Bitter battle over book comes to end
Bob Ingram, Alabama Scene
MONTGOMERY–A bitter war of words between a prominent retired state official and the University of Alabama Press has finally been resolved.
Two years ago the UA Press announced it planned to publish a book on the assassination of Atty. Gen-nominee Albert Patterson, who was shot down outside his office in June, 1954.
As a courtesy, they sent an advance proof of the book to John Patterson, son of the slain man, and a former attorney general, governor and state court judge.
Patterson (and you can address him as General, Governor or Judge) hit the ceiling when he read the book. He had good reason to. While the author, Alan Grady, insisted it was not his intent, there were passages in the book that came dangerously close to suggesting that Patterson knew far more about the murder of his father than he was willing to admit.
Patterson was further incensed that Grady had apparently based much of his writing on information supplied to him by an informant whom Patterson said was most unreliable.
Along the way Grady had taken what appeared to be a few unnecessary shots at Patterson. He wrote in the original version that Patterson was at home "reading a cheap paperback novel" when he learned his father had been shot. He was actually reading an historical account of the Scottsboro Boys trial. In fact, he still has the book with the bookmark in the same place he left it that night.
After 18 months or more of back-and-forth letters, including several in which Patterson clearly indicated he would go to court to try to block its publication, the book underwent a major re-write and editing job. All of what Patterson thought were "cheap shots" at him were deleted, so was much of the information provided by the source Patterson had questioned.
Last week Patterson told me at lunch that he had read the revised edition and was satisfied with its content.
"I don't like the book, but since they removed the most objectionable parts of it I have told them I would make no further objections to it being published," Patterson said.
For the record, the book is entitled "When Good Men Do Nothing" and will be in book stores in the very near future.
Grady, who raised some questions about the real killers of Albert Patterson, closed the book with a comment on that point:
"The Albert Patterson murder investigation remains incomplete in that, one way or another, justice was denied. The Russell County Grand Jury indicted three men for Patterson's murder (Atty. Gen. Si Garrett, Circuit Solicitor Arch Ferrell and Deputy Sheriff Albert Fuller), and depending on one's point of view, either two of them escaped punishment or one was punished unjustly."
For the record, only Fuller was convicted and sentenced to prison. Ferrell was acquitted, and Garrett never went to trial.
Because this crime committed so long ago impacted so enormously on Alabama history and politics, almost 50 years after the fact, it is still a story that intrigues.
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