For more than 80 years a cloud of mystery has lingered around the shooting of two prominent Norcross brothers, Joe and Orin Simpson.
They were shot in a Duluth field, both in their backs. But the reports were conflicting. This story ran in the Feb. 22, 1922 edition of the "Gwinnett Journal":
Joe and Orin Simpson, brothers, farmers in Gwinnett County were shot and killed by Deputy Sheriff Victor Dowis when they refused to allow the officer to search their automobile for whiskey.
Dowis surrendered to higher authorities and after a search of the automobile no moonshine was found. Dowis apparently received a tip, some may say a set-up, that someone was loading the booze by the barrel in to an automobile just outside the limits of Duluth, Georgia.
Dowis tracked down the auto and attempted a search. The Simpsons refused on the grounds that Dowis had not sought a proper warrant and Dowis sent for such. When the warrant was presented, the brothers asserted that the document was bogus and the Simpsons refused on the grounds that Dowis had not sought a proper warrant and Dowis sent for such.
When the warrant was presented, the brothers asserted that the document was bogus and forced the officer out of their vehicle. Eye witnesses state that Dowis drew his pistol and started shooting.
Orin was killed instantly and his brother Joe was shot in the back as he tried to run away. As his life slipped away from the mortal wound, Joe swore to the folks who’d gathered him up, “We had no whiskey”.
Held for just days, the states attorney’s office found no grounds for trial and Duluth’s only deputy rode home in his wagon, seemingly free from any justice. The Simpson boys’ uncle, Dr. O. O. Simpson, held nothing back as, from the county courthouse steps, angrily offered up a reward of $10,000--a fortune in the 1920s--“to anyone who would kill Vic Dowis.”
A military comrade of Orin’s, music teacher John Casey, was known to parade down South Peachtree Street singing an "Ode to Joe and Orin Simpson," a tribute tune he’d scored himself.
An Ode to Joe and Orin Simpson
The boys are dead and gone.
The slayer was Vic Douse,
He was free from harm.
It was on a Monday evening,
The boys had started home.
When the car ran out of gasoline,
And the preacher came along.
He had started with the children
to play a game of ball.
He stopped to call his brother, Vick,
And that was what caused it all.
Vick drove his car beside them,
Smoking his cheap cigar.
He said, “Stand around you Simpson boys,
I am bound to search your car.”
He pulled out his pistol,
And shot both boys dead.
And turned to Bill McGee,
“Are you my friend?” he said.
The judge passed the jury,
You bet he ever failed.
But how his heart with quiver,
When he meets Vick Douse in Hell.
Who, if anyone, collects the reward? Be sure to read Part Two of this creepy tale on Norcross Patch in two weeks.