Widow of the Last ‘Scottsboro Boy’ Dies
Date: Thursday, April 29, 2010,
The NAACP announced funeral services for Melba Norris, the widow of Clarence Norris – the last survivor of the “Scottsboro Boys.”
Mrs. Norris died April 24 at the age of 82.
“On behalf of everyone at the NAACP, we extend our deepest condolences to the Norris family and offer our prayers, thoughts and sympathy during this time of loss,” NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement on Thursday. “Her love for her family, her contribution to her husband’s legacy, and her passion for social justice will not be forgotten.”
Melba Norris was the wife of Clarence Norris, one of the nine young black defendants unlawfully accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama in 1931. Known as the “Scottsboro Boys”, the NAACP, the Communist Party and the Internal Labor Defense, a legal defense organization associated with the Communist Party volunteered to represent the youths, with the IDL obtaining the rights to represent the nine youths. The Scottsboro Boys were convicted of rape by the all-white juries, and Clarence Norris was sentenced to death three times and spent 15 years in prison before he was finally found innocent by the Alabama Pardon and Parole Board in 1976.
NAACP lawyer James Meyerson, who was instrumental in achieving Norris’ pardon, worked with Norris to erase the ‘Scottsboro Boy’ stigma, and secured the backing of Alabama’s attorney general to urge Gov. George Wallace to grant Norris a pardon.
Norris wrote his autobiography to describe the Scottsboro ordeal from his perspective. “The Last of the Scottsboro Boys” was published in 1979.
“The legacy of Mrs. Norris and her husband Clarence evoke memories of a dark chapter in our nation’s history, which brought worldwide attention to the racial injustices present in the South during the 1930s,” NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement. “In the spirit of her husband’s devotion to ending racial discrimination and advocating for the misrepresented, the NAACP is honored to oversee Mrs. Norris’ funeral arrangements.”
Norris is survived by her daughters, Deborah N. Webster and Adele N. Middleton, and seven grandchildren. Her funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, May 1 at House of the Hills Funeral Home on 1000 St. Johns Place in Brooklyn, NY.