A Peculiar Tribe of People: Murder and Madness in the Heart of Georgia

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Overview

On May 12, 1960, as John F. Kennedy campaigned for the presidency, Chester Burge—slumlord, liquor runner, and the black sheep of the proud (and wealthy) Dunlap family of Macon, Georgia—lay in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery. He listened to the radio as the news reported that his wife had just been murdered. Police soon ruled out robbery as a motive, and suspicion centered upon the Ku Klux Klan, which two weeks earlier had descended upon his house to protest his renting homes in white neighborhoods to ...

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Overview

On May 12, 1960, as John F. Kennedy campaigned for the presidency, Chester Burge—slumlord, liquor runner, and the black sheep of the proud (and wealthy) Dunlap family of Macon, Georgia—lay in a hospital bed, recovering from surgery. He listened to the radio as the news reported that his wife had just been murdered. Police soon ruled out robbery as a motive, and suspicion centered upon the Ku Klux Klan, which two weeks earlier had descended upon his house to protest his renting homes in white neighborhoods to black families. Then, on June 1, Chester was charged with the murder, and when the trial finally began, the sweet Southern town of Macon witnessed a story of epic proportions—a tale of white-columned mansions, an insane asylum, real people as "Southern grotesque" as the characters of Flannery O'Connor, and a volatile mix of taboo interracial relationships and homosexuality.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A Peculiar Tribe of People is the sort of true crime that has wings… This is one of those stories that, in many ways, truly is stranger than fiction. I simply could not put it down.” —January magazine, naming A Peculiar Tribe one of the twelve best nonfiction books of 2010“A southern grotesque that comes complete with stately mansions, murder most vile, forbidden sex, a pot-boiling trial and a denouement worthy of a Greek tragedy… But wait, there’s more! After being acquitted of murder, but convicted of sodomy and somehow finding another wife (18 years his senior), Burge stumbled into an ending that even Sophocles wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.” —Bo Emerson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution“Rick Hutto’s book—a fascinating tale of murder and deception—provides a sobering glimpse into the prejudices and corruption of pre-civil rights Georgia.” —President Jimmy Carter“Hutto’s book is a remarkable chronicle of Deep South scumbaggery... presented with all the insanity and loopy legality one expects from a mid-20th-century court drama in the Deep South... Hutto does a fine job of unearthing this story despite overwhelming resistance and the chasm of time.” —Flagpole magazine“A stunning glimpse into a world lost to the pages of history. With characters so deceptive, it takes a sleuth to identify pure evil. Hutto’s book is a race to the finish!” —Nancy Grace“The 1960 murder of the wife of a Macon, Georgia, slumlord eager to climb the social ladder propels Hutto's real-life Southern gothic tale. . . . Hutto . . . goes into great detail describing [Chester] Burge's twisted family history—particularly how it intersected with prominent Macon families, many of whom the author interviewed—and the explosive court battle over Mary's murder. . . .[T]he story and its eccentric cast make this solid book worth the read.” —Publishers Weekly “A rich, insightful narrative with people straight out of a Flannery O’Connor novel, Richard Jay Hutto’s A Peculiar Tribe of People is both compelling and brilliantly executed. A true-crime page-turner with as much grace, pizzazz and class as any Macon, Georgia, sunset.” —M. William Phelps, award-winning author of fifteen books, including The Devil’s Rooming House“This story, with its nexus of lust, race, and class set among the columned mansions of cotton-town segregation, oozes all that fertilizes Southern Gothicka… Hutto dishes up the squalor in a writing style that gleams with the polish accorded heirloom silver.” —11th Hour “[A]n absorbing tale of greed, lust and assorted sordid outcomes that reads like the best fiction, yet is completely true... Every page in this terrific book reveals a new and interesting cast member. His rogues’ gallery of characters, both male and female, should give a Hollywood talent agency’s character actors fodder for award winning acting opportunities.... Hutto has produced a well-researched and absorbing book that never stoops to the cheap shot. Indeed, it is his classy writing and tone that keeps the story from meandering toward the tawdry side of the literary neighborhood, and guarantees that the reader will keep asking for more as pages are turned.” —Rome (GA) News Tribune
Publishers Weekly
The 1960 murder of the wife of a Macon, Ga., slumlord eager to climb the social ladder propels Hutto's real-life Southern gothic tale. Despite being a distant relation to one of the city's most prosperous families, Chester Burge was never socially accepted despite his wealth, flashy cars, and bejeweled wife, Mary, because his money came from "slimy" operations, from liquor running to housing scams. Burge also had a proclivity for men. On May 12, 1960, Mary's strangled body was discovered in her bedroom and even though Burge was hospitalized after surgery, and thus apparently unable to have committed the murder, he was eventually arrested and tried not only for Mary's murder but also for committing sodomy with his black chauffeur. Hutto (Their Gilded Cage) goes into great detail describing Burge's twisted family history--particularly how it intersected with prominent Macon families, many of whom the author interviewed--and the explosive court battle over Mary's murder. For those seeking closure, Hutto leaves readers with too many unanswered questions, but the story and its eccentric cast make this solid book worth the read. 16 b&w photos. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762772384
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/9/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Jay Hutto is the author of Entitled: American Women, Titled Husbands, and the Pursuit of Excess, Crowning Glory: American Wives of Princes and Dukes, and Their Gilded Cage: The Jekyll Island Club Members. Formerly the White House Appointments Secretary to the Carter family and the chairman of the Georgia Council for the Arts.

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