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Telling Her Story

Six Decades after her father was lynched, daughter ‘sets the record straight’

By B. Denise Hawkins


Josephine Bolling McCall was five years old when she became a fatherless child.

Today at age 72, the retired teacher and school administrator living in Montgomery, Ala., wishes she could remember the fun times when she sat perched behind the steering wheel of her father’s truck as he drove along the dirt roads of Lowndes County, Ala., her birthplace. Or when she posed for a photo with the life-sized, blond-haired baby doll her father gave her on her fourth birthday.

These are among the happy scenes McCall shared with her beloved father, Elmore Bolling, but they are just treasured hand-me downs. For most of her life, says McCall, the recollections of others had to suffice until she discovered for herself the father and man that many knew well and revered. It took McCall about a decade to comb through historical records and newspaper clippings, to interview elderly relatives and her five surviving siblings, and to coax residents in Lowndes to talk when they would rather shut out memories of the town’s ugly past. McCall then knitted these pieces together into a revealing narrative about her family and Elmore Bolling’s murder.

McCall is convinced he was “lynched,” but not by hanging: On December 4, 1947, she says Bolling was chased in his truck by White men and gunned down. The 39-year-old father of seven was left in a ditch yards away from the store he owned along Highway 80. Bolling was an anomaly in his day, succeeding independently at every business venture he launched—farming, trucking and hauling, and owning a general store—at a time when many poor Blacks were sharecroppers.

Self-published in May, McCall’s new book, “The Penalty for Success: My Father Was Lynched in Lowndes County Alabama,” is the culmination of her dream “to set the record straight and tell our story.” Until now, she says, others, not the Bollings, were writing about her father’s killing, prosperity, and philanthropy. “I also wanted to dispel rumors and mistruths about how and why he was killed,” adds McCall.

The first-time author says she hopes “fellow educators” will be among the book’s readers, using it as “a resource to shed light on the racist climate that existed in the 1940s.” McCall is kicking off her national book tour in Montgomery where she graduated from Alabama State University in 1962 and in Anniston, Ala., where she became the first Black PE and science teacher in 1967. A new teacher in 1963, McCall joined what was then the Alabama State Teachers Association, the Black teachers’ union, before it merged with the Alabama Education Association. McCall retired in 1995 as director of special education from Alabama’s Phenix City Public Schools.

To contact the author and to order books, email Josephine Bolling McCall.

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