May 19, 2018


Black History Month - The Sad Sad Story of Hattie Carroll By Jack Coll

The Sad-Sad Story of Hattie Carroll
Racism at it’s Very Worst
Shame on all of Us
By Jack Coll

Bob Dylan, a Jewish guy born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1941 became a singer-song-writer and was cast into the National spotlight in the early 1960’s when his music and lyrics spoke to the masses about social injustices. Dylan wrote and sang about everything from nuclear disarmament, the Cuban Missile Crisis, our government, but most of all injustices to African Americans. He sang about the prejudice and hate aimed at African Americans when this country was a racial powder keg waiting for the match to drop.
On Dylan’s 1963 album, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” he recorded a song called “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” I was eleven years old in the fall of 1963 when the album was released and I loved Bob Dylan by that time. I remember listening to the song on my turn-table never really knowing what it was about but I liked the song and the story it was telling. It was just Bob Dylan strumming on his guitar and belting out the lyrics.
Years later I came to realize that “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” was actually a real incident and Dylan actually gave a pretty factual account of the killing of the 51 year old African American barmaid.
Hattie Carroll was killed in 1963, in Charles County, Maryland which at that time was still fully segregated by race in public facilities such as restaurants, churches, theatre’s, doctor’s offices, buses, water-fountains, at the county fairs and the schools of Charles County. Baltimore were not integrated until 1967.
Hattie Carroll was a 51 year old barmaid who worked at the Emerson Hotel, she had ten children and was president of a black social club. By all accounts Carroll was hard-working, intelligent and a good mother to her kids.
William “Billy” Zantzinger had just turned 24 years old on the night before he killed Hattie Carroll and was at the white-tie Spinster’s Ball at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. Zantzinger was a young white man from a wealthy white tobacco farming family in Charles County in Maryland.
Zantzinger had been drinking heavily before arriving at the Emerson Hotel that night and by all accounts he was drunk before he arrived. Zantzinger was carrying a toy cane that night and the six foot-two inch Zantzinger had assaulted employees at the Eager House, a prestigious Baltimore restaurant with the same cane. At the Spinster’s Ball he called a 30 year old waitress the “N” word and hit her with his cane, she ran from the room in tears.
Minutes later Zantzinger ordered a bourbon that Carroll didn’t bring immediately. Zantzinger cursed her out using racist profanity calling her a “black S.o.B.,” and struck her on the shoulder and across the head with his cane.
Court documents read: “He asked for a drink and called her a black bitch” and “black S.o.B.” She replied, “Just a moment” and started to prepare his drink. Zantzinger waited for about one minute and complained about her being slow and struck her a hard blow on her shoulder about half-way between the shoulder and her neck. Carroll handed him his drink. Minutes later after striking Carroll he attacked his own wife knocking her to the ground and hitting her with his shoe.
Within minutes of being struck Carroll leaned against another barmaid standing next to her and complained of feeling ill. Carroll told co-workers “I feel deathly ill, that man has upset me-so.” The barmaid and another employee helped Carroll to the kitchen where her arm went numb, her speech slurred and she collapsed and was hospitalized. Less than eight hours later Carroll was dead. An autopsy showed hardened arteries, an enlarged heart, and possible high blood pressure. A spinal tap confirmed brain hemorrhage as the cause of death, she died at Mercy Hospital on February 9, 1963.
Zantzinger was initially charged with murder, his defense was he was extremely drunk and admitted that he had no memory of the attack. His charge was reduced to manslaughter and assault based on the fact that that it was Carroll’s stress reaction to his verbal and physical abuse that led to the intracranial bleeding, rather than blunt-force trauma from the blow coming from his cane.
On August 28, 1963 Zantzinger was convicted of both charges and sentenced to six month’s imprisonment. The judge considerately deferred the start of the jail sentence until September 15, to give Zantzinger time to harvest his tobacco crop.
It was said that the reason for the short prison sentence was to keep Zantzinger out of the largely black state prison reasoning his notoriety would make him a target for abuse there. Zantzinger instead served his time in the safety of the Washington County, county jail.
In September the Herald Tribune quoted Zantzinger on his sentence: “I just miss a lot of snow.” His then-wife, Jane, was quoted as saying, “Nobody treats his negroes as well as Billy does around here.”
After serving his sentence for manslaughter, Zantzinger returned to his tobacco farm in Charles County and began a career in selling real estate. He later moved to Waldorf, Maryland that was still part of Charles County and moved several times after that.
In addition to federal tax delinquencies, Zantzinger fell more than $18,000 behind on county taxes on properties he owned in two Charles County communities called Patuxent Woods and Indian Head, shanties he leased to poor blacks. In 1986 the IRS ruled against him, Charles County confiscated those properties. Zantzinger paid no attention to the law and continued to collect rents, raise rents, and even successfully prosecuted his tenants for back rent. In 1991, Zantzinger was charged with “deceptive trade practices to which he pleaded guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of unfair and deceptive trade practices. He was sentenced to 19 months in prison and fined $50,000.

Zantzinger was convicted of manslaughter on August 28, 1963, and was not tried by a jury of peers but by a panel of three judges in Hagerstown, Maryland. The sentence was handed down on the same day Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington.
Bob Dylan was 22 years old at the time and was one of the performers at the speech in Washington on that day. On his journey home, back to New York, Dylan read about the conviction of Zantzinger and decided to write a protest song about the case. Upon his return to New York, Dylan sat up through the night at his then lover’s house, Joan Baez and penned the song, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” it was recorded on October 23, 1963, the album was released on January 13, 1964.
In 2001, Zantzinger discussed the song with Howard Sounes for “Down the Highway, The life of Bob Dylan.” Zantzinger dismissed the song as a “total lie” and claimed “It’s actually had no effect upon my life,” but expressed scorn for Dylan saying, “He’s a no-account son of a bitch, he’s just like a scum of a scum bag of the earth, I should have sued him and put him in jail.”

“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll”
By Bob Dylan

William Zantzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger
At a Baltimore hotel society gath’rin
And the cops were called in and his weapon took from him
As they rode him in custody down to the station
And booked William Zantzinger for first-degree murder
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

William Zantzinger who at twenty-four years
Owns a tobacco farm of six hundred acres
With rich wealthy parents who provide and protect him
And high office relations in the politics of Maryland
Reacted to his deed with a shrug of the shoulders
And swear words and sneering and his tongue it was snarling
In a matter of minutes on bail was out walking
But you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears.

Hattie Carroll was a maid in the kitchen
She was fifty-one years old and gave birth to ten children
Who carried the dishes and took out the garbage
And never sat once at the head of the table
And didn’t even talk to the people at the table
Who just cleaned up all the food from the table
And emptied the ashtrays on a whole other level
Got killed by a blow, lay slain by a cane
That sailed through the air and came down through the room
Doomed and determined to destroy all the gentle
And she never done nothing to William Zantzinger
And you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for you tears.

In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t puled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ‘em
And that ladder of law has no top and no bottom
Stared at the person who killed for no reason
Who just happened to be feelin’ that way witout warnin’
And he spoke through his cloak, most deep and distinguished
And handed out strongly, for penalty and repentance
William Zantzinger with a six-month sentence
Oh, but you who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now’s the time for your tears.

Bob Dylan was just 22 years old when he penned those lyrics.
William “Billy” Zantzinger, (sometimes spelled Zanzinger) died on January 3, 2009 at the age of 69, May he never rest in peace.

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