“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” occurred 50 years ago today

February 8, 2013

7468108_108197399902On Feb. 8, 1963, a 24-year-old, socially prominent Maryland tobacco farmer attended a charity affair called the Spinseter’s Ball at Baltimore’s old Emerson Hotel. William Devereux Zantzinger arrived carrying a toy cane and dressed in a top hat. He was pretending to be Fred Astaire.

As the evening wore on, Zantzinger grew drunk. He assaulted a bellhop with his cane and, according to news accounts at the time, shouted at a waitress, “Hey, black girl, bring me a drink.” He fell down on his wife while dancing with her. Then he went back to the bar and demanded a drink. The barmaid was a a 51-year-old black woman named Hattie Carroll. She had 11 children and a history of heart problems.

“Just a minute, sir,” she told him. Zantzinger was not happy with this.

He cursed her, shouted a racial epithet and struck her with his cane. She served him his bourbon and then stepped away.

A couple of hours later, she collapsed and died of a stroke, and Zantzinger, at 24, was charged with homicide. Because of several inconclusive factors, including Carroll’s already poor health, the charge was reduced to manslaughter. Zantzinger was freed during sentencing for the manslaughter conviction to finish harvesting of his tobacco crop. He served six months in jail and was fined $625.

Bob Dylan wrote a song about the incident. My version is above, the video below is by Steve Vitoff of Hunting, N.Y.

You can follow his YouTube Channel here.

1 Comment

  • Comment by horizonatmidnight — Feb 8,2013 at 10:49 pm

    hey thanks for posting my version!!! i appreciate it very much. dylan took a little liberty w the facts but as he also said “i coulda made it all up!” steve v

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