FORT BENNING, Ga. - There may be only one thing worse than a historic tragedy. That would be forgetting it even happened.
"I wish today was like we were righting a wrong," said Lt. General Theodore Martin of the US Army. "But I know what we are really doing is just acknowledging one."
Martin was on hand to help unveil a marker at Fort Benning Tuesday that tells the story of what happened to Black Army Private Felix Hall.
On February 12, 1941, with the Army still segregated, Private Hall was last seen walking in the direction of the so-called Colored Post Exchange. Six weeks later his decomposing body was discovered nearly a mile away in a ravine. A noose was around his neck tied to a sapling. His hands and feet bound with rope and baling wire.
The FBI found signs Hall had frantically tried to dig away the side of the ravine with his feet so he’d have something to stand on.
The ceremony was originally planned for July 23 but had to be rescheduled.
His killers were never caught. All the suspects are long dead.
It would be the only known lynching on a US military installation.
But for the thousands of soldiers who passed through Fort Benning after the Army integrated, Hall’s murder was lost to history. None of the soldiers or longtime workers attending the ceremony at Fort Benning told the FOX 5 I-Team they knew anything about Felix Hall.
Even Georgia Congressman Sanford Bishop — whose district covers Fort Benning — had ever heard of Hall’s lynching until a former soldier contacted his office last year in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
"I was heartbroken to learn about Private Hall’s murder," Bishop said at the ceremony. "This happened on this base. It happened in our community."
An artist's rendering of the stone monument that will be put up in September near where Hall's body was found. His actual grave has never been found.
A second stone marker is planned for the area where Hall’s body was found.
Those two memorials will certainly outlast the hundreds of signs that say Fort Benning.
Named after a Confederate General, the Army installation where Felix Hall was lynched is scheduled to get a new name — free from the tint of segregation — by next year.
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