Posts Tagged ‘Leonidas Lambeck’

Sent Out In Stripes

October 21, 2009

SENT OUT IN STRIPES

A CONVICT’S DEBUT INTO LIBERTY.

A Burglar on His Own Confession, a Good Record Within Walks, an Early Discharge and an Effort to Wear His Convict Stripe in Peace, in which He Comes to Grief.

This is a hard old world we live in. It has a philosophy which declares it is man’s first duty to take care of number one, and his second duty to go against every poor wretch who especially needs help. It is not at all fashionable to help an unfortunate, and charity is fading into the sickly hues of romance and sentimentality. It is rather hard to say so, but once in a while some little incident comes to light and makes such accusations just. Yesterday we happened on one of these incidents.

The reporter met a negro with not too good a face, but with a dejected, cowed look which at once appealed to one’s sympathies. He was talking to some gentlemen, and from his few remarks we gathered his history for the past three years. It may be worth telling.

His name is Leonidas Lambeck and he is a mulatto of thirty. In May, 1876, he was arraigned in August for burglary. He was guilty, and said so. The judge sentenced him to three years of penal servitude, and soon he was hustled about from one to another of our “model convict camps.” He was made to do his full share of work and managed to get his full share of rations. He does not seem to have been very villainous, for his papers show that he was discharged three months before his time was out because he had behaved so well. His penitentiary record is very good therefore.

Last Tuesday morning he was discharged. At that time he was working on the Marietta and North Georgia railroad, twelve miles beyond Marietta. He was human enough to rejoice in his liberty regained after three years of hard penance, and when he spoke of it yesterday he looked happy. When he left his fellows he went out a free man in a felon’s garb. He had worn a decent suit when he went to put on the stripes, but he had long since lost sight of that. He says he did not like to go out in the convict’s stripes, but no other garb was given him and he had to march out a sort of wandering advertisement of the penitentiary system of Georgia.

It was a hard story he told of his troubles in that disgraceful attire. He started to walk to Atlanta in hope of finding here the means of obtaining decent clothes and transportation to Augusta. But his woes began soon after he left the camp. He was arrested before he had gone a mile and with difficulty escaped even after he showed his discharge. Again and again he was stopped and sometimes rudely. Some of his captors could not read his discharge, and insisted that he was an escaped felon. Everywhere people looked on him with scorn, and jeered at him as he passed, even when they did not attempt to halt him. He had a desolate tramp to Atlanta. Not a kind word fell in his way. After being stopped forty times he reached the city, and here had a hard time. At length some kind-hearted person procured him a decent suit and burned up the stripes.

Yesterday afternoon Mr. Frank Haralson, the state librarian, kindly interested himself and raised enough money to send him to Augusta. He left on the 6 o’clock train.

Is it right for convicts to be set free in their stripes? Can the state provide no better way of liberation than that of sending forth a man without a cent in the world, marked with a badge of shame? It does not seem humane or just. It appears cruel and unjust.

Perhaps this is the custom, but, like many other customs, it is “more honored in the breach than the observance.”

Daily Constitution, The (Atlanta, Georgia) Feb 15, 1879