Byron Woodfin, who wrote the book ‘Lay Down with Dogs’ which chronicles the 1972 Scottsboro car bombing that left attorney and future circuit judge Loy Campbell paralyzed and imprisoned Hugh Otis Bynum for the rest of his life, died on Friday, February 4. He was 70 years old.
Woodfin’s wife, Kathy Woodfin, said her husband had been in poor health for several years.
It took Byron Woodfin seven years to complete the book. The idea for the book, he once said, came to him while he was an editor at the Daily Sentinel. As the paper celebrated 100 years in circulation, Woodfin’s job was to find the top 10 stories the paper had published during that time.
“When I was researching, I came across Hugh Otis Bynum’s story,” Woodfin said in 2015.
Woodfin’s book told the story of Bynum, a wealthy landowner, hiring Charles X. Hale to wire five sticks of dynamite to the ignition of Campbell’s car.
The resulting explosion rocked the city on an early Monday morning on December 4, 1972, and nearly claimed Campbell’s life. Three years later, in 1975, Bynum was convicted of assault to commit murder and died in prison in 1980. Hale, now 74, is serving a life sentence in a prison of Florida State. Campbell died in November 2003.
Bill Baxley, then a junior state attorney general, prosecuted the case. Last year, during a visit to Scottsboro, Baxley said: “Of all the books that have been written about cases in which I have been involved, ‘Lay Down With Dogs’ is by far the best, the best written and most accurate.
The lawsuit received national attention long before the internet. The jury was sequestered during the trial. No jury has been sequestered locally since.
Circuit Judge John Graham, who was 12 at the time of the trial and whose father served on the jury, said the book was very well written.
“My dad was really proud to have been on the jury,” Graham said. “It was a culmination of his civic duty.”
According to Graham, Campbell said before his death that the book accurately described the story.
Graham knew Woodfin long before the book. Originally from Huntington Beach, Calif., Woodfin moved to Pisgah in 1969. He never left after meeting his wife, Kathy. They married in 1971.
After college, Woodfin taught for 10 years at Stevenson High School, from 1974 to 1984.
“He had a different perspective,” recalls Graham, who was attending the school when Woodfin was there. “He brought a different outlook, a different way of thinking about life and what’s important. He was very influential in my life. »
Woodfin’s journalism career began around 1987 at The Sentinel, where Bill Cornwell was the publisher and Johnnie Hale was the editor.
“During his years at the Daily Sentinel, we talked about his family’s Sand Mountain political caucus and his days teaching children,” Johnnie Hale said. “He was an encyclopedia of Jackson County and Alabama politics and brought the best of political analysis and news to the paper as a political editor.”
Cornwell appointed Woodfin editor after Johnnie Hale left The Sentinel.
“He and I traded taking the paper out at night,” Cornwell said. “He was a good guy and a hell of a turkey hunter.”
Johnnie Hale said the news of Woodfin’s death brings sadness.
“Learning of Byron’s passing leaves such a sense of loss to his family, Jackson Countians and all who knew and loved Byron,” Johnnie Hale said.