It had to be like watching an old western on television. Imagine Wyatt Earp or Matt Dillion standing in front of the jailhouse as an angry mob gather.
Instead, it was real life on March 25, 1931 as Jackson County Sheriff Matt Wann stood there, facing down a lynch mob, eager to take nine youngsters to their final destination.
Without a doubt, Wann saved the lives of the nine defendants, forever known as the Scottsboro Boys that night. He did his job, plain and simple, with his life and others on the line.
Little has ever been mentioned about Wann in the Scottsboro Boys’ story.
A year later after that saving night, Wann was dead. Again, while doing his job, he went to make an arrest on warrant.
According to long ago reports, Wann, along with deputies, went to arrest Harry Hambrick on desertion charges for failure to support his wife.
Reports say a man came to the door after Wann announced that he was there to arrest Hambrick. The man later identified as Arthur Hambrick was arrested. At that point, Harry Hambrick produced a shotgun, fired over his brother’s shoulder and shot Wann directly through his heart.
Somehow, Hambrick disappeared from the scene and was never seen again.
Through the years, allegations of a conspiracy to kill Wann due to his saving the Scottsboro Boys has existed.
True or not, it will likely never be known. Hambrick never reappeared. He was never charged in Wann’s death, even in absentia, despite witnesses.
On Saturday, May 25, the late sheriff will be remembered. At 1 p.m., at the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center, family members and others will recognize the heroic efforts of a man who just did his job very honorably.