‘The Real Homer Simpson’

Was an innocent man executed for a crime he did not commit?

By WILLIAM WRIGHT Staff Writer
Posted 9/13/17

Dennis C. Stewart, author of “The Real Homer Simpson,” said the tragic life of the disgraced former Cleveland police chief remains a stain on the way generations define justice.

Simpson …

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‘The Real Homer Simpson’

Was an innocent man executed for a crime he did not commit?

Posted

Dennis C. Stewart, author of “The Real Homer Simpson,” said the tragic life of the disgraced former Cleveland police chief remains a stain on the way generations define justice.

Simpson was convicted of murder, sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair 88 years ago on Sept. 11, 1929. Not only does Simpson “speak from the grave,” thanks to his own documented letters, but so do his family, friends, attorneys and even inmates who served time with the former World War I hero.

His story will be told by TV personality and WRCB-TV channel 3 anchor Greg Glover on Oct. 13, at 7 p.m., at the Buzz Oaks theater on the Lee University campus in the new communications building. It is part of the Spirits, Legends and Lore event. Stewart said he is honored and excited that others will get to hear the story about “The Real Homer Simpson,” as told by Glover.

Stewart’s fact-based book gives engrossing details and captures the atmosphere of the “Roaring ’20s,” when gangster Al Capone and others were getting rich off Prohibition and a new wave of liberalism challenged traditional values. Simpson’s shocking turn to a life of crime takes place five years before the emergence of Bonnie and Clyde or bank robber John Dillinger and his gang.

It was during these desperate times that Cleveland’s former police chief got involved with a scheme that ultimately cost an innocent man his life, and ended up also costing the former law officer his own.

Stewart said he became interested in Simpson’s story as a child when his grandfather, E.R. Simpson took him to the Fort Hill Cemetery in Cleveland and shared Homer’s story with Stewart.

“He was only 12 years of age when his cousin Homer committed the crime, but the story of Homer’s life and tribulations had been vividly imprinted into my mind,” Stewart wrote. Intrigued with the story of his uncle, Stewart said he started doing extensive research, questioning family members and even visiting the former Georgia State Prison Farm in Milledgeville, Ga., to collect vital records.

“With all of this information I had collected over the years, I felt compelled to write this book,” Stewart said. “I wrote this book because I want people to know that Homer Simpson was not a murderer. He admitted that he robbed the bank but he was adamant that he never hurt or killed anyone. In fact, he intervened to try to prevent the man from being shot. The focus of the book is that Homer was not a murderer and he wanted everyone to know that. His grief was not that he was going to the electric chair, but the shame and agony of what he put his family through.”

Stewart, who served in the U.S. Air Force, added, “We all make mistakes. His mistake was associating with the wrong people. There were three men involved in the robbery. The man who actually pulled the trigger, Malcolm Morrow, was sentenced to death in the electric chair. His accomplice, Ernest Lawler, was sentenced to life in prison, but not Homer Simpson. He too was sentenced to death. I think they held him to some higher standard because he was a lawman.”

The book includes a chronological timeline, rare photos, never-before-seen letters written by Simpson, many of his poems written while in prison and reactions by the community during the time of his trial and execution. Chapter 13 contains select letters from Simpson’s relatives, including one from his mother and one from his father.

There is also a letter from Simpson’s attorney, Henry O. Farr, who revealed, “The foreman of the jury who convicted Homer, stated in the most positive language both to the prison commission as well as the governor, that had he together with other members of the jury known the facts to be as they afterwards developed in the trial of Morrow; that in no event would they have agreed to the infliction of a death sentence, but would have cheerfully recommended Homer to life imprisonment.”

The fact this did not happen, and that the evidence could not save Simpson from execution, makes Stewart’s book all the more compelling. By introducing the case of Homer Simpson to a new generation of civic-minded adults, Stewart, who’s received several awards for his research in genealogy, has performed a public service in putting all the pieces in place. He does so by letting documents and handwritten letters speak for themselves, so readers can make their own decision about the fate of the former police chief.

In “The Real Homer Simpson,” Stewart has crafted an historical account of a man who served his country, became police chief, turned bank robber, embraced his faith and was executed for a murder he did not actually commit. By presenting the evidence and retelling Simpson’s account of a murdered cashier, readers are again faced with the question of exactly how justified criminal conspiracy laws are when one person commits a murder and two or more people must suffer the death penalty.

For a copy of “The Real Homer Simpson,” call Dennis Stewart at 423-999-3979. For further information on Greg Glover and other storytellers performing live at the Buzz Oaks theater on the campus of Lee University on Oct. 13, visit: https://www.facebook.com/Spirits-Legends-and-Lore-1683782561883548/ or call 423-715-0030.

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email: william.wright@clevelandbanner.com

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