Time, Sept. 6, 1963:
Early this year, William Devereux Zantzinger, 24, a prosperous tobacco farmer in southern Maryland, went on a bender with his wife, ended the evening charged with homicide (TIME, Feb. 22). At a restaurant, Zantzinger whacked two employees with a cane. Later that evening, at a white-tie dance in a Baltimore hotel, he used the cane again on a Negro bellhop and a Negro waitress. Then he scolded a Negro barmaid, Mrs. Hattie Carroll, 51. “What’s the matter with you, you black son of a bitch,” he snarled, “serving my drinks so slow?” With that, he beat the woman with his cane. She collapsed and was taken off in an ambulance. Eight hours later Mrs. Carroll, mother of eleven children, died of a brain hemorrhage. She had had high blood pressure and an enlarged heart.
In June, after Zantzinger’s phalanx of five topflight attorneys won a change of venue to a court in Hagerstown, a three-judge panel reduced the murder charge to manslaughter. Following a three-day trial, Zantzinger was found guilty.
Last week the judges announced sentence. For the assault on the hotel employees: a fine of $125. For the death of Hattie Carroll: six months in jail and a fine of $500. The judges considerately deferred the start of the jail sentence until Sept. 15, to give Zantzinger time to harvest his tobacco crop.
In 2001, Zantzinger told Howard Sounes, in Down the Highway, the Life of Bob Dylan, “It’s actually had no effect upon my life,” but expressed scorn for Dylan, saying, “He’s a no-account son of a bitch, he’s just like a scum of a scum bag [sic] of the earth, I should have sued him and put him in jail.” Zantzinger claims the song is “a total lie”, though it closely reflects the facts which led to his 1963 conviction. He has not attempted to prevent Dylan from performing it.
Contradicting contemporary news reports, Bob Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin defends Zantzinger and chastises Dylan: “Dylan’s portrait of William Zantzinger verges on the libelous… That the song itself is a masterpiece of drama and wordplay does not excuse Dylan’s distortions, and thirty-six years on he continues to misrepresent poor William Zantzinger in concert.”15
The Dylan song followed him around his whole life, though he steadfastly refused to talk about it with reporters. In 2001 Bob Dylan biographical Howard Sounes actually got a quote out of him. “[Dylan] is a no-account song a bitch,” Zantzinger said. “He’s just like a scum bag of the earth. I should have sued him and put him in jail. [The song is] a total lie.” Clinton Heylin – perhaps the world’s authority on all things Dylan – seems to agree. “Dylan’s concern was not the fact themselves but how they might fit with his preconceived notions of injustice and corruption,” he wrote in Behind The Shades. “That the song itself is a masterpiece of drama and wordplay does not excuse Dylan’s distortions, and 36 years on he continues to misrepresent poor William Zantzinger in concert.”