Document 7: Excerpts from the Testimony of Ruby Bates, April 1933, from the Famous American Trials website, "The Scottsboro Boys' Trials, 1931-1937." Excerpts appear courtesy of Professor Douglas O. Linder of University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law, the author and developer of the website.

Ruby Bates

In Arthur Garfield Hays, Trial by Prejudice (New York: Covici-Friede Publishers, 1933), p. 38.


    The highpoint of the 1933 trials of the Scottsboro Boys came with the testimony of Ruby Bates, one of the two white women who had earlier claimed they had been raped on the freight train between Chattanooga and Paint Rock. Bates recanted her testimony from the 1931 trials, testifying that earlier she had fabricated her testimony to support the claims of her companion on the train, Victoria Price. This time she testified she had not been attacked or raped by the defendants. Other portions of her testimony contradicted Price's account of events. Still, the all-white juries in these cases brought in convictions for all of the Scottsboro Boys. Following the trial, Bates joined the Scottsboro Mothers in a series of northern rallies sponsored by the International Labor Defense and the Communist Party aimed at challenging the verdicts and building a mass movement in support of their legal defense efforts (see documents 18 and 19).

From the Direct Examination by Hon. Samuel Leibowitz

Q What is your full name?

A Ruby Bates.

Q Have you ever seen me before in your life?

A Not that I know of.

Q Before you saw me here just a minute ago had you ever met me before?

A Not that I know of.

Q You lived in Huntsville did you not when you started on this freight train?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you know Victoria Price?

A Yes sir.

MR LEIBOWITZ: Bring out Victoria Price please.

Q Is this woman Victoria Price (indicating?)

A Yes sir.

Q You are a younger girl than Victoria aren't you?

A Yes sir.

Q How long before this ride on the freight train did you meet Victoria?

A I knew her for some time, we had worked in the mill together?

Q For how many years?

A About two and a half years.

* * *

Q Were you a good girl before you met her, good decent girl?

A Well, yes.

Q After you started taking up with her did you continue to go around with her in Huntsville?

A Yes sir.

Q Were you ever convicted of any crime?

A No sir.

Q You were never in jail?

A No sir.

Q Do you know a man by the name of Lester Carter?

A Yes sir.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: Bring out Lester Carter please.

[ATTORNEY] GENERAL KNIGHT: Wait a minute, I would like for her to describe him.

Q The Attorney General asked that you describe him, describe Lester Carter, tell us what kind of looking man he is?

A Well he is blond headed, he has blond hair.

Q Tall or short?

A He is not so tall.

Q Would you recognize him if you saw him?

A Yes sir.

Q He was one of the boys in jail with you after the train stopped at Paint Rock?

A Yes sir.

Q You knew him before you ever got on the train?

A Yes sir.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: Bring out Lester Carter.

Q Who is this boy (indicating)?

A Lester Carter.

Q Did you ever have occasion to visit Victoria Price in the Huntsville jail, go to see her?

A No sir, I never did go to see her.

Q Where was it you saw Victoria Price shortly before you met Lester Carter?

A Well Victoria and myself went down to the chain gang where him and another fellow was.

Q You met him at the chain gang?

A Yes sir.

Q Who was that man on the chain gang with Lester Carter?

A Jack Tiller.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: Is Jack Tiller in Court, in the room there?


MR. LEIBOWITZ: Bring out Jack Tiller.

Q Do you know that man that just came in with the blue tie?

A Yes sir.

Q Who is he?

A Jack Tiller.

* * *

Q Where was the first place you met up with them when they got out of jail?

A They came to the mill one afternoon where we were, on Monday afternoon before we left on Tuesday.

Q What happened?

A Well Victoria and Jack and myself and Lester all left and walked up the Pulaski Pike.

Q Did you go along on the railroad known as the L & N railroad there?

A When we got back we went down the N.C.

Q That was at night?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you have intercourse with Lester Carter that night?

A I certainly did.

Q Did Victoria Price have intercourse with Jack Tiller?

A Yes sir.

* * *

Q You went out of town on Tuesday?

A Yes sir.

Q Did Tiller go along with you or did he remain behind?

A He remained behind.

Q What was the reason for that?

A I couldn't say.

Q Were you, Lester Carter and Victoria Price on the freight train?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you go to Chattanooga?

A Yes sir.

Q Where did you spend the night that night at Chattanooga, did you spend the night at Callie Brochie's?

A No sir.

Q Where did you first hear of the name of Callie Brochie, who told you that name?

A Victoria Price.

Q Where did you spend the night that night?

A Spent the night, I think it is called Hobo Swamp.

Q Is that near the railroad yards?

A Yes sir.

Q Who spent the night there with you?

A Orville Gilley, Lester Carter and Victoria Price.

* * *

Q That morning, did you start coming back to Huntsville on the freight train-- that morning after you arrived in Chattanooga did you start to come back?

A Yes sir.

Q Who started back with you on that train?

A Orville Gilley, Lester Carter and Victoria Price

* * *

Q Tell these gentlemen of the jury what happened after that when you got in that car and when the train started out of Stevenson?

A After the train started out from Stevenson there was some white boys come in the end of the car next to where we were.

Q In the next gondola?

A Yes sir.

Q What happened?

A And after a while there was a bunch of negroes come over and started fighting, they was all fighting and Lester Carter and this Gilley boy jumped over to help them out.

Q You mean Lester Carter and Gilley left the gondola in which you were in and went into the next gondola where the fight was between the white boys and the negroes?

A Yes sir.

Q Then what happened?

A The negroes put all the boys off but one, Orville Gilley and he came back in the car where we were.

Q Then what happened, when you, Victoria and Gilley were there did the negroes come in that car where you were?

A Not that I know of.

Q Did any negro attack you that day?

A Not that I know of.

Q Did any negro attack Victoria Price that day?

A Not that I know of.

Q Did you see any negro attack Victoria Price that day?

A No sir.

COURT: Where ws Victoria Price.

A She was in the gondola where I was.

* * *

Q You testified at Scottsboro that six negroes raped you and six negroes raped her, and one had a knife on your throat; what happened to her was exactly the same thing that happened to you. Who coached you to say that?

A She told it and I told it just like she told it.

Q Who told you to tell that story?

A I told it like she told it.

Q Who told you to do that, who coached you to do that?

A She did.

Q Did she tell you what would happen to you if you didn't follow her story?

A She said we might have to lay out a sentence in jail.

* * *

From the Cross Examination by Attorney General Knight

Q Where did you get that coat?

A Well I bought it.

Q Who gave you the money to buy it?

A Well I don't know.

Q You don't know, where did you get the hat?

A I bought it.

Q Who gave you the money to buy it?

COURT: Do you know?

A Dr. Fostick of New York.

Q He gave you that?

A Yes sir.

Q He gave you the money to buy the coat and hat?

A He certainly did.

Q What about the shoes?

A I have had the shoes a long time.

Q You say Dr. Fostick of New York gave you that hat and coat, didn't you know that when I asked you the first time and you didn't answer?

A Yes sir.

* * *

Q Did you see a fight on this train?

A I sure did.

Q Did you see the negroes put the white boys off the train?

A I did.

Q Was this defendant in that fight (indicating)?

A I don't know whether that is one or not.

Q You don't know whether he was or not?

A No sir.

Q Did you see this defendant pick up, or take Orville Gilley back into the gondola car?

A I couldn't say.

Q You saw one of them do it?

A Yes sir, one of them did it.

* * *

Q I will ask you if you haven't got syphilis.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: I object.

COURT: Sustain the objection.

GENERAL KNIGHT: I can show the purpose of it as clear and plain as anything in the world. He offered on the stand to show the other day that Willie Robertson had syphilis when Victoria Price testified he had intercourse with her, and now I am prepared to prove this girl has it.

* * *

Q I will ask you if this question wasn't asked you at Scottsboro, and if you gave the following answer, you were asked whether or not on that train you saw this defendant, Haywood Patterson, and you answered, yes sir: is that true or not true?

COURT: Did you make that statement at Scottsboro?

A Yes sir, I made that statement.

Q Is that true or not true?

A I don't know whether that is the one or not.

Q I will ask if you were not asked this question and if you made the following statement: "Q. Where was he when you first saw him?" "A. He was coming over the box car with the rest of the colored boys." Did you make that statement?

A I told it just like Victoria Price told it.

Q I asked you if you made that statement at Scottsboro?

A Yes sir, I told it.

* * *

Q I will ask you now to tell me wither or not you have syphilis or had syphilis?

A I had syphilis, yes sir.

Q Who treated you for that?

A Dr. Walker in Huntsville.

Q Will you tell me the date he began treating you for that?

A The first Monday in April.

Q The first Monday in April?

A 1931.

Q The first of April 1931, I thought you were up about Scottsboro in the trial of these cases?

A Maybe the last Monday in April; It was on Monday after I come home on Thursday.

Q I will ask you if when you went to be treated by Dr. Walker you didn't also have gonorrhea.

A No sir, not at that time.

Q You didn't have it?

A No sir.

Q I will ask you if you didn't tell Dr. Walker you contracted syphilis from some of those persons who raped you on this train?

A I told him I didn't know where I got it.

Q You didn't tell him you contracted it from some of the negroes who raped you on the train?

A No sir.

Q You don't know where you got it?

A No sir.

Q Had you syphilis prior to your going to Dr. Walker?

A Well I had it for some time.

Q For how long?

A I had it before I went to Scottsboro.

Q Had you ever been treated for it before you went to Scottsboro?

A No sir.

* * *

Q I will ask you if you were not asked this question when you testified at Scottsboro: "Was this defendant one of them or not, did you see him with a pistol?" and if you didn't answer "Yes sir."

A I told that at Scottsboro because Victoria told it.

Q Everything you told was because Victoria told it, did you hear Victoria testify?

A I heard her tell it in jail.

* * *

Q See that letter there (indicating), take your time and read it, I don't want to press you, I just want you to be accurate.

A I can't read it.

Q I will ask you if you can read this (indicating), that is your name, Ruby Bates, isn't it?

A That is my name.

Q It was signed to it?

A Yes sir.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: Did you read it over.

GENERAL KNIGHT: She said she couldn't read it.

A It is so dim I couldn't read it.

Q I will ask you if this is not the letter that man got you to sign that night he came down there and you all were drinking together?

MR. LEIBOWITZ: I object.

COURT: Overrule the objection.

COURT: Is that your signature?

A That is my signature.

COURT: Ask the question.

Q Do you know what is in that letter to this good day?

A No sir.

Q Did you sign that letter that night when you were drinking with some man who came there, whose name you say you didn't know?

A Yes sir.

Q You were drinking, pretty drunk that night.

A We were all drinking, yes sir.

Q Were you so drunk you didn't know what was in that letter?

A I didn't read the letter.

Q Where did that man come from?

A I don't know that.

Q He afterwards got in jail in Huntsville?

A Yes sir, he was in jail. Q He got in jail after that drinking party?

MR. LEIBOWITZ: I object, that is not binding on this defendant.

COURT: Sustain the objection.

Q Do you remember ever appearing before Norris M. Payne, a Notary Public, at Huntsville, Alabama: "January 6th, 1932. I Ruby Bates, of my own free will and accord and without any threats, promises or inducements of any kind made against or to me by any person whatever hereby make the following statements: That my evidence against the negroes at Scottsboro was absolutely the truth. That if I wrote a letter to Earl Streetman, or any other person, contradicting this testimony, on Tuesday night, January 5th, 1932 or at any other time it was when I was so drunk that I did not know what I was doing. I was drunk last night and have no recollection of writing any letter. That the letter supposed to have written by me to Streetman contains all falsehoods, no truth being in it, and I deny making any such statements or writing any such letter." I hand you this, see if that is not your signature, if you didn't sign that before Mr. Payne?

A I did.

Q Were you telling the truth?

A No I didn't tell the truth then.

* * *

Q I examined you did I not at the Thomas Jefferson Hotel in a room in the presence of Victoria Price and in the presence of Mr. Eslinger and in the presence of Mr. Mat H. Murphy, a big tall man with gray hair?

A Yes sir.

Q I talked to you about this case did I not?

A Yes sir.

Q I will ask you if I didn't tell you then and there I did not want to burn any person that wasn't guilty?

A I object.

COURT: Overrule the objection.

Q Did I not make that statement to you and Victoria Price?

A I think you did, I won't say for sure.

Q Did I not tell you the only thing I wanted was the truth?

MR. LEIBOWITZ: I object to all that.

COURT: Overrule the objection.

MR. LEIBOWITZ: I except.

Q Didn't I tell you that?

A Yes.

Q At that time I also told you I would punish anybody who made you swear falsely did I not?

A Yes sir.

Q Didn't you then and there and on that occasion--that wasn't so long ago, that was just a couple of months ago, last February or-- you remember when I am talking about?

A Yes sir, I don't remember what time.

Q Didn't you then and there tell me substantially what you swore to at Scottsboro as to what happened on that train?

A I didn't tell you, Victoria Price told you and I was sitting there.

Q You say Victoria told me?

A Yes sir, Victoria told the whole story.

Q Didn't I ask you questions about it?

A If you did I don't remember it.

Q If I did you don't remember it, but it was told in your presence?

A Yes sir.

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