Author’s book talks about social injustice

By Page H. Gifford

At a time when we are revisiting the injustices of the past, we are reminded of the details of those injustices in current book of historical fiction by local author Alden E.C. Bigelow.

 “Killing Time in a Small Southern Town” is based on a true case, involving the kidnapping of two African-American boys by two white boys in Charlottesville in what Bigelow called “the segregationist charged days of 1962.” He describes the focus of his book which deals with the violence and turmoil associated with the integration of a “self-styled sophisticated university town” where he grew up and knew one of the kidnappers.

Bigelow was 16 when the incident sent shock waves throughout the town. Those vile events were expected in urban areas but not quiet, small southern towns like Charlottesville, where things like random attacks and kidnappings were unheard of. In his book, Bigelow takes a look at the behind the scenes justice and the reality of what real justice meant in those days prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

After getting his B.A. from California State University, Bigelow left small town life for a while, entering the world of advertising at Ogilvy and Mather, and living in New York during the ‘70s, while surrounded by the buzz of civil rights and equality. He returned to Charlottesville and got his master’s in legal history from the University of Virginia. It wasn’t until he moved to Lake Monticello with his wife and after retiring, that he devoted himself to writing and revisiting his past with this book.

“I was inspired to write the story of a society and all its layers struggling to come to grips with the nature of the Jeffersonian concept of equality before the law and the inherent inequality of whites over blacks going all the way back to the beginning of colonial slavery in 1619,” he said.

On June 27, 1962, Lacy Morris, 18, and Roger Cubbage, 16, maliciously beat Carl Jefferson and Lavern Blair, two African-American teenagers, with their fists and a bicycle chain, with intent to maim, disfigure and kill according to the account in the Daily Progress of June 1962.

“Ultimately, one of the black boys was held for ransom and the other released to get money for Morris and Cubbage or “they would kill the other,” he said. “All of these crimes were committed on a whim by two white boys on a hot summer night looking for trouble and believing they would get away with it because it was only a couple of black boys they were messing with.”

The case is reminiscent of the famous Leopold and Loeb case 38 years earlier where two college-age sociopaths were accused of killing a teenage boy. Whereas Leopold and Loeb’s intent was based on twisted thrill-seeking, Cubbage and Morris were simply perpetuating inequality and racism. Nowadays, it would be considered a hate crime.

“For all of these reasons, I sought to re-examine the crime and the subsequent trial in a society in which white over black crime was traditionally treated in much different way than it is today, yet in many ways is quite similar,” he said.

Bigelow wrote the book in 2018 after the horrific protests and death of Heather Hyer in Charlottesville during the summer of  2017.

“I wanted to measure this trial of 1962 in the light of civil rights legislation of 1964 and the 50 years of measured progress which preceded the events of the summer of 2017 yet could still be examined in that light.”

His book is a compelling reminder of our past transgressions during a time of cross burnings, lynchings, and the Klu Klux Klan’s reign of terror, and being black meant living in fear. Freedom was meaningless to African-Americans who still lived in the shadow of white supremacy and the behavior of young men like Morris and Cubbage was an example of the backlash against equality and civil rights. Everything was driven by fear on both sides.

Familiar with the people he knew and grew up with, including one of the kidnappers, Bigelow takes an intimate look into the characters as the story unfolds against the backdrop of an uprising. Always strongly character-driven, the reader is drawn into a world of hope and hatred, judging for themselves whether justice was served.

Morris and Cubbage were convicted of kidnapping, assault and battery, and an attempt to maim or kill. Morris was to serve 37 years and Cubbage 38 years in the state penitentiary.

“There was also a six month contempt of court citation which was later rescinded for causing melee in open court,” added Bigelow. “Their arrogant and unremorseful attitude greatly influenced the response of the court in bringing kidnapping charges over, say “illegal detainment” which would have brought a far lesser sentence, thus bringing about the real justice they deserved.”

Nearly 60 years after this incident, Biglow’s book brings to light our unwillingness to acknowledge we haven’t come far in race relations.  His book makes us question ourselves, our view of race in society, and our moral compass. Bigelow posed the question.

 “An implied question for the readers of “Killing Time in a Small Southern Town” is how far have we come in providing the equality of white man’s justice to that measured out to blacks or to those of the rainbow, black or brown, yellow or red? And how far have we come as whites in closing that gap of equality and protections under the law?”

“Killing Time in a Small Southern Town” is available on and at

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