Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life
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Podcast: Willie McGee and the Traveling Electric Chair

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Willie McGee in prison.

Bridgette McGee grew up knowing nothing about her grandfather, Willie McGee. Now she is on a quest to unearth everything she can about his life – and his death.

In 1945, Willie McGee was accused of raping a white woman. The all-white jury took less than three minutes to find him guilty and McGee was sentenced to death. Over the next six years, the case went through three trials and sparked international protests and appeals from Albert Einstein, William Faulkner, Paul Robeson, and Josephine Baker. McGee was defended by a young Bella Abzug arguing her first major case. But in 1951, McGee was put to death in Mississippi’s traveling electric chair. His execution was broadcast live by a local radio station. Today, a newly discovered recording of that broadcast provides a chilling window into a lost episode of civil rights history. Narrated by Bridgette McGee, this documentary follows a granddaughter’s search for the truth about a case that has been called a real-life To Kill A Mockingbird.

Radio Diaries is part of Radiotopia from PRX, a collective of the best story-driven podcasts on the planet. This episode is supported by Life on Record, a new way to share stories with friends and family.

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