William Zantzinger; Infamous After Dylan Song 'Hattie Carroll'

(By Larry Morris -- The Washington Post)
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By Adam Bernstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 10, 2009

William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll

With a cane that he twirled around his diamond ring finger

At a Baltimore hotel society gath'rin'.

-- "The Lonesome Death

of Hattie Carroll," by Bob Dylan

On Feb. 8, 1963, a young, socially prominent tobacco farmer from Southern Maryland named William Devereux Zantzinger got uncontrollably drunk at a charity ball hosted at Baltimore's Emerson Hotel. Carrying a cheap toy cane and dressed in top hat for the Spinsters Ball, he began the evening in a spirit of jest by imitating Fred Astaire.

As he drank more, Mr. Zantzinger, who was a husky 6-foot-2, became threatening in his demeanor. He assaulted a bellhop with his cane and shouted at a waitress, "Hey, black girl, bring me a drink!" He tumbled down on his wife while dancing with her.

Then he went back to the bar and demanded a drink from Hattie Carroll, a 51-year-old barmaid with 11 children and a history of high blood pressure. "Just a minute, sir," she said, which angered Mr. Zantzinger. It was not how he was used to being treated on his 630-acre farm along the Wicomico River in Charles County.

He cursed and thrust racial profanity at Carroll and rapped her on her shoulder with his cane. She served him his bourbon and then stepped away, exhausted and angry. Hours later, she collapsed and died, and William Devereux Zantzinger, at 24, was charged with homicide. Because of several inconclusive factors, including Carroll's already poor health, the charge was reduced to manslaughter.

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