Former Attorney General Bill Baxley remembers the first time he came to Scottsboro, coming down Sand Mountain on Highway 35.
“It was the most gorgeous view,” he said.
Baxley returned to Scottsboro last Friday as the guest speaker for the Jackson County Bar Association, where he recalled prosecuting the 1975 trial of Hugh Otis Bynum. Bynum was sentenced to 20 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of assault to commit murder in the 1972 bombing that resulted in Loy Campbell losing both legs.
“It was by far my most memorable, favorite trial,” Baxley told local attorneys. “It was the best lawyer trial and best judge. Hugh Otis Bynum was a unique character.”
Baxley said local author and former Sentinel Managing Editor Byron Woodfin’s “Lay Down With Dogs,” was an accurate description of the events of the day.
Baxley said it was a two-year investigation before coming to trial.
“We had several suspects, but never could make a case,” he said.
Baxley said it started after Bynum was convicted of shooting two black kids walking in his pasture. He was fined $500.
“That made him go nuts,” said Baxley.
Baxley said that started a plot to kill several people, including District Attorney Jay Black, Sheriff Bob Collins and Scottsboro Mayor John T. Reid.
Baxley said there were a lot of characters during the trial, including Billy Ray McCrary.
“Billy Ray McCrary had been arrested 47 times,” said Baxley. “He was a con man, who conned Hugh Otis out of money.”
Baxley said the courtroom was packed during the trial.
“Every seat was taken,” he said. “People would bring sack lunches. There were vendors on the square, selling food. In 60 years of practicing law, never seen that before or since.”
Baxley also spoke of his successful prosecution in 1977 of Robert Chambliss, a member of the KKK, in the cold case of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham on Sunday, Sept. 15, 1963 that resulted in the deaths of four young girls.
“That trial affected me,” he said.