Author of "He Calls Me By Lightning" to speak at UAB

Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Jonathan Bass will tell the story of an Alabama man wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death.

Written by: Tiffany Westry

Need more info? Contact us

he calls me insideJonathan Bass, Ph.D., a Fairfield, Alabama, native and alumnus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will give a lecture about his latest book, “He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the Forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty.”

The lecture will take place at the UAB Hill Student Center Alumni Theater, 1400 University Blvd., Wednesday, Jan. 31, from 4-5:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The book chronicles the story of Caliph Washington, a 17-year-old from Bessemer, Alabama, who was charged with capital murder in 1957 for the accidental shooting of a Lipscomb, Alabama, police officer. Washington was convicted and sentenced to death. The Alabama Supreme Court later overturned the conviction. He was tried and convicted two more times. 

Washington’s execution was commuted multiple times by then-Gov. George Wallace. He eventually won his own release, only to be arrested again and held for re-prosecution. He was in jail for an additional five years awaiting his third trial, in which he was convicted again. The state Supreme Court overturned the conviction a third time. Washington was released from prison again in 1971.

Bass is a professor and chair of the Department of History at Samford University. His book “Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Martin Luther King Jr., Eight White Religious Leaders, and the ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’” were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

The lecture is part of the UAB Department of History “Telling Difficult Histories” series sponsored by the Rita C. Kimerling Public History Endowment.