Court. Jessie Taylor, 19 when the indictments hit the newspaper, described in these documents how the accusations surfaced."Yes, I talked to officers about this when I was first apprehended," he said under oath. "Yes, one of the officers did tell me that if I didn'tnot only plead guilty, but implicate other people, that they had 20 different warrants they could throw at me."Taylor and Roberts both faced multiple charges of crimes against nature, and the possibility of lengthy prison terms. Likewise, ateenager who accused his employer of sodomizing him revealed in testimony that despite being the state's witness, he was under indictment, as well.The teen also described how police had read a list of names to him when he was taken in for questioning, without his parents present. Atone point, Capt. F.E. Gibson said in the transcript, detectives brought the businessman in and had him face his teenage accuser in aninterrogation room — this in the years before police were required to read Miranda rights.
Investigation 'just escalated'
Initially, police said parents' complaints prompted the investigation. However, only one of the 32 defendants was charged with havingsex with an underage teen, and the rest involved consenting adults. And with the charging of ostensible victims in the cases — makingeveryone involved subject to prosecution — the naming of names accelerated. The investigation began "to skyrocket," in the words of former Sheriff Sticky Burch, who in 1957 was a major in charge of operations for the city police."It might have started with the (suspects) on the street, but it began to involve people who were upstanding in the community, people inthe Jaycees, people who did paper drives," Burch said recently. "It just escalated to the point where the investigation was called off."The reason the police investigation began and ended is uncertain. Those directly involved — Lt. Maurice Geiger, Capts. Gibson and BillJackson, Chief Calhoun — are dead.In a 1971 Greensboro Record story headlined "Gay Subculture Losing Social Inhibitions," an anonymous vice lieutenant who had worked the morals cases was quoted as saying that the "names of innocent people" had been brought in, and that police suspected a "star witness" had been paid to leave town before others could be implicated.But at the time of the grand jury session in 1957, ending the police phase of the case, Calhoun said only that the detectives' work wasdone."Developments have now reached the stage," Calhoun told the Daily News, "where it is deemed advisable to return the speciallyassigned investigators to their regular units."What had driven the police investigation this far — a period of months, producing 60 warrants and 32 defendants about to face trial — was the need, Calhoun said, to remove those who prey upon youth.Lawrence Egerton, one of the few attorneys involved in the cases who is still in practice, said members of the defense bar viewed itdifferently."There had always been homosexuals, but the police never pursued them with such intensity, never before and never since," he said."The truth? It was a long, hot summer, and the police had nothing to do."
'You just repressed it'
In 1957, Greensboro was, as now, the third-largest city in North Carolina. The difference was, instead of 238,000 residents, it had lessthan a third of that population.It was just a town, a town poised, like the rest of the country, on the brink of a social sea change — civil rights, women's rights, sexualrevolution. And as if braced for the floodwaters, the 1950s were the most rigidly conformist decade of the century.In the society pages, women continued to be identified by their husbands' names — "Mrs. John Smith" — and any story mentioning a black person took care to specify race — "a Negro."At a time when newspapers had only recently ventured to publish the word "rape," and when the discovery of a moonshine operationcould still lead the local news, the word "homosexual" never appeared. It wasn't merely taboo. It was practically unheard of."People talked about 'sissies' and 'queers.' But we had no idea what they did," recalled Eleanor Dare Kennedy, who in the mid-1950s wasa college student and a police reporter for the Greensboro Daily News.On her morning rounds to gather items for the police blotter in the years before the '57 trials, Kennedy one day happened upon a report