HORACE KING WAS A SLAVE IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH FOR MOST OF HIS LIFE, but not in the cotton-picking mold. He was born in South Carolina in 1807 of mixed-race ancestry--European, African, Amerindian--and had a clever, inquisitive mind, such that his owner taught him to read and write and joined him in an apprenticeship to a bridge builder.

Horace pursued that occupation and became, while still a slave, a well-known and respected builder of bridges and other architectures in Georgia and Alabama. He was freed, enslaved again, then conscripted to work for the Confederacy during the Civil War, after which he continued in his profession as a businessman and served as a Republican in the Alabama legislature.

His would be large shoes to fill, as young Horace King of Crockett County would find out more than a century after his namesake's death. Young Horace was well on his way, though; the only student in Crockett County ever to achieve a perfect score on his SATs, he was on track to go to college and study engineering. He had both academic and athletic scholarships, running the anchor leg of the best 4x400 track team in Alabama.

But something happened. A dropped baton. A forbidden trip into Hell's Back Forty. A double murder. The slow shredding of a fine mind under the whip of schizophrenia. And a return to Crockett County and the swamps of Hell's Back Forty for a final reckoning.

Young Horace King's story will be told soon. His namesake's story can be found here.


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