Hattie Carroll

Background

Hattie Carroll, 51, died after being beaten with a toy cane at the Spinster’s Ball at the Emerson Hotel.  Carroll was the mother of eleven children and a prominent member of the Baltimore African-American community.  She worked at the Emerson Hotel as a barmaid.  On the night of February 8, 1963, William Zantzinger, a wealthy local farmer, ordered a drink from Carroll.  When she did not serve him fast enough for his liking, Zantzinger cursed at her, called her a “black son of a bitch,” and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with his 25-cent toy cane.  Earlier that evening, Zantzinger had drunkenly assaulted at least three Emerson Hotel employees as well as his wife.  Carroll, died eight hours later around 9 a.m. from a brain hemorrhage.

Bob Dylan memorialized Carroll’s death in his 1965 song “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.”

Legal Status

Zantzinger was initially charged with murder, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter.  The court reduced the charge based on the coroner’s opinion that Carroll’s brain hemorrhage was likely stress induced rather than the effect of blunt-force trauma from the blow.  Zantzinger, admitting that he was intoxicated, claimed he had no memory of the assault.  He was also charged with disorderly conduct.  On August 28, 1963 the accused was convicted of both charges and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and a fine of $500.  Zantzinger paid $25,000 to the Carroll family in an out-of-court settlement.  There is some question as to whether the money was truly a settlement to stave off a civil case or given in exchange for the family’s silence.

After serving his sentence in a county jail, Zantzinger returned to his farm.  He eventually entered the real estate business and died at age 69 on January 3, 2009.