A county commission Thursday unanimously approved plans for a courthouse vigil to remember a black man who was lynched by a frenzied mob nearly 80 years ago.
William Brown, accused of raping a white woman and mugging her fiance in 1919, was pulled out of the Douglas County Courthouse, stripped, beaten and castrated. But his misery wasn't over.The mob then pumped hundreds of bullets into his body, dragged him behind a car and hanged him from a downtown light pole. Brown's remains were burned and dragged through the streets for two hours as spectators cheered.
The new dispute began with a request to memorialize Brown in a vigil Sept. 27 at the same courthouse where he was attacked.
The courthouse's building manager, Eric Pehrson, initially rejected the request. He cited a city ordinance that is at least 57 years old that forbids activities that might incite a riot.
Disgusted by the decision, the state's only black legislator, Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, and County Clerk Tom Cavanaugh, who is white, called for Pehrson's resignation.
City attorneys have since advised Pehrson that the ordinance probably did not pertain to a vigil; a peaceful candlelight vigil was held last September at the same site without objections from Pehr-son or others.
The Omaha-Douglas County Public Building Commission, briefed by city attorneys beforehand, granted the vigil request in a unanimous vote Thursday.
To many of Omaha's 364,000 residents, the lynching sounds inconceivable - a horrific tale best left alone. But to the city's minorities, including about 47,000 blacks or 13 percent of the city's population, Brown's barbaric death must be remembered.