Almost 77 years ago in LaGrange, Ga., a man named Austin Callaway was dragged out of a jail cell by a band of masked white men, then shot and left for dead. Last night LaGrange’s police chief, Louis Dekmar, who is white, issued a rare apology for a Southern lynching, the New York Times reports. “I sincerely regret and denounce the role our police department played in Austin’s lynching, both through our action and our inaction,” Dekmar told a crowd at an African-American church. “And for that, I’m profoundly sorry. It should never have happened.”
The apology for the Sept. 8, 1940, killing is part of a renewed push across the South to acknowledge the brutal mob violence that enforced racial segregation after Reconstruction. The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,075 “racial terror lynchings” of blacks by white mobs in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. In LaGrange, “it became clear that something needed to be done to recognize that some things we did in the past are a burden still carried by officers today,” Dekmar told the Times.