"Bootleggers on Trial."

"Law and Order League at Work."

"Informer Convicted."

"Fined and Appealed."


Report of the Arrest and trial of several black bootleggers in 1909 and the conviction of one, Taswell Wilson.


This article from June 10, 1909 recounts the arrest of "seven or eight" African-American bootleggers who were arraigned in police court on Saturday on a charge preferred by FL "Leon" Soper, a detective for the Law and Order League who claimed the $50 reward offered by the city for information leading to the conviction of liquor sellers but also was paid by the League. "A Prior conviction and other corroborative evidence" caused Florence Mayor (1901-1910) AE Walker to convict and fine Taswell Wilson, represented by Emmett O'Neal, while releasing the other men, none of whom had a criminal record. Wilson filed an appeal.

Upon leaving court Soper was assaulted by black resident William Collier, who punched him in the face, breaking his nose. Police arrested Collier, who was fined $5 by Mayor Walker.

Ironically, the next week Leon Soper himself was in court on charges of violating the liquor laws, with two local white men giving evidence against him. He was found guilty on both counts, fined $100, and sentenced to work on the streets for sixty days by Mayor Walker. Dr. JM Peerson of the Law and Order League went on Soper's bond and Soper's case was appealed to the circuit court.

Note: Law and Order Leagues, first founded in the 1880s in the wake of violent labor strikes, advocated better law enforcement and more efficient, equitable court systems as a solution to lynchings and other racial violence. Typically led by Southern white progressives there were also “colored” chapters, and the organization as a whole was publicly endorsed by the NAACP. Because Law and Order Leagues focused less specifically on racial equality and civil rights and more on law and order, they were able to operate more effectively in some areas of the South.

Florence's Law and Order League was formed on Tuesday, April 6, 1909 at a mass meeting at the courthouse, with the specific intent of cracking down on the illegal sale of liquor and gambling. with Dr. JM Peerson as chairman and future Florence mayor Delos Bacon (1920-1921) as secretary. According to the *Florence Herald* "the organization was not yet given a name, but it will be something like a law and order league," thus might not have been a true Law and Order League.

In April of 1909 Dr. Peerson appointed 82 local white business and professional men to an advisory committee.


Florence Herald, Thursday, June 10, 1909, p. 6 p. I.

Florence Herald, Thursday, June 10, 1909, p. 6 p. II.

Florence Times, Friday, June 11, 1909, p. 1.

Florence Herald, Thursday, June 17, 1909, p. 6.

Florence Times, Friday, June 18, 1909, p. 1.




Lee Freeman


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Bootleggers on Trial FH Thurs June 10 1909 p 6 p I.jpg
Bootleggers on Trial FH Thurs June 10 1909 p 6 p II.jpg
Law and Order League at Work FT Fri June 11 1909 p 1.jpg
Informer Convicted FH Thurs June 17 1909 p 6.jpg
Fined and Appealed FT Fri June 18 1909 p 1.jpg



“"Bootleggers on Trial."

"Law and Order League at Work."

"Informer Convicted."

"Fined and Appealed.",” Shoals Black History, accessed February 29, 2024, https://shoalsblackhistory.omeka.net/items/show/815.