Griggers Immortalizes Toombs County History in Book, The Baby Overland
Former Lyons City Councilman Larry Griggers has immortalized an important aspect of Toombs County’s history, as he has crafted a historical fiction dramatization of the famous prosecution of Lee Currie in his latest novel, The Baby Overland.
In 1920, cab driver Burley Phillips was shot and killed by Lee Currie in an attempt to gain his dream car: the baby overland. The incident led to the capture of Currie, multiple trials, and ultimately, the sentencing of a man who was suffering from a mental disorder.
“The prosecution of Lee Currie was indeed the ‘Trial of the Century,’” Griggers explained. “Victor Wolfe talked with Mary Elizabeth Lankford, the daughter of George Lankford, [who was] the assistant solicitor who prosecuted Lee Currie and learned that they closed all the businesses in downtown Lyons where people could go witness the hanging at the jail, which stood on the same ground where the new courthouse is being built. She said her father was disgusted with how the trials had become a ‘circus,’ with people bringing picnic lunches and spreading out on a blanket on the courthouse grounds.”
Griggers first heard this story as a child, as he was talking with his Uncle James Ellis Boyd while sitting along Cobb Creek after playing in the area with his brother. “My uncle told me that Lee Currie, a good friend of my grandfather’s, had killed a man just across the branch from where we were sitting. He told me that Lee was ‘the only man ever legally hanged in Toombs County,’” he reminisced. “I was awestruck, and the story stuck with me all my life, finally culminating in my sitting down to write a book about it in 2014 when I retired. It took me seven years to write.”
According to Griggers, the prosecution of Currie is widely known throughout the legal circles in the state, as law students are often interested in the difference between past and present legal practices involving mental health issues. “One newspaper account estimated that 1,000 people attended Lee Currie’s funeral, which in 1925, was a sizable portion of everyone who lived in the lower section of Toombs County — that demonstrated, in my mind, the support the Currie family,” he commented. “Had the trial been held today, Lee Currie would have been put away in a mental institution. He would not have been hanged. There was general agreement among John Currie’s friends and family, that an injustice had been done. Lee was not right in the head, and it seemed cruel to kill him for what he had done.”
More people are learning about the incident with the release of Griggers’s novel, The Baby Overland, which became available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s website in January. Griggers recently celebrated the event on Sunday, February 19, at 9 Columns Bed & Breakfast, where he held a book signing.
“While researching and writing this book, I got very close to the characters in the story; but while I was inside the Lankford House, I felt like I was back in the 1920’s witnessing firsthand these historical events as they were happening,” he remarked regarding the location of the book signing.