Samuel “Lee” Williams

Background

On November 28, 1949, 36-year-old Samuel “Sammie” Lee Williams, a cook and waiter at a restaurant in Birmingham, died from gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen and injuries to his left lung and kidney. After allegedly refusing to sit in the “Jim Crow” section of a Birmingham streetcar, Williams was shot by streetcar conductor M.A. Weeks on November 21, 1949.

Two Birmingham police officers reported that, according to the conductor, Williams had taken a seat in the front section of the streetcar reserved for whites. Weeks then asked Williams to go to the back of the streetcar, which he did.

Weeks claimed he then went to the back of the streetcar to silence a belligerent Williams and was grabbed by the arm. A fight allegedly broke out between the two and Weeks drew his pistol in the process, firing at Williams. Upon emptying his pistol at Williams, Weeks shot two other black passengers, Amos Crosby, 24, and John Garlington, 21, aboard the streetcar. Records at the county sheriff’s office at the time of the shooting established that Weeks’ license to carry a firearm had expired almost eleven years prior.

Legal Status

After the incident, and before Williams’ death, one Detective Captain Charles Pierce stated that both Williams and Weeks would be charged with assault with intent to murder.

Media reports indicate there was a grand jury investigation of Weeks, but it appears no indictment was returned.