The lynching is the first topic Randolph discusses when asked about Marion — not that it’s where he honed his skills, not that it’s where he helped Mae build her dream home. “My town,” Randolph said. “That goes to tell you a little bit about my town.” He thinks about those lynchings from time to time. He remembers standing outside an apartment building as a teenager when a cop cruised past him in a car. The cop reversed course, Randolph says, and without provocation expressed his disdain for Randolph, telling him he’d never amount to anything before driving off. “It’s everywhere you go,” Randolph said. “That really hurt me.” He never elaborates on what “it” is, but maybe “it” laid the foundation for another of Randolph’s lifelong beliefs: Good and bad exist everywhere.
Grant County (which includes Marion) elected the state’s first black sheriff, Oatess Archey, in 1998. The descendants of the families involved in the infamous lynching met for reconciliation and a public atonement in 2003. Several members of the town’s current City Council are black. “Unfortunately, you can’t change the history,” Seybold admits. Maybe that goes for Randolph, too. “I’m just now starting to do more stuff for my town,” Randolph said. “I definitely want to see the town change. I want people to treat people equal. Ever since the mayor came, the town has changed and it’s going in a better direction. It used to be real bad with the court system. You go to Marion and people doing crimes, they give people like 60 years for breaking into houses, young black kids. But it’s getting better.”
People in Marion say that Randolph isn’t just involved, he’s immersed. Whenever he returns, he asks Sturm how his ailing mother is doing. He held a reception for Mae’s marriage and ran into Jenny Maidenberg, a social worker at his elementary school. Although Maidenberg and her husband weren’t originally invited, Randolph asked them to stay the whole night. They did. He spends hours at the Boys & Girls Club, where he virtually grew up. The club’s director, Adam Myers, remembers the chaos that broke out when Randolph showed up one day. Marion now annually celebrates a Zach Randolph Day.