Mobilizing for justice
Almost immediately upon Silas Parmore’s arrest for the alleged murder of the Chief of Police of Iron City, Georgia, the 200 members of the New Brunswick NAACP involved themselves with the case. Georgia had the second-highest rates of lynching in the country. Fearing that Parmore would be lynched if he was extradited back to his home state, the organization appointed one of its white members, attorney Klemmer Kalteissen, to serve as Parmore’s legal counsel. Kalteissen, along with several other local NAACP members, went to visit Parmore in jail, where they interviewed him extensively and concluded that he was not guilty of the crime.
On December 16, 1923, the NAACP along with a coalition of New Brunswick’s black churches sponsored a mass meeting at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The meeting was intended to bring awareness to Parmore’s case and to raise funds for his defense. Before a packed audience of black and white New Brunswick residents, president of the local NAACP, Reverend Jesse L. Lee, announced that the meeting’s purpose was “to raise funds to fight the case for justice.” Speakers situated Parmore’s case within the long battle to protect black rights, and the crowd took time to sing “John Brown’s Body,” a popular hymn that celebrates the righteousness of abolition and the Union Army.
The meeting concluded with Reverend Charles C. Weathers nominating Kalteissen to Deacon of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a position the attorney gladly accepted. Kalteissen then assured the audience, “If the Governor should sign the extradition papers I will go right through to the highest court and will secure a writ of habeas corpus. I don’t care what others think, as long as I’m right I’ll stick to it. I will fight tooth and nail because he is entitled to a fair trial.” The meeting was a tremendous success, bringing community attention to Parmore’s case and raising over $100 for his defense.