Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn
September 19, 1915
July 11, 1964
Age at Death:
Lemuel Penn was born on September 19, 1915 in Washington, D.C. He joined the U.S. Army Reserve at Howard University and was an African American World War II veteran, serving from 1941 to 1945 and earning a Bronze Star. At the time of his death, Penn had been an assistant superintendent of the Washington, D.C. public schools. He was also the husband of Georgia Penn and the father of two daughters and one son: Linda, Sharon, and Lemuel Jr. Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn is remembered for being a loving father and an outstanding public servant of Washington, D.C. and of the United States Army.
Lemuel Penn and two other black Reserve officers had just completed reserve training at Fort Benning, Georgia and were driving home to Washington, D.C. As they passed through Athens, their car was spotted by three white members of the Ku Klux Klan, who began to follow Penn's car. The Klansmen were motivated to hunt Penn purely because of the color of his skin. Motivated by this racial hatred, the Klansmen pulled up alongside Penn's car near a bridge and two of the Klansmen fired their shotgun at the car. Penn was killed instantly. He would be murdered just nine days after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed.
Was justice served?
As of February 2021, justice for Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn has not been served. The men identified as having killed Penn and his companions were never sentenced to prison for the murders, yet they were sentenced for related offenses. Two of the three Klansmen were tried for murder in state superior court, but were found not guilty by an all-white jury. Although, all three Klansmen involved in the murder of Penn as well as three other local Klansmen were eventually charged by federal prosecutors for violating Penn's civil rights, which were listed under the still relatively new Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unfortunately, only two of the Klansmen were found guilty of conspiracy charges by a federal district court jury, while the other four were acquitted. Those two Klansmen would still only serve six years of their ten year sentence and nobody would be convicted of the murder of Penn. Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn, his family, his fellow reserve officers and their families still have yet to see justice for these horrific, hate-fueled murders.