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August 26, 1961
Black Quotidian: Everyday History in African-American Newspapers

August 26, 1961

On August 26, 1961, the Cleveland Call and Post ran a front page picture of fifteen-year-old Preston Cobb Jr. with the caption “This Boy Must Die!” An all-white jury in Jasper County, Georgia, found Cobb guilty of killing Coleman Dumas, a seventy-year-old white man who owned the farm where Cobb and his mother lived and worked. The judge sentenced Cobb to death in the electric chair. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund appealed Cobb’s conviction for several years and were successful in getting the death sentence reduced to a life sentence. In October 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case and reversed the life sentence on the grounds that black residents of Jasper County, Georgia, were blocked from serving on juries. The court ordered that Cobb be retried with a new jury drawn from an integrated panel. Before this new trial Cobb accepted a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilt to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. I was unable to find any information on what happened to Preston Cobb after 1968.

Preston Cobb Jr.’s case received extensive coverage in the black press, including this article, “Must This Boy Die?” by Trezzvant Anderson in the Pittsburgh Courier.