Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2868
Davey Bigmouth Bass
The sports reporter/editor on the Times.
Willie's maternal grandmother is a wealthy woman who pays for his college education until his fifth year in a four-year program. BeeBee cuts off funding and tells him to get a job. She does lend him the money to buy the newspaper, however, and refuses the money when he tries to pay her back.
Spot is in his seventies. He is the editor of the Times when Willie starts working there and the son of the paper's owner. He has a plate in his head from a World War I wound and concentrates all his efforts on the paper's obituaries. He has a breakdown after being served with involuntary bankruptcy papers for the Times and dies six months later.
See Spot Caudle
Mackey Don Coley
Mackey Don is Ford County's sheriff at the start of the novel. He has been the sheriff since 1943, and although he is being paid off by the Padgitt family, most people in the county do not mind as long as things are kept safe. His preferential treatment of Danny and his obvious hostility to Willie and the newspaper help turn the people of the county against him, and he loses the election the following year.
One of Clanton's Vietnam vets, Bubba introduces himself to Willie when Willie starts writing antiwar editorials. He agrees with Willie's point of view and introduces him to some other local vets who get together once a week to play poker. Willie joins their games once in a while for a diversion.
Aaron Deece is Rhoda Kassellaw's neighbor, who hears her dying words about who murdered her. He and his wife take care of the traumatized children that night. Later, he testifies against Danny Padgitt at his trial.
Nicola Rossetti DeJarnette
The reader learns about this character in Miss Callie's stories, as she dies four years before the action of the novel begins. However, she does play an important role in the book. Miss Callie calls Mrs. DeJarnette her "second mother." Nicola is the daughter of Italian immigrants, and she has married well. Miss Callie's parents are servants in the DeJarnette house when Nicola arrives as a young bride. Nicola has no children of her own, and when Callie is born, Nicola names the baby and takes her almost as a foster child. She teaches Callie Italian, exposes her to culture, and works on her diction. She also promises to pay for Callie's college education. Unfortunately, the DeJarnettes lose their money, and Mr. DeJarnette commits suicide before this can happen.
Iris is an attractive woman, married to a member of the state highway patrol and the mother of two teen boys. At forty-one years old, she has an affair with sixteen-year-old Sam Ruffin. When the affair is discovered, Iris's husband beats her and throws her out, vowing to kill Sam. Iris leaves Ford County permanently.
Trooper Durant is a member of the Mississippi Highway patrol, an ex-Marine and sharpshooter, and Iris Durant's husband. After discovering his wife's infidelity, he vows to see Sam Ruffin dead and even puts a bounty on Sam's head, though he would prefer to do the killing himself. Years later, he refuses to allow Sam to come back to town.
Thought of by many in Clanton as "the cripple boy," Lenny is a member of the jury and the first juror to be killed. At the time of the trial, he uses crutches; by the time of his murder he is confined to a wheelchair. His strong faith in God impresses Willie.
Ernie Gaddis is Ford County's District Attorney at the time of the Rhoda Kassellaw murder and the attorney in charge of the prosecution during Danny Padgitt's trial. He leaves office in 1975.
The pressman for the Times, Hardy originally works for Spot Caudle, then for Willie after he takes over as owner. Willie makes sure Hardy's job will be secure under the new owners.
The seventy seven-year-old Gilma is Wilma's twin and one of Willie's landlords.
Max is owner of the Victorian mansion Hocutt House and the eldest of three siblings. He is eighty-one years old when Willie meets him in 1970. When he dies in 1972, his sisters want to move to a senior home, so they sell the house and Max's Mercedes Benz to Willie.
The seventy seven-year-old Wilma is Gilma's twin and one of Willie's landlords.
A part-time prosecutor for Ford County, Hank Hooten assists the District Attorney during Danny Padgitt's trial. At the time of the trial he's in his forties and twice divorced. According to some of the town's gossip, he was the secret lover of Rhoda Kassellaw. After Danny's life sentence, Hank has a breakdown and goes on a shooting spree in the middle of downtown Clanton. He is hospitalized as a schizophrenic but is later released. He is responsible for the murders of the jurors as well as that of Danny Padgitt, and ultimately takes his own life.
A young widow with two small children, Rhoda is an attractive flaxen-haired woman who lives about twelve miles from Clanton. She's considered a model widow because she keeps to herself; but in 1970, three years after her husband is killed in a truck accident, she frequents clubs far from home. She is brutally raped and murdered by Danny Padgitt, whom she had rejected at one of the clubs.
The Circuit Court Judge for Clanton, Judge Loopus is known for being pro-prosecution and honest. He is very concerned about the Padgitt reputation for buying law enforcement, so he works hard to ensure a fair trial. By law, he is required to sentence Danny to life imprisonment, but at the sentencing he tells Danny he wishes he could sentence him to a long and painful death.
One of the town's colorful characters, the one-legged Major is a lawyer and drinking buddy of Baggy Suggs. Most of the time, he is drunk or on his way to being drunk, but he still manages to pass valuable legal information to Willie.
A sexy redhead, Ginger is Rhoda's sister. She travels from Missouri to be the family's representative at the trial. While in Clanton she has a brief affair with Willie.
Wiley is the photographer for the Times. He advises the naive Willie on the complexities of small-town politics. He is badly beaten by the Padgitts in their effort to get the paper to stop publishing damaging articles about Danny's trial.
A Hungarian immigrant who owns Clanton's men's shop, Mr. Mitlo is responsible for changing Willie's style of dress, transforming him from raggedy student to dapper professional.
Senator Theo Morton
Morton is Clanton's secretly corrupt state senator. He is married to a woman from Clanton, which makes him popular in the town. He accepts a bribe for pushing up Danny's parole hearings, but no one can prove it.
The son of Ford County's biggest criminal family, Danny Padgitt rapes and murders Rhoda Kassellaw in a drunken rage. His anger has slowly built up after she has twice turned down his advances at a dance club. He kills her dog, breaks into her house, and hides in her closet with the intention of raping her. He does not plan to kill her but after he wakes her children he feels he must silence her. He expects that the Padgitts, with their money and corrupt influence over the legal system, will be able to keep him out of jail. At his trial he threatens the jurors, telling them, "You convict me, and I'll get every damned one of you." He is sentenced to life in prison but serves only ten years before he is released. When he returns to the family compound, jurors from his trial begin to be murdered. He is arrested on suspicion of murder but is shot and killed during his bail hearing by the real murderer, Hank Hooten.
"One of the village idiots," according to Willie, Piston is a part-time janitor and delivery-man for the Times. His moment of glory in town is finding the bomb in the paper's offices.
Maxine is one of the jurors in the Padgitt trial who would not vote for the death penalty. She is injured when a bomb is sent to her home, but she survives the murder attempt.
Known as Al to the family, he is Miss Callie's and Esau's eldest child. Born in 1931, he has a Ph.D. in sociology and is a professor at the University of Iowa.
See Miss Callie Ruffin
Miss Callie Ruffin
The "last juror" of the title, Miss Callie is a black woman born in 1911. She is the wife of Esau and the mother of the eight Ruffin children. At the time Willie meets her, she's "a stout woman, thick in the shoulders and trunk." Her hair is grey and she looks old, but her smile "lit up the world with two rows of brilliant, perfect teeth," says Willie. A staunch Christian, she befriends young Willie Traynor, who comes to love her like a second mother. She feeds him incredible Southern cooking during their Thursday lunches, and in her quiet way she teaches him valuable life lessons through the stories she shares. Through her stories, we learn about her interesting girlhood. The granddaughter of slaves and a house servant herself at a young age, she is tutored by her employer, Mrs. DeJarnette, from infancy and learns Italian as her first language. Through Mrs. DeJarnette, she is exposed to knowledge and culture that is not available to most girls in her position. Because of her father's death Miss Callie leaves school when she is fifteen, but she promises herself that her children will not only finish high school but go to college as well. This is a big dream for a black girl in 1926. Three years later she marries Esau, and in 1931 they have their first child. She raises her children with the expectation that they will excel in life, and they all do. Thanks to her guidance and steely determination, seven of her children earn Ph.D.s, and the eighth is preparing for law school by the end of the novel.
Miss Callie's and Esau's sixth child, Carlota holds a Ph.D. in urban studies and teaches at UCLA.
Esau is Miss Callie's husband. A quiet man who does not appear often in the novel, he nonetheless gives Miss Callie much emotional support. He is a carpenter and a part-time preacher, and at times he has also worked as a janitor to support the family. He bought his home in 1940, which was a great accomplishment for a black man at the time. According to Willie this is still unusual even in 1970.
Miss Callie's and Esau's fifth child, Gloria holds a Ph.D. in Italian and teaches at Duke University.
Called Leo by the family, he is Miss Callie's and Esau's second child. Leo holds a Ph.D. in biology and teaches at Purdue University.
Miss Callie's and Esau's seventh child, Mario holds a Ph.D. in medieval literature and teaches at Grinnell College.
Called Max by the family, he is Miss Callie's and Esau's third child. Max holds a Ph.D. in economics and teaches at the University of Toledo.
Called Bobby by the family, he is Miss Callie's and Esau's fourth child. Bobby holds a Ph.D. in history and teaches at Marquette University.
Sam is Miss Callie and Esau's eighth and youngest child. He is the only black child between the ages of twelve and sixteen in Clanton's white schools, and these are difficult days for him. At the age of sixteen he has a brief affair with Iris Durant, and flees town in fear of losing his life. He travels from sibling to sibling, never staying in one place too long. At eighteen he tries to come back to Clanton but is told to stay away. He is then drafted, but on the advice of Willie and his siblings he flees to Canada instead. While there he earns a college degree. When amnesty is declared for those who fled the draft, he returns to the States intent on earning a law degree. He sneaks back to Clanton and spends most of Part Three of the book hiding in his parents' home. He is the Ruffin child closest to Willie. He is with his mother when she dies.
Baggy is the main reporter for the Times before Willie comes along. He is an alcoholic, lazy, and a poor writer. In 1970, Willie observes that Suggs is fifty-two but looks seventy because of his drinking. Baggy is important to Willie, however, because he knows all the town gossip and history, and he advises Willie on the newspaper business and provides Clanton insider information.
Called "Mr. John Deere" by Willie and his courthouse friends because of his tractor repair uniform, Mo is a juror in the Padgitt trial. He is the second juror murdered after Padgitt is released.
See Willie Traynor
Willie is the narrator of the book. At its start he is a twenty-three-year-old college dropout working as a reporter for the Ford County Times. His mother died of anorexia when he was thirteen, and his father is a half-crazy stock and bond broker who rarely leaves the house. A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Willie's considered a northerner by the folks of Clanton. He has also attended Syracuse University in New York State, so they suspect him of being a liberal; or worse, a communist. His appearance does not make things any easier—when he first comes to Clanton he has long hair, wears jeans, and drives a Triumph Spitfire. At college, he drank too much, smoked marijuana and protested the war in Vietnam. By all accounts he is a liberal, and when he buys the newspaper with a loan from his wealthy grandmother he intends to be a reformer. However, he also wants to make money. Over the course of the novel, Willie changes from former student to established businessman and becomes one of Clanton's "colorful characters" in his own right. He matures, due in part to the influence of Miss Callie in his life, and becomes a Clanton homeowner when he purchases Hocutt House. Though he gradually becomes part of Clanton he never really feels like he belongs there, and after ten years of running the newspaper he realizes he is ready to travel. He sells the paper and makes enough money to buy the financial freedom he longs for. He is a naive young man when he first buys the newspaper, but by the end of the novel he has learned much about life, politics and the dark side of human nature.
A poor woman from outside Clanton who is bought by the Padgitt family. She testifies that she is Danny's lover and was with him at the time of the murder, but it is a lie. She flees after her testimony and is never seen again.
Malcolm is Lydia's estranged husband. He destroys Lydia's testimony and is murdered shortly after the trial ends; the murder is never solved.
Harry Rex Vonner
Harry Rex is the "meanest divorce lawyer in the county," who first approaches Willie by telling him that he should carry a gun. He not only gives Willie his first gun, but also teaches him how to use it. A man with a large, fleshy face and messy hair, Harry Rex follows most of the politics and law in Ford County and is Willie's main advisor. He also becomes Willie's closest male friend. He is the only one in town who does not hate Lucien Wilbanks, so he makes a useful go-between for the sheriff.
Though Lucien is from an important family of lawyers and bankers who built up Clanton, almost everyone in town hates him. He is hired as Danny Padgitt's lawyer, and Willie describes him as "abrasive and fearless and downright mean." He has a beard, drinks heavily, and is the only white member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Ford County, which according to Willie is enough to get a man shot. By the end of the novel, he is facing disbarment but he is still as mean as he was in the beginning.
Margaret is the longtime secretary at the Times; she essentially runs the place when Spot Caudle is the editor. A shy, soft-spoken Christian woman, she is fiercely loyal to Willie through all her time with him at the paper. When he tells her he has sold the paper, she bursts into tears, and Willie realizes that in her own way she has come to love him. Willie makes sure she has a five-year contract with the new owners as part of the sales agreement.
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