Knox Fail

Knox Fail death certificate

Location: Birmingham, Alabama

Age: 38

Year: 1943

Knox Fail, 38, was a sawmill worker who was killed by police officers in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1943.

Involved were police officers J. E. McDonald, J. A. Hale and H. P. Williams, and bystander, Private Peter Paul Szntiar, Jr.

Fail had allegedly entered a white women’s restroom.

The officers claimed that McDonald was attempting to arrest Fail when he opened fire, hitting McDonald.

The officer then handed his gun to Szntiar, who then shot Fail.

Shortly after, officers Hale and Williams arrived at the scene and also fired shots at Fail.

Fail died in hospital shortly after arrival.

A coroner returned a finding of justifiable homicide.

For more information, search CRRJ’s archive.

Read more about Fail’s death on the Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive

About the Archive

The Burnham-Nobles Digital Archive houses case files and documents for more than 1,000 cases of racial homicides in the Jim Crow South. Co-founded by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Margaret Burnham, CRRJ director and professor of law at Northeastern, these uncovered stories highlight how violence affected lives, defined legal rights and shaped politics between 1930 and 1954.

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