The third and final compensation payment was mailed Thursday to 220 North Carolina eugenics victims, state administrative officials said.
The Winston-Salem Journal’s 2002 award-winning series about North Carolina’s eugenics endeavor, “Against Their Will,” brought awareness to the state’s program, which sterilized about 7,600 people before it ended in 1974.
The final payment of $10,454 to each victim represents the end of a 15-year pursuit for compensation for those considered as qualified by the N.C. Industrial Commission. Each victim previously received partial payments of $20,000 in October 2014 and $15,000 in November 2015.
Machelle Sanders, secretary for the N.C. Administration Department, said the final figure represented dividing the remaining amount of the $10 million established by the legislature by the 220 qualified victims.
The update comes two months after the N.C. Court of Appeals disclosed that it had rejected the arguments made by five claimants pursuing eugenics compensation from the state.
The decisions helped clarify who was eligible — or not — for state compensation for forced sterilizations.
They removed the final roadblock that certified sterilization victims faced in receiving their third payment.
Willis Lynch, 84, of Warren County, said in January that the final payment “will be a relief to get” considering he often said North Carolina was waiting for him and other sterilization victims to die so it wouldn’t have to pay them compensation.
“But I’ll never be satisfied because of what happened to me,” he said. Lynch said he was 14 years old when he was sterilized.
“I never knew for sure why they did what they did to me. I guess they thought I was mean and they didn’t want more of my stock running around,” he said. “I love kids, and no compensation can make up for not being allowed to have kids of my own.”
In June, some relatives of eugenics victims chose not to appeal to the N.C. Supreme Court a ruling that denies some of them the ability to inherit payments.
A panel of three appellate-court judges ruled on June 6 that eugenics victims requesting compensation from the state had to be alive on June 30, 2013, for their heirs to qualify for payment after a relative’s death.
The panel unanimously upheld the denials by the state industrial commission related to compensation established by the Republican-controlled General Assembly in 2013.
Victims who were determined to be qualified for compensation before that date would have their compensation rights passed on to heirs.
Qualified victims were required to submit compensation forms to the commission by June 30, 2014, and 780 of a potential 2,000 living victims did.
In 2002, Gov. Mike Easley apologized for the forced sterilizations, but it took about another 10 years for legislators to set up the compensation program.
In October 2016, then-President Barack Obama signed a law preventing any such compensation to be used to deny need-based assistance to the victims.
The bipartisan legislation was introduced by U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., who led the North Carolina compensation program while state House speaker.