How White South Carolina Police Chief Attacked & Blinded Army Veteran Isaac Woodard In 1946

On February 12, 1946, while on his way to visit his wife, Army veteran Isaac Woodard was detained and assaulted to the point of being bound by police chief Linwood Shull. Woodward, who had been honorably dismissed from the army, was traveling by bus to Winnsboro, South Carolina, while still in uniform.

While on his route, the bus driver stopped at a pharmacy and Isaac asked if he had enough time to use the restroom. The driver became enraged and hurled insults at Woodard.

The driver kept driving until they arrived in Batesburg, South Carolina, where he informed police chief Shull of the incident. Woodard was dragged from the bus by Shull and beaten by the police chief and another officer. The police chief slammed the end of the nightstick into Woodard’s eyes until he passed out.

Woodard would later awaken, but he was blind. Woodard, according to Shull, was acting erratically and was inebriated. Witnesses, on the other hand, told a different account, stating that Woodard had not been drinking. Woodard was fined and sent to a veteran’s hospital in Columbia, South Carolina. Doctors informed him he wouldn’t be able to see again and that he should consider enrolling in a blind school.

When the NAACP learned of what had happened to Woodard, they decided to take up his case. Due to his eyesight, Woodard was unable to earn a living and was afraid of fleeing to the south. Woodard will eventually go to New York City with his parents.

President Harry S. Truman requested a federal investigation despite the state of South Carolina’s unwillingness to pursue the issue. The sheriff was later charged and tried in federal court in South Carolina, where an all-white jury acquitted him.

President Truman then sent the first comprehensive civil rights measure to Congress on February 2, 1948. Truman issued Executive Order 9981 in July 1948, against the objections of senior military officials, prohibiting racial discrimination in the US Armed Forces. 

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