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Negro Church in Georgia Destroyed by Fire, Arson Suspected

Aug. 15, 1962 - A Negro church in Leesburg, Ga., that served as the center for a voter registration campaign was destroyed by fire before dawn today. The F.B.I. said it was investigating a report that the church had been bombed. The report came from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which has organized the registration drive among Lee County Negroes. An F.B.I. spokesman in Albany, Ga., 10 miles away, said that the agency was seeking to determine if any civil rights violations had been involved in the fire. “As a matter of course, we investigate any allegation of a bombing,” he said. There were no injuries and no reported witnesses to the fire that destroyed the Shady Grove Baptist Church. Only parts of the concrete block walls were left standing. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who has been leading a civil rights movement in Albany, visited the ruins this morning. He deplored what he called “an obvious bombing, a tragic expression of the lengths some people will go to deny Negroes their constitutional rights.” Sheriff R.A. Forrester said that no whites in the county had interfered with voter registration sessions at the church. He speculated that the fire might have been touched off by lightning or faulty wiring. “The church is burned up,” he remarked. “That’s all I can see.”#civilrights #history #OTD #1960s #MLK