"We cannot undo the past, but we can acknowledge past injustices and make commitments to work toward a future filled with understanding and respect for all people," Larry Gerlach said Saturday in Price.
Acknowledgment is an essential first step, he said.Gerlach, a University of Utah professor of history, was one of several speakers at "A Day of Reconciliation and Forgiveness" held at Notre Dame School and intended to write a final chapter in the 1925 lynching of Robert Marshall, a black itinerant coal miner.
The lynching in Carbon County is believed to have been the last in the American West and took place between Price and Wellington.
Five religious leaders participated in a ceremony at the Price Cemetery where a marker has been placed on Marshall's previously unmarked grave. The events also marked the 30th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Gerlach outlined the history of the lynching in which a posse turned into mob and overpowered law officers. Marshall is believed to have shot and killed Deputy Sheriff J. Milton Burns, a watchman at Utah Fuel Co. at Castle Gate.
Gerlach said there were many victims, including Marshall; Marshall's wife; Burns and his family; the sanctity of the law and judicial system; the moral fiber of the community; the integrity of the local press, which seemed to have condoned what had happened; and history because many of the records and documents of the event, including some held by the state, were destroyed.
Hundreds of people saw the lynching, yet not a single person would tell the truth, including many who lied to a grand jury.
If one person is not protected by the law, which includes the constitutional right to due process and trial by jury, then no one is, Gerlach said. The law is not intended only for the righteous but also for the lawbreakers.
After a wall of silence was created which prevented the grand jury from returning indictments, neither local paper, the Sun or the News Advocate, commented on a miscarriage of justice. One headlined, "All's Well that Ends Well."
In a welcome at the cemetery, Elder Ben Banks, president of the Utah Area South of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said there should be no recrimination for what happened long ago, but we should learn from it as we walk into the future.
Bishop George Niederauer of the Salt Lake Roman Catholic Diocese gave scripture readings; Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Church offered a prayer; Bishop Carolyn Tanner-Irish of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah gave words of reconciliation; and the Rev. France A. Davis, pastor of the Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Salt Lake City, gave remarks and the benediction.
At the program at the school where the Rev. Davis was master of ceremonies, Helper Mayor Mike Dalpaiz said his community is proud of its 20 nationalities and Grace S. Jones, president of College of Eastern Utah, talked about sharing values.
Following the program, C. Matthew Gilmour, retired attorney and former Carbon County resident who spearheaded the event, said it was very moving, a cleansing experience, and represents a real beginning for Utah. Jeanetta Williams, Utah NAACP president, said the experience was moving and healing.
The reception to holding the program in Carbon County has been mixed. Some letters to the editor in the Sun Advocate have said such an observance would pin an unfair label of racial prejudice on Carbon County. Carbon County is actually very accepting of racial and cultural differences. Some writers also said the events of 1925 are beyond the control of people now living there.
Music was provided by the Calvary Mass Choir and Ridgely H. Gilmour.