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Oxford Still Scarred By 1970 Racial Killing

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OXFORD, N.C. — On May 11, 1970, a racial killing galvanized the black community in Oxford. A white man and two of his sons shot, beat and killed a black man in public and were acquitted of all charges.

The killing and verdict triggered riots and marches -- and now a book,

"Blood Done Sign My Name,

written by Tim Tyson and published by Random House.

Son of the pastor of the town's all-white Methodist church, Tyson was 10 years old and living in Oxford at the time.

On the 34th anniversary of the killing, Oxford resident and historian Eddie McCoy remembered back to the day 23-year-old Henry "Dickie" Marrow lost his life at the hands of Robert Teel and his two sons.

"The people was in the store, and the lady heard the shots," McCoy said.

Marrow -- a veteran who had served in Vietnam -- walked into a store owned by Teel to buy a drink. Teel reportedly had a criminal record and connections to the Ku Klux Klan.

"(Marrow) said something to Teel's son's wife," McCoy said, "and it started from there."

"Teel's sons came out with guns, and Marrow started running away, and one of the sons shot him. They caught up with him and started beating him on the ground. Teel kept saying: 'Kill him. Kill him. Kill him.' They pointed the gun right upside his head and shot him."

Robert Teel and his sons never denied the killing. But they said it was done in self defense, that Marrow threatened them with a knife and that the gun that fired the fatal shot went off accidentally.

Blacks were outraged over the killing. They torched buildings and the town's tobacco warehouses and marched to Raleigh.

Then came the trial, at which an all-white jury found the Teels not guilty.

Teel and his sons still live in the Oxford area. WRAL called Teel but could not reach him.

Tyson interviewed Teel for his book, due out next week. According to a review of the book on Random House's Web site, Teel said he and his sons killed Marrow because "that nigger committed suicide, coming in here wanting to four-letter-word my daughter-in-law."

People in Oxford still remember the killing. But there is no monument to Marrow other than his gravestone, and McCoy said there was no lesson learned, either.

"No," he said, when asked if anything positive resulted from Marrow's death. "He's just another dead Afro-American."

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