I have some news about the case of Dave Brown, the great lefthander for Rube Foster’s American Giants in the early 1920s who dropped out of sight after the murder of Benjamin Adair in New York City in 1925. As I reported a few months ago, the New York Amsterdam News carried a front page article on July 30, 1938, that announced the apprehension of Brown in Greensboro, North Carolina, and his impending extradition to New York to face murder charges:
It turns out that the case received a fair amount of coverage in the Greensboro papers. On July 16, 1938, the Greensboro Daily News carried a small item about the arrest of 30-year-old David Brown for assault:
A week later (July 23) the Daily News reported that Brown’s “fingerprints and record” had been forwarded to the FBI, whereupon it was learned that Brown was wanted in New York City for murder:
The city’s other daily, the Greensboro Record, weighed in with a lengthier (and somewhat different) story. You have to read it to believe it, especially the third paragraph from the end:
In every other article in both newspapers (including several short items not reproduced here), the man’s name is given as Dave or David Brown, so I think the “George” here is just a reporter’s mistake. Anyway: an unusual “glossy green shirt” that Brown was wearing led detectives to connect him to the wanted poster for Dave Brown (showing him in a baseball uniform) that had circulated back in 1925. Amazingly, they seemed to think that a fugitive who had played baseball years before would still be using his own name and walking around in a baseball jersey. And it was deemed significant that this Brown “admitted” to having played ball himself.
The story evidently went out on wire services, and by July 30 the Amsterdam News had picked it up. But on July 31 the Greensboro papers reported that New York City was declining to press charges against Brown, as there was “no evidence” to justify extraditing him after thirteen years.
(Greensboro Daily News, July 31, 1938, p. D10)
The papers were quite vague on the decision not to extradite and charge Brown. Were the New York police saying that they could not establish that this was in fact the right man? Or that there was not enough evidence to bring anyone to trial for the 1925 murder?
It’s possible that the files on this case still exist in Greensboro, and I think I will make some effort to get a look at them. If nothing else, I’d love to see the wanted poster for Dave Brown.