The Great Escapee
D.C. Black couldn’t stay in one place for very long, especially behind the iron bars of a cramped, dank and dark jail cell. So from the very first moment he was captured by Laurens County authorities, D.C. Black began to plot his escape from the Laurens County jail. Sure enough, just as he had done many times before, this fleeing felon escaped his captors in short order. This time, his freedom was ephemeral when he was recaptured by two state patrolmen and a Georgia National Guard colonel.
D.C. Black, already known as an “elusive escapee,” participated in a mass unauthorized exodus of at least twenty-eight others from the state prison near Reidsville on April 16, 1943. Black joined his compatriot and fellow escape artist, Leland Harvey, on a crime rampage. Within ten days, all but four of the escaped prisoners had been recaptured. Black and Harvey, two of the most illustrious felons anywhere in Georgia, were captured in Arkwright, near Macon, on April 25. Both men were asleep in their car and did not resist their arrest.
Just two days later, Black, who was serving one to twenty years on robbery charges, was on the lamb again. Harvey and Black, dressed in civilian clothes, easily overwhelmed a Bibb County deputy, calmly took the elevator down from the fifth story jail in the courthouse, quietly stole a car, and westwardly raced at speeds of more than 85 mph toward Vineville. Black and Harvey’s easy escape was blamed on woefully ineffective and possibly corrupt Bibb County deputies.
On May 12, the skipping scoundrel was encountered by a pair of Atlanta detectives who sprayed his path with warning rounds toward the back of the barn where he was hiding just outside of Morrow, Georgia. Not chancing another escape from a less than secure county jail, Black was returned to the state penitentiary in Reidsville for a long tenure on the chain gang.
Black was serving a 41 to 45-year sentence in a Ware prison, when he staged yet another in a long string of escapes. Black attempted to rob a hotel in Macon on Thursday, May 10, 1956. Within a few hours, he was spotted by six alert Dublinites, who recognized the tag number while they were returning from work at Warner Robins Air Force Base. One of the men called the State Patrol. Meanwhile the others tailed the suspect until patrolmen arrested him, but not before Black attempted to wreck their cars. A shootout took place behind the Shamrock Court Motel, which was situated across Highway 80 from the Dublin VA Center.
After an intense interrogation, Black finally admitted that his name was not A.J. Allen and that he was wanted on outstanding robbery charges. Almost proud of his crimes, the running rascal admitted that he stole a few items on his flight from Macon.
Just about eight o’clock on Saturday morning, county jailer Art Sapp went into the cell area and opened the door. Suddenly, the strongly built Black grabbed Sapp and wrested his gun away and forced the jailer into the cell. Black ran behind the Speed Oil Company and then across East Jackson Street. After stealing Carl Allen’s 1954 Chevrolet with a quarter of tank of gas in it, Black headed west along Highway 80 before turning southeast through a maze of dirt roads. The car took the skipping scoundrel as far as a wooded area northeast of Rentz, where it was reported found by Highway Patrol Sergeant, B.A. Snipes. Then the departing dastard set out on foot.
Sheriff Carlus Gay issued an order for a countywide man hunt by sheriff’s deputies, Dublin and East Dublin police, State Patrol officers, and GBI agents, which totaled more than one hundred men. Governor Marvin Griffin called in the National Guard for help.
While running through the woods, the vanishing villain got a whiff of Mrs. Millard Coleman’s cooking. After identifying himself as a wanted man, Black demanded that Mrs. Coleman cook him a meal and fix himself some sandwiches in exchange for not hurting her. After Black skedaddled, Mrs. Coleman called family friend and attorney Bill White, who alerted Sheriff Gay.
By the late hours of Monday evening, a pack of bloodhounds and their handlers arrived from Milledgeville to join in the chase. The hunt continued until Tuesday morning when Black was spotted by National Guardsmen Donald Maddox, Pete Wicker, H.T. Lindsey, and Bobby Ennis.
Just before dawn on Tuesday the exhausted escapee, bruised and scraped, fell to the ground. He begged his captors, Corporal W.B. Garr, Trooper J.T. Cauthen, and Col. W.B. Crowley, not to shoot him, indicating that Jailer Sapp’s gun was in his hip pocket of the overalls he had stolen earlier in the day some two and one half miles from the Coleman home. Although his skin was scratched and his clothes torn by briars and brambles, Black was closely shaven, his stolen razor still in his pocket.
Black, always the deserting degenerate, was shackled and brought back to the county jail on the southeast corner of the courthouse square. To make sure Black’s stay was a longer and uneventful one, Sheriff Gay placed the frequent fugitive in the “death cell.”
Black commented on his failed escape by stating that the next time he escaped, he would get a taxi and get a hotel room. He told reporters that the officers were so close to him several times that he could hear transmissions over their walkie-talkies. When asked by a Courier Herald reporter how it felt to be hunted for three days, Black responded, “It is about like a rabbit being hunted.”
To make things worse for the Sheriff’s deputies while the search for Black was intensifying, nine prisoners escaped from the Public Works Camp on Sunday night and set out on a mass string of robberies and thefts. With little sleep after an all night manhunt, deputies answered a call about a cracker salesman who was robbed in Orianna by persons fitting the description of the escaped prisoners.
Warden Coleman said the nine men simply vanished without a trace. The escapees scattered in all directions and stole cars, one belonging to Dr. Nelson Carswell and another to O.L. Colter. Within four days, more than half of the men were recaptured at various points around the state.
Additional charges of attempted robbery, automobile theft, escape, and breaking and entering were issued against Black. It wouldn’t be the last time Black, alias Allen John Billingsley, would escape. He ran his total escapes to seventeen, including possibly his last one in 1975 , when and his old escaping ally, Leland Harvey, both near the age of seventy, walked out of a correctional facility up the road in Hardwick, Georgia, one designed for aged and infirmed criminals. The duo was caught in Mississippi when Black’s stolen Cadillac sideswiped a bridge railing and crashed. But it was here, a mile east of Rentz, Georgia that D.C. Black, the disappearing desperado, saw the end to one of his last great escapes.
P.S. I wasn't able to find a picture of D.C. Black. Apparently, he never stood still long enough to have one made.