A new documentary that looks at the case of a black Tampa native in 1960, sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, is set to screen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 21, at the Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S., St. Petersburg.
The film entitled “Fair Game: Surviving A 1960 Georgia Lynching” tells the story of James Fair Jr. who was innocent but arrested, jailed, tried, convicted and sentenced to the electric chair in less than three days for a child’s rape and murder in a Southwest Georgia town.
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Award-winning, Boston-based journalist and filmmaker Clennon L. King wrote, directed and edited the 65-minute film. At 6:30 p.m., King will introduce his documentary followed by a post-screening discussion with Fair’s sisters, Audrey Fair Porte of Kissimmee and Diane Fair Odom of Middleburg, and a Q&A with the audience.
“I’m delighted to be bringing James Fair Jr.’s story to the place he called home,” King said. “Joined by James Fair’s two sisters, my hope is audiences come away with a sense of his ordeal and clear on the connection between the enslavement, lynching and the current-day over-incarceration of black people.”
The event is presented by the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions and the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at St. Petersburg College, in partnership with Eckerd College and Legacy-56 Inc. The program is free and open to the public, but advance registration is requested at solutions.spcollege.edu.
King said he dedicated the documentary to the 24 known black men who were lynched in Early County, Georgia, between 1881 and 1941, and to his father, Georgia’s legendary civil rights attorney C.B. King, who tried to prevent Fair from becoming the 25th victim.
In the mid-1940s, the family of James Fair Jr. (born April 26, 1936 in Tampa) joined the second wave of the Great Migration, leaving Tampa and resettling in Bayonne, N.J., where he grew up. In May 1960, the 24-year-old Navy vet joined a friend from nearby Newark on a road trip home to Blakely, Ga. Their arrival, however, in Early County could not have been more ill-timed. It coincided with the alleged rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl, prompting local authorities to finger Fair as the fall guy, according to the film. Less than three days later, a local judge sentenced him to Georgia’s electric chair, prompting Fair’s mother, Alice, to mount an 18-month campaign that captured national headlines to save the life of her son.
The film features multiple national luminaries, including presidential advisor Vernon Jordan, who was a young law clerk on the case, and White House cabinet secretary Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, who hailed from the town where the case unfolded. Also featured is former Blakely Chief of Police Charles Middleton, who offers a candid look into his own family’s suggested role in the case, according to the documentary.
Fair died Nov. 26, 2005, in Kissimmee, near his sister Audrey.
“Fair Game” marks King’s second documentary. His first, the award-winning “Passage at St. Augustine: The 1964 Black Lives Matter Movement That Transformed America”, won the Henry Hampton Award of Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking at the 2015 Roxbury International Film Festival.
For news outlets interested in arranging media interviews or previewing the film in its entirety for publicity purposes, please contact filmmaker Clennon L. King directly at 207.450.3585.