Thirty-three years after Lillie Belle Allen was shot down in cold blood in York, Pa., three men will go on trial for her murder – former mayor Charles H. Robertson, Robert Messersmith and Gregory Neff. Seven others, who admitted shooting at the car Allen was in, pled guilty to lesser charges in return for their testimony against the three defendants.

An all-white jury will hear the case. One African-American man is an alternate juror. The York NAACP cannot understand why there were only five African Americans in a jury pool of 101, or why most of the jury are residents of municipalities in York County but outside of York City.

In York City, 25 percent of the population is African American and 17 percent Latino residents. The remainder of York County is 96 percent white.

Lee Smallwood, an African American councilman, was angered to hear prominent York citizens say it was wrong to open up the case. Smallwood thinks such statements could influence the jury.

Robertson, will have many powerful white businessmen testifying in his behalf at the trial.

Lillie Belle Allen, a 27-year-old mother from South Carolina, was visiting relatives in York with her children in July 1969. She and several other relatives left in her uncle’s car to pick up a few items at the grocery store.

Hattie Dickson, Allen’s aunt, was driving and turned down Newberry St. Unknown to her, this area was the home of the Newberry Boys, a white gang.

Seeing a man hanging out of a window pointing a gun at the car, Dickson panicked. Allen jumped out of the back seat of the car in order to take over the wheel, but before she could, she was shot in the chest and killed.

Two days before, Henry C. Schaad, a policeman, was shot while riding through a Black neighborhood in an armored truck. During a grand jury investigation, Fred Flickinger testified that Robertson, who was a police officer in 1969, told the Newberry Boys to shoot every Black person they saw in retaliation for Schaad’s murder.

Stephen Freeland and Leon Wright will be tried for Schaad’s murder later this year. In the 1969 York race riots, 60 people were injured and many properties destroyed.

Newberry Street has changed in 33 years. It is well integrated and families of all races and ethnicities work together to clean and improve the block. When interviewed, Lillie Belle Allen’s relatives say they are not looking for revenge, only the truth about what happened to cause the death of their loved one.

The author can be reached at phillyrose1@earthlink.net

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