The Charles County Board of Commissioners honored Hattie Carroll and her family with a dedication of a sidewalk and a locally-commissioned portrait at an outdoor ceremony on Saturday.
A pedestrian walkway near the entrance of the Charles County Government Building was named “Hattie Carroll Way,” in remembrance of the African-American waitress killed in a 1963 hate crime committed by a Charles County resident. Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) led the charge toward recognizing Carroll, along with county public information officer Crystal Hunt. Several members of the Carroll family attended the ceremony to help commemorate the sidewalk and unveil the painting.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said great-granddaughter Bridgett Carroll. “It’s a beautiful painting. I met some beautiful people, thanks to Ms. Hunt and Mr. Ken Robinson.”
The crime has garnered lasting notoriety thanks to a song penned by musician Bob Dylan titled, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” The 2016 Nobel Prize winner read an article about the death of Carroll and sentencing of William Zantzinger, who was convicted of manslaughter but given just six months in jail and a $500 fine. Dylan had just performed at the March on Washington, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and soon wrote a protest song about the case.
Robinson played the song as he addressed the audience, noting that Dylan still performs it today.
“You cannot right a wrong that was committed almost 55 years ago, but it is important to remember,” Robinson said. “Hattie Carroll’s story is remembered today because a relatively unknown singer, songwriter and poet was so outraged, as we all are, by the sentence that was handed down to the person convicted of her murder. Bob Dylan had to put it into words.”
Maryland Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles) followed Robinson with a few words from Biblical teachings and then urged those in attendance to keep a watchful eye on law enforcement and the court system.
“I think we need to remember that laws are made by human beings, the justice system is run by human beings and human beings are fallible,” Wilson said. “It should be a reminder that it is our job to ensure that they do their jobs, have oversight and accountability, make sure that due diligence is done all the time.”
After the speeches, artist and current Lackey High School teacher Vicki Marckel presented her portrait of Carroll, which will be on display in the lobby of the government building for a month and then be given to the Carroll family. Marckel, whose credentials include an oil piece for Pope Francis, discussed the importance of the medium as she displayed her artwork.
“Art is the universal language, it breaks down barriers, it breaks down socioeconomic status, it brings us together and it translates emotion,” Marckel said. “We use it constantly to express, to confide in one another, and also to bring awareness of issues. I’m truly honored to be part of such an amazing event.”
The painting was well received, as was the street sign emblazoned with the sidewalk’s new name. More than five decades after her tragic death, Hattie Carroll will forever be remembered in Charles County.
“It makes me feel proud and honored to see what a beautiful person my grandmother was,” said Bridgett Carroll. “She’s not forgotten.”