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Edgar Ray Killen and Antwone Fisher

June 21, 2005

UPDATE: Edgar Ray Killen was found guilty today of 3 counts of Manslaughter.

41 years ago.

I was not born nor did I grow up in Mississippi. But living here now, for longer than I lived in Tennessee, I watch the trial of Edgar Ray Killen with interest. I stayed up WAY too late last night watching the closing arguments.

The lynching of 3 young men that happened on June 21st all those years ago has hung over this state ever since. The movie Mississippi Burning brought the issue back to the next generation. How could that happen, well I know how. In fact I like many know who. It’s not a secret, it is just little to no evidence.

Living in Jackson, I worked with a man who was a senior at Meridian High School the year this happened. He knew who did it. He played football with some of them. They bragged about it.

Later living in Meridian, People there knew who was involved. You could at that time go to one of the killer’s place of business.

Mississippi is not the same today.

But most thought he would be found guilty in this trial that is going on now, it now looks like the jury may be hung.

This past weekend, I watched Antwone Fisher. Keith had mentioned it at his blog. It is an amazing story. It will rip your heart out. It was particularly hard for me due to my feelings of abandonment in my youth. Antwone’s poem “who will cry for the little boy” was hard to watch. But the last scene is incredible! It fit perfectly with Zephaniah 3:20 which I was teaching this Sunday.

What’s the connection between Antwone Fisher and Edgar Ray Killen?

Antwone Fisher was abused and neglected, but he overcame his situation. Edgar Ray Killen was raised in a social situation that fed on fear and greed. He never overcame it. As the closing arguments were made, he was characterized as an unfit person to be a “preacher” and as a coward. He mouthed “you son of a _ _ _ _ _”.

All around us are people in situation that damage them. The prophets (who Jesus said were summed up by the top two greatest commands) urge for social justice. What are we willing to do to help? June 21st 1964 three men gave their lives because of efforts to help other people overcome their situation.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2005 1:11 pm

    It is hard to be from the South! But living here makes us realistic to the weaknesses of our culture. While we try to move forward there are still those who hang on to the past as if it were a time to relish.

    It scares me that there are people who know who committed such a crime and think it nothing to frequent these peoples businesses.

    Yes we have come a long way, but we still have a ways to travel….

  2. June 22, 2005 1:08 pm

    Tommy –

    Interesting post. There was a lot of discussion at the Mississippi Press convention over the weekend about the trial and all. One of Tom’s fellow board members is the publisher of the weekly newspaper in Philadelphia and couldn’t get away to come to the convention until Friday night because they were covering the trial.

    Tom grew up in Mississippi as a junior high and high schooler and his mother was from Philadelphia, so Tom visited there a lot as a boy and has seen drastic changes not only there, but across the state. A lot of his relatives still live there and what was his grandparents’ land is located only about a mile from the dam where those boys were buried. His aunt by marriage was a Killen (he doesn’t know if she and this guy were kin or not).

    I’ve lived in Mississippi and Louisiana since 1973 and, believe me, both states HAVE changed drastically. The last lynching in the United States occurred in Pearl River County, originating in the Poplarville jail, in 1959! When I lived in Picayune, it was common knowledge there about some of the men involved in that killing.

    A professor at the University of Maryland wrote a book about that incident a few years ago called “Blood Justice,” that Tom and I read and it was really interesting.

    I’m going to publish a post sometime in the next few days that Tom wrote about newspapers in which he mentions that killing and the book and how some of the Mississippi newspapers used to “report” on such things.

    At the convention, there was a lot of talk among the publishers about how much more “open” Mississippians are today and how newspapers are able to report events and handle news stories in a much better way. And justice is finally being done in cases such as Killen’s. Those of us who have been around and involved in the newspaper business in Mississippi for all these years are very glad those changes have come and that the state’s people have, for the most part, become more “enlightened.”

    In truth, however, it is not just in the south that such problems exist and have existed. The worst race riots and cases of racism in this country occurred years ago in the north, in places such as Detroit and Chicago. So, it’s something I think we all should be aware of and try to refrain from prejudice in any form.

  3. June 23, 2005 9:36 pm

    I wonder what’s going through your head now that the verdict is in?

  4. June 23, 2005 9:37 pm

    I wonder what’s going through your head now that the verdict is in?

  5. June 23, 2005 10:43 pm

    Neal,
    Now that the verdict and the sentencing is in. I have to say that it is a bit of a relief that he was found guilty and given 60 years. I think it was murder but understand that was hard to prove. He got Manslaughter instead. I learned tonight that the state tried to indight everyone involved that is still alive and this was the only case the grand jury could find cause on. It is sad, but he is an evil man. Hard in some ways to believe that people sat in his church and agreed with him. But I sit and do nothing about issues that I see need addressing.

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