On October 9, 1983, the body of Timothy Coggins was found in a ditch near some powerlines in a wooded area off U.S. Route 19, close to the tiny community of Sunny Side in Spalding County, Georgia. He had been horrifically mutilated. So much so that it seemed that his killers had been trying to make a statement.
In fact, Coggins’ injuries were so savage that his casket was kept closed at his funeral. In life, he had been an outgoing and lively young man, just 23 years old, a dancer and a talker who loved a good time and could strike up a conversation with anyone. Part of the reason that he was murdered was that he had talked to the wrong person. Another part was his skin color.
In the early 1980s, Georgia was a place of charged racial tensions. The Civil Rights movement had helped to deliver radical reform with the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), but social attitudes in the state had not yet caught up with federal legislation. Coggins was an African-American man. And many people, including his family, contend that he was murdered for hanging out with a white woman.