In 1952, two Wake County, North Carolina deputies hung Lynn Council, an African American man, from a tree after he denied involvement in a robbery. However, he survived. Now, 67 years later, the department is apologizing for what happened.
According to ABC Raleigh station WTVD, on Thursday (June 13), current Wake County sheriff, Gerald Baker, apologized to Council in person.
“On behalf of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, I want to apologize to you for what happened to you by members of this office,” said Baker. “I cannot change what they did and its effect on your life and this county, but we’re here to let you know that this office is here to serve and protect each and every person that resides in this county.”
Council briefly described what happened to him all those years ago. “They took me down to the woods to kill me,” the 86-year-old told reporters as the Council and Baker sat together at a table. “That’s what they took me down there for, but things didn’t happen that way. He added, “Jesus took over.”
According to the News Observer, Council said he was taken to the woods by the two deputies, tied up, and raised over what he described as a red oak. He was hung there but not long enough to die. After he wouldn’t confess to the robbery while being hung, the deputies let him down.
“They were wrong. They were wrong. … Hang me for nothing. Gonna kill me. Yeah, that was rough,” said Council, who still has physical scars from the incident. “But everyone who was involved is gone. Jesus don’t like ugly. He knew I didn’t do it. He knew.”
Sheriff Baker went a step further and removed a photograph of Sheriff Robert Pleasants, the man who was the Wake County Sheriff at the time of the horrific attack. “I ask for your forgiveness of this office,” Baker said. “We’re here and we’re sorry that that happened to you from persons employed at this office.”
Council was also presented a key to the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and was told he was welcome to come down anytime. “You can come sit and spend the day with me, help me make some decisions,” Baker said. “You are officially and permanently a part of this office,” he told Council, before the two embraced.
“I appreciate everything,” Council replied.
According to The News & Observer newspaper, at least 100 people and possibly as many as 300 were lynched in North Carolina between 1882 and 1968. Nationwide, the Tuskegee Institute estimates 4,745 lynchings occurred during that same time period.