and the screening of a documentary of the service in January at The Blue Note.
Douglas Hunt, a retired MU English professor and member of the committee, said
he was "surprised by how widespread the involvement was, and the amount of positive energy it created in the community. It's been, emotionally, really moving.”
Organizers continue the search for living relatives of Scott. Hunt said he believes having them at the ceremony would be a way for the community to make amends for what happened to Scott and his family.
Scott Wilson, an independent Columbia videographer who was instrumental in striking off the words “committed rape” on Scott's death certificate, said he hopes for a large turnout.
“I would love for more than 2,000 people to show up,” Wilson said. “It will help reconnect with our basic humanity.”