Book Review: Rising Road: A True Tale of Love, Race, and Religion in America

By Sharon Davies | Oxford University Press | $27.95 | 327 pages | 2010

In Birmingham on Aug. 11, 1921, Methodist minister Edwin Stephenson shot Catholic priest James Coyle at the rectory next to the courthouse. The demented reason was that the priest had married Stephenson’s daughter Ruth to a Puerto Rican named Pedro Gussman.

Ohio State law professor Sharon Davies has written an excellent book. She devotes roughly half of her pages to legal proceedings, having obvious access to the transcripts. Judge William Fort presided, Joe Tate prosecuted and Hugo Black (later Justice Black) defended.

The author is aware that readers comprise lawyers and nonlawyers. For the latter she explains the voir dire procedure. For the former she contrasts cross-examining good character witnesses with bad character witnesses.  What do you ask a witness who swore that the accused had a bad reputation for violence?

I’ll let you peruse the book to learn the verdict.


Don Paine DONALD F. PAINE is a past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers LLP. He lectures for the Tennessee Law Institute, BAR/BRI Bar Review, and the Tennessee Judicial Conference.