Nationally syndicated radio host Tom Joyner holds up the signed pardon given to him from Samuel Glover, right, director of the South Carolina Dept. of Pardon, Probation and Parole, as Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., third from the right, smiles after a hearing Wednesday Oct. 14, 2009, in Columbia, S.C. A posthumous pardon was given to Joyners' great-uncles Thomas and Meeks Griffin, who were wrongly sent to the electric chair for the 1913 murder of a Confederate Army veteran.
(AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Two great-uncles of syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, sent to the electric chair for the 1913 murder of a Confederate Army veteran, were unanimously pardoned Wednesday by South Carolina.
Officials believe the men are the first in the state to be posthumously pardoned in a capital murder case.
Black landowners Thomas and Meeks Griffin were executed 94 years ago after a jury convicted them of killing 73-year-old John Lewis, a wealthy white veteran living in Blackstock, a Chester County town 40 miles north of Columbia. Two other black men were also put to death for the crime.
"This won't bring them back, but this will bring closure. I hope now that they rest in peace," Joyner said. "This is a good day."
Joyner, who lives in Dallas, and his attorney made a presentation to the state parole and probation board on Wednesday, then left the room while the board voted. Family members who flew in for the hearing included his wife and sons, of Dallas, and brother and his family, from Jackson, Miss.
Though he talks to roughly 8 million listeners on the radio daily, Joyner said facing the seven board members "scared me to death." When he was told how they voted, he said he waved his hands and hugged family members in a flood of relief and joy. He also called in to his radio show.
Joyner learned about his uncles' fate two years ago during filming of the PBS documentary "African American Lives 2," which traced his lineage and 11 others' through the research of Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.