Saturday, January 10, 2009

William Zantzinger, Villain in a Bob Dylan song dies

CHARLOTTE HALL, Md. – William Zantzinger, a wealthy Maryland landowner whose fatal beating of a black barmaid was recounted in a Bob Dylan protest song of the 1960s, was buried Friday. He was 69.

Zantzinger died Jan. 3. His family did not provide further details of his death, the Brinsfield-Echols Funeral Home said.

The tobacco farmer served six months and was fined $500 for manslaughter in 1963 for striking the 51-year-old barmaid with his cane for taking too long to serve him a drink. Hattie Carroll later died of a stroke. In the "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," Dylan criticized different standards of justice meted out to whites and blacks.

Zantzinger was allowed to delay the start the sentence two weeks so he could harvest his tobacco crop and served the time in the Washington County jail, working in its kitchen.
"There is something wrong with this city when a white man can beat a colored woman to death and no one raises a hand to stop him," the Rev. Thomas C. Jackson said in his sermon at Gillis Memorial Church the Sunday after Carroll's death.

News accounts at the time said Zantzinger had been seen drinking with his wife at a dinner before a ball. While dining, Zantzinger told jurors he began hitting waitresses with the cane.
"I'd been smacking — tapping — waitresses on the tail, and they didn't say anything. I was just playing," Zantzinger told the jury in Hagerstown, where the case was tried.
"I had no other purpose than to have a good time," Zantzinger testified. "The last thing I intended was to harm or injure anyone. I never even thought about it."

Zantzinger, who later became a foreclosure auctioneer, didn't answer questions about Dylan's song for years. In 2001, he spoke with Dylan biographer Howard Sounes about the singer, saying he "should have sued him and put him in jail. (The song is) a total lie."

Larry Jenkins, a publicist for Dylan, said the songwriter was not available for comment.

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