William Sewell probably wishes he would have kept it “business as usual” during an investigation of a case involving the Algood Fire Department in Putnam County, Tennessee. Sewell, a veteran Department of Health Investigator with 40 years of service, was forced to resign or face termination after allegedly using a lynching story as an intimidation ploy.
Sewell was assigned to investigate a complaint filed by Shun Mullins after the death of his mother. According to Mullins, the Algood deputy fire chief refused his mother CPR because she was black and falsified medical records to cover it up. During the meeting with Mullins, who was also joined by Sheryl Allen from the NAACP executive board in Nashville and an acquaintance, Judy Mainord, Sewell not only asked Mullins if he’s ever spent time in jail, but he also shared a story about a hanging of a black man.
“His very first question was, ‘Mr. Mullins have you ever been to the penitentiary?” Mullins remembered. Sheryl Allen with the NAACP said, “When he asked that question, Mr Mullins said ‘no’ and he (Sewell) said ‘OK, my source is wrong.'”
“That was more than insulting to me,” Mullins said. It was also just the beginning of the meeting. Sewell was there to a investigate a complaint filed by Mullins after the death of his mother. Mullins claimed Algood’s deputy fire chief refused to do CPR on his mother because she was black and then falsified medical reports to cover it up. After asking about prison and hearing about the final moments of Dorothy Mullins life, Sewell ended the meeting in a shocking way.
“Mr. Sewell goes into a story about a hanging, that he had been told, about the hanging of a black man,” Mullins said.
Affidavits from all inside the meeting alleged that Sewell went into disturbing details about a lynching — and the mutilation of a black man’s body — in Sewell’s hometown of Baxter many years ago. “They hung him, and they started carving his skin out of his back. It was like he got excited telling this story,” Allen remembered. Judy Mainord said Sewell continued the story by saying, “They lowered the body, and all the white men standing around took turns removing the skin from the black man’s back.”
The three say Sewell finished with a shocking detail, that he still owned a “strap” of the lynched man’s skin, passed down from his grandfather.
After the state’s own investigation on Sewell, it was concluded that the hanging story was used as an intimidation tactic and forced Sewell to resign or face termination.
But of course Sewell doesn’t feel he did anything wrong.
In an interview with News Channel 5, Sewell says he thought the story would show Mullins that he understood what they were going through. So who’s the victim in all of this? Well of course it’s not Mullins whose mother died because of a racist deputy, or Mullins because he had to listen to a lynching story, but Sewell says he is.
NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked, “Who is the victim in this situation?”
Sewell responded, “I am.”
“And why are you the victim?” we asked.
“I am the victim because I made a mistake,” Sewell said.
Yes, a “mistake” that ended his illustrious 40 year career. Next time keep your racist stories to yourself.