The mayor explains.

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Wilson Daily Times, 19 February 1924.

Well into the 20th century, mayors presided over cases involving low-level crimes, much as a magistrate does today. In early 1924, Mayor Silas R. Lucas wrote a letter to the Times protesting its criticism of a $150 fine he levied upon an African-American woman accused of selling two Coca-Cola bottles filled with whiskey.

The facts, more or less per Lucas: the previous summer, a married white man and a (presumably unmarried) black woman were caught in a car at 11:30 P.M. Though the evidence (including a photograph of the man in the trunk of the woman’s car) established that the two were in a long-term relationship, both plead guilty to prostitution violations. Lucas sentenced each to 90 days in county jail. A week later, he saw the woman on the street, well-dressed, and learned that she was working at the county home (a “poorhouse”) by day and consorting with “her white lover” at night. As a result, Lucas now levied stiff fines on any woman who could pay them rather than sentence them to the leniency of a jail stint.

I have not been able to identify the woman who sold whiskey or the couple.

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