Connie Tindall

It is truly sad, indeed, that Connie Tindall, 62, will be laid to rest tomorrow, never seeing what he wanted more than anything else — having his name cleared by the state of North Carolina for crimes he did not commit as a member of the Wilmington Ten. As he told The Journal last May, right before the legal petition asking Governor Beverly Perdue to grant individual pardons of innocence to all ten of the falsely convicted activists had been filed, knowing that one day, no matter how long it took, he and the rest of the ten would be vindicated, is what kept him alive behind prison walls for almost five years. The one request Connie made in that interview was, “Don’t let it be too late.” He wanted to live to see the pardons. Connie wanted to live to see his name cleared. He couldn’t get his life back, and the rich dreams he had as a New Hanover County high school football champion of one day playing on Sunday afternoons in the NFL. But the effort mounted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association through its Wilmington Journal spearheaded “Wilmington Ten Pardons of Innocence Project,” brought real hope to Connie Tindall that finally, he just might hear, see, feel and smell his long awaited justice. Folk were filing papers and printing petitions and having press conferences and holding rallies and writing national stories and producing videos and creating websites and talking about the Wilmington Ten on radio talk shows and on and on and on. The effort to gain those pardons of innocence, and clear the names of Anne Sheppard, William Joe Wright, Jerry Jacobs, Wayne Moore, Marvin “Chili” Patrick, James “Bun” McKoy, Willie Earl Vereen, Reginald Epps, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr.– and, of course, Connie Tindall, was real, and it was building up steam. Young people who had never heard of the Wilmington Ten, were being drawn to the movement to clear their names, just like young people were over thirty years ago to free the Ten from prison. Stories in both newspapers and on television stations worldwide were once again reporting how the federal appellate court in 1980 overturned the Wilmington Ten convictions because of prosecutorial misconduct, and witnesses for the state who were lying through their collective teeth. Over 200 supporters in Wilmington – black and white – rallied around the Ten at Stephen’s A.M.E. Church last June chanting, “Pardon the Wilmington Ten.” Connie Tindall took to the podium that night, and humbly thanked everyone for their hard work and good wishes. Connie knew this could work. He knew that a pardon of innocence was in his grasp. His smile that could light up a room, and laugh that could definitely fill it, would be on constant display. But there was also a constant boiling, just under the surface, that spoken to 40 years of unmitigated anger at a state and criminal justice system that Connie firmly believed wanted to destroy him, just because he, like so many other courageous black students over 40 years ago, who stood up for an equal opportunity for a good education, dared to challenge the power structure. “They wanted to destroy me,” Connie said in his last newspaper interview. “But I wouldn’t let them!” He wouldn’t, and he didn’t. Indeed, it was Connie’s intention to live long enough to see his day of vindication. But GOD apparently had other plans. A week ago, Connie Tindall died unexpectedly. But in his death, came greater awareness of the Wilmington Ten Pardons cause. Since last Friday, almost a hundred more people went online to sign the pardon petition. Over 200 have watched a special tribute video to Connie on YouTube, deeply moved by seeing and hearing his last public statements. In death, Connie Tindall is inspiring the world to learn more about the Wilmington Ten, and stand up strong for their justice. In death, Connie’s spirit has made us all seeking that justice, to recommit ourselves to the cause, and redouble our efforts. So, we will never forget our brother or the courage he always displayed. Connie will not get his day of vindication on Earth, but he will rejoice in Heaven, and smile bright for all to see. We make this promise, dear Bro. Connie–we’ll get it done. Your pardon of innocence–we’ll get it done.

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