On July 15, 1965, Willie W. Brewster was driving home with his coworkers from a nightshift at the Union Foundry, when shots were fired into the car by white supremacist Hubert Damon Strange. Brewster was hit in the neck and died three days afterwards from his wounds. He wasn’t killed for money or a robbery gone wrong, but because of his skincolour.
During a time of racial tension and integration efforts, Brewster’s death united both black and white in the Anniston area. The Anniston Star published a full-page advertisement announcing that they would “pledge the sum of $20,000 to the person who supplies information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the shooting Thursday night of Willie Brewster.”
Jones said Gary Sprayberry, assistant professor of history at Miles College in Birmingham, wrote a book about the incident, saying the incident spurred changed in Anniston during the civil rights era. “It made a big change,” said Jones, who was Brewster’s sister-in-law.
“I remember Dr. (Martin Luther) King called my mama’s house and told her he was going to attend his funeral, but the pastor (of the church) was scared that the church would be bombed.”
Hubert Damon Strange was later convicted of the murder by an all-white jury on December 2, 1965. After seven hours of deliberation, the jury sentenced him to 10 years in prison. It was the first such decision by any all-white jury in Alabama. The plot of shooting a black person was allegedly hatched at Ku Klux Klan member Kenneth Adams’ filling station the night before Brew was killed. The men behind the killing belonged to the National States’ Rights Party, a violent Neo-Nazi group whose members had been inved in church bombings and murders of blacks.[
Strange never served his sentence: he was released pending appeal, and in 1967 was killed in a fight. His appeal was subsequently dismissed.