Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Place of the Caucus

Why the old-fashioned caucus still exists!
by Charlie Leck

If you want to see a video on just how the caucus system
works, go to this excellent explanation put up by
the Al Franken for Senate campaign:

If you want to read about caucusing in Minnesota,
go to this page on the party’s website. You’ll be able
to locate your precinct caucus and read all the rules
and procedures about caucusing.

Minnesota’s Republicans and Democrats will caucus on Tuesday, 5 February 2008. Have you ever attended a caucus? Not many people have. They’re great fun. If your state holds party caucuses, instead of primary elections, you should get aboard and give it a try. Because so few people turn out for the caucus system, you will have much more impact and a bigger voice in the process. Just be prepared. Unlike the primary election process, you do not just walk in, cast a ballot and walk out. Most caucus endeavors will take a few hours.

At a caucus, you’ll work toward selecting convention delegates – to the county level and then to the congressional district conventions. At those higher levels, delegates will be selected to go to the state party convention and then delegates are chosen to go to the national party convention. These delegates, at each level, will carry with them their agreement to vote, at least on the first ballot, for a particular candidate.

Let’s create an imaginary caucus for you.

A number of people have claimed that the word, caucus, comes from the Algonquin Native Americans, meaning “a meeting of the chiefs.” Remember this, the first caucus, which is usually held at the precinct level, is only the beginning of this series of meetings of the chiefs. The caucus is supposed to resemble a town-meeting, a gathering of the community to discuss issues and to act to resolve problems.

I will begin the caucus process at my voting precinct level and I’ll amble over to our city hall on that evening in February. In one room the Republicans will be meeting and I’ll stop in and ridicule them for going to the wrong room. I’ll invite them to straighten up and come on over to the room with the more articulate, brighter delegates. They’ll scoff at me and shoo me away! When I make for their podium and the microphone, they’ll move to block me. There’s still time before the caucus begins, so I chat with some of my misled and misinformed friends, and then I’ll head off to the correct, proper room.

The state Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) has chosen someone in the precinct to convene the caucus. That person begins by making some announcements that the party has asked him to make. These will include the dates of the various conventions leading up to the state convention. This is done so people can check to see if they can attend those meetings before they put themselves up as candidates. When the announcements are made and any questions about them answered, a caucus chairman will probably be elected. It may be the same person who convened the meeting. the attendees will be invited to split up in various sections and corners of the room according to the various candidates they favor for a particular office. This year we may go through this a few times – for President, for Senate, and for Congressional Representative.

At this moment, I have no idea to which corner I will go; however, let’s say, just for the sake of completing this description, that I choose to go to the John Edwards corner and join the very small group of people gathering there. When I get there, I find we will only amount to a group of only four people and our group is not considered “viable” – that is, we don’t have enough people to count. We look around the room and realize there are about forty over in the Hillary Clinton corner and just less than forty in the Barak Obama corner. At a small table in the center of the room, there are only two candidates for Dennis Cucinich. Time is given for a walk around, so you can negotiate with the other groups. The Barack Obama group has already starting chatting with those two lonely people, inviting them to realize they are a lost cause and to come on over to join them. The two rise from their chairs and walk over to join the group supporting the Illinois Senator. They are received with a large round of applause. Now, representatives of both the Clinton and Obama groups are putting the pressure on the four of us to give up and join them. The three delegates who are with me in our corner of the room are rookies to the process and they give up and go right on over to join Obama. I’ve done this before and I choose to stall a bit.
Someone begins counting and we all realize there are forty delegates in each of the Obama and Clinton groups. I realize I am in the cat-bird seat.

The person who has taken over leadership in the Obama group introduces himself to me and bends over and whispers in my ear. “We’ll promise you a delegate position city at the county convention,” he says. In spite of the whispered voice, the Hillary Clinton group has heard the promise. The leader shouts over the same promise and then pledges that they recommend me for the congressional district conference, too. And, she says, “we’ll get you a personal, private meeting with President Clinton.”“Oops,” she says, “I mean Senator Clinton.”

I’m quite torn. I like them both; however, I have strong feelings now about Senator John Edwards. I ask if I can say a few words before making up my mind. I’m given permission. I step out into the center of the room, equidistant from each of the groups. I make one of the best and most stirring speeches of my life, explaining what John Edwards stands for and what he intends. I explain that he has taken a stronger stance than any candidate on a national health care program, how he intends to put an end to poverty, how committed he is to improving education for everyone in America, and how he is the only candidate who has declared a time-certain for withdrawal from Iraq. I can see some people nodding their heads. I proudly declare I will stand for John Edwards even though it looks hopeless tonight, that I’ll stand for him because it is the right thing to do.

I return to my corner and sit down. Surprisingly, people from each group begin wandering over. Fourteen people leaving the Clinton group and come over to shake my hand and sit with me. We all begin waving to the Obama group, inviting people to return. The three folks who originally left me alone return and 12 more people follow them.

There are a couple more speeches and more invitations to switch groups, but everyone holds firm. The final results at our caucus:

31 people for John Edwards = 6 total delgates
26 people for Hillary Clinton= 5 total delgates
25 people for Barack Obama = 5 total delgates

The results are called in to the state party headquarters. They tell us that the results so far show everything is very close all over the state. We go on now to tackle the question of a candidate for the Senate.

When we leave our big room, we realize the Republicans are still caucusing. The chiefs are shouting at one another and it’s not going well. I resist the temptation to stick my head in and chuckle at them.

On the 10 o’clock news that night, the results are announced. Edwards has finished last and far back. He’s finished. He’ll drop out of the race the next morning. I’ve been elected as a delegate to the county convention. I’ll need to change candidates there if John Edward releases me – which he will when he drops out of the race in the morning. Clinton and Obama finished almost dead-even. Clinton wins by just one delegate. It will be close again at the county conventions. My choices are down to two now. I need to make a decision pretty soon.

Remember, this was pure fantasy. It won’t go anything like this. And, anyway, it’s the Senate caucus that interests me more this particular year. I’ve got to choose between Al Franken and Mike Ciresi.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Endorsement is Big

This one has substance!
by Charlie Leck

The Sunday morning edition of the NY Times brings
an endorsement for Barack Obama from Caroline Kennedy.
It will be followed later this morning by the endorsement of
Senator Edward Kennedy.
Caroline's endorsement is big!
Why? Let me tell you why I think it is.

Basically, there are two reasons why this is an enormous endorsement for Barack Obama. It's big enough that it may actually carry the day for Obama. That's not because the endorsement will influence the voters, but because it will influence many of those who do influence voters.

The Kennedy name still carries great élan in the Democratic Party. JFK and FDR are the two presidents who define the party. That's reason number one and enough said about it.

Reason number two is that Caroline Kennedy, herself, is deeply admired within the party and among those who consider themselves loyal and faithful democrats. I have extremely high regard for her.

It seems that Ms. Kennedy took to heart her father's plea that we do things "for our country" instead of expecting our country to do things for us. She's the real deal! If you've never heard her speak, you've missed something very special. She doesn't speak often, because she so cherishes her privacy, but when she does, she captivates everyone with her deep sincerity and obvious thoughtfulness. I'll never forget being glued to the television in 2000 when she introduced her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy.

''I thank all Americans for making me and John, and all of our family, a part of your families -- for reaching out and sustaining us through the good times, and the difficult ones, and for helping us dream my father's dream. As I look across this hall, and across this country, I know that my father's spirit lives on, and I thank all of you… Now, it is our turn to prove that the New Frontier was not a place in time, but a timeless call,… Now, we are the New Frontier. And now, when many of us are doing so well, it is time once again to ask more of ourselves. As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.''

A prosperity of kindness and decency
She spoke with such strength and confidence, with such clarity and with such a sense of rhythm. She brought back to us her father for those few moments and she became for all of us a symbol of what he might have been and what we lost. I thought then that those words – "a prosperity of kindness and decency' – would become as famous as any words ever spoken at a political rally. Alas, they did not.

How proud of her I was when she quoted her father and spoke his words with the same strength and clearness that JFK himself had expressed.

''Our call is to the young at heart, regardless of age. The whole world looks to see what we will do. We cannot fail their trust; we cannot fail to try.''

When he took the podium, following Caroline's introduction, Senator Kennedy said precisely to Caroline what I was feeling at the moment, indicating that Caroline possessed "…the poise, strength, the purpose that belonged to your father and the dignity and grace of your mother that inspired a nation."

It was young Caroline who woke her father on the morning after the election, letting him know he had been victorious. She jumped up and down on him as he lay in his bed, shouting "Good morning, Mr. President! Good morning, Mr. President!"

She speaks publicly so infrequently, but her carefully chosen and spoken words can be heard on occasion. Annually she presents the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. In her 1999 presentation of the award to Senator Russ Feingold and John McCain, Mrs. Kennedy-Schlossberg spoke eloquently:

"John F. Kennedy warned that the 'high court of history' would judge all elected officials one day on whether they were people 'with an honor mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligations or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.'"

Caroline Kennedy married Edwin Schlossberg in 1986. She has lived a very private and quiet life. She has written a bit and given us some good works, including her 1991 book, In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action. She is a graduate of Radcliffe and received her Juris Doctor degree from Columbia in 1988. She's on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library, the Kennedy Foundation and the American Ballet Theatre.

Now, this endorsement of Obama rings with the same kind of patriotic fervor that her speech at the 2000 convention contained:

"Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plan and reach for what we know is possible."

Caroline Kennedy indicated that the candidates were terribly similar in ideals and policy. This year, it would be quality of leadership that would make the difference.

"I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift or spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved."

I have had a great deal of trouble thinking through my choice for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. I'm still struggling, but Caroline Kennedy has given me something of a lamppost on these dark streets.

If the candidates don't stop bickering about issues and policies over which they are basically in agreement, and begin talking about qualities of leadership and methods of implementation, they are missing that which the American public most wants to hear.

Read the New York Times article about the Caroline Kennedy speech in 2000 at:

Read an excellent article by Rick Hampton in USA Today on the day before the speech:

Next: Minnesota should choose Al Franken

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Strong Ideas Weakly Held

Learning something new on a Saturday morning
by Charlie Leck

There’s nothing more exciting than learning something new – that is, than hearing of a new concept. So, I got pretty excited this morning when that happened.

Mother has gone west, to ski with her sister and I am an old bachelor, alone, for the next several days. I can do things that, in partnership, I cannot do. This morning I awakened quite early. Though I was wide awake, my body was still in need of rest. So, I touched the little button pad that brings our bedside radio to life and I lay in bed listening to the BBC broadcast of that morning. One of my least favorite kinds of shows was on, but the voices were distinguished and intriguing. They held my attention. Peter Day, on his World News in Business Show, was interviewing Paul Saffo, a futurist (or futurologist).

There was a lot of prattle about this and that and nearly all of it was streaming by me at a high altitude. I was thinking more about the day ahead, which included a meeting with Al Franken, the comedian, activist, talking-head and announced candidate for the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. Franken’s a very opinionated guy; but, in his case, because I agree with most of his opinions, that’s okay. He and I hold our opinions quite strongly.

Now, what was it the guy on the radio was advising? “Hold your strong opinions weakly!” Strange idea! Let me think about it. It’s one of his “six rules for effective forecasting – or, as Saffo put it in the Harvard Business Review: “the goal of forecasting is not to predict the future but to tell you what you need to know to take meaningful action in the present.”

Saffo has credentials that make him seem worth listening to. He’s currently a professor at Stanford University. He has degrees from better than mediocre universities – Harvard, Cambridge and Stanford. In addition to the Harvard Business Review, his essays have appeared in the LA Times, the NY Times, the Washington Post, Fortune, Wired, Newsweek and many others. He’s also a fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences.

Not bad! So what are the six rules?
  1. Define a Cone of Uncertainty
  2. Look for the S Curve
  3. Embrace the Things that Don’t Fit
  4. Hold Strong Opinions Weakly
  5. Look Back Twice as Far as You Look Forward
  6. Know When Not to Make a Forecast
That all sounds pretty interesting. Years ago I was introduced to a futurist and had a significant conversation with him. If I remember correctly, he worked for the 3M Corporation and tried to keep track of future trends for that company. Of the things he talked about on that occasion, many years ago, it seems he got a lot of things nailed correctly.

Far afield from futuristic forecasts, I thought this one ‘rule’ made sense in other fields, too – in politics, diplomacy, negotiations and arbitration and, perhaps also, in interpersonal relations.

The concept is that there is nothing wrong with holding very strong views and attitudes, but hold on to them in such a way that you are able to test them regularly – that you are able to be flexible and giving about them – that you are even able to let go of them if they don’t pass the tests you give them or fit facts of reality.

Suddenly, I would like to shout this to a whole bunch of friends who need to hear it: “Hold strong opinions weakly!”

In truth, I need to shout it to myself as well.What a remarkably simple idea. Who of us is brave enough to do it first? I’ll ask Al today?

This Saffo guy intrigued me so much that I spent a quiet, dark morning reading through a lot of the journal entries he makes on his web site – first jotting them down in a little memo book he carries everywhere. Here’s one on the possible temporary structure of democracy. He titled it Ungovernable Democracies.

“We ask our politicians to perform miracles with no resources, and often we elect them with hair-thin margins that prevent them from enjoying any real legitimacy. Behind this is a breakdown in civics -- voter turnout is low, and ever fewer citizens care enough to learn something about how their government actually works. Add in the usual round of dirty tricks and perpetual campaigning, and the net effect is the steady leaching out of legitimacy from democratic institutions around the globe.“

The open question is whether democracies can sustain their legitimacy in an age of such tight margins -- or whether there is a new political order on the horizon that will respond more effectively. It is too soon to call, but it is certainly premature to declare democratic triumphalism, for despite all its benefits, democracy may not be the governance structure that ultimately prevails in the Global Village.”

On blogging, I’ll quote Saffo’s entire journal entry from 28 October 2005 (hopefully not a copyright violation) and then end these jottings in this ‘history scratchpad.’

“If as Phil Graham once observed, News is history’s first draft, then blogs are history’s scratchpad. This new medium in the making is finding its place by offering greater intimacy and immediacy than traditional media, and above all, by giving voice to those left voiceless in the ever vaster wasteland of corporate media. Of course blogs can be unreliable, but like any scratchpad, they can also be quickly revised and corrected, or simply tossed away.

“Blogs obviously have plenty of immediate impact on current events, but as the corpus of scribbles grows, it is interesting to contemplate the role blog entries will have when we look back on them a decade or so from now. For the first time, historians will have a pool of present-tense musings from a wide range of people reflecting the public mood as events actually unfolded. Imagine if we had this sort of information pool for, say, 1941, or for the McCarthy era? How different our histories might have been.”
I’m going to keep reading Saffo and looking more on this rule of his – “Hold strong ideas weakly” – and I’ll fill you in if I discover some wise stuff.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Did I hear you correctly, Mr. Obama?

What is this praise for Ronald Reagan?
by Charlie Leck

This is one of the great arguments I had with my wonderful father-in-law in the latter years of his life. [Lord, how I miss him!] Others in the family worried when we got into this particular fight, but good, old Lyman and I always came out of those sessions as smiling, good friends. However, we also came out of them knowing the other was dead-wrong on the issue. Ronald Reagan was the issue. Good President or bad? Lyman would have smiled this week, hearing one of the Democratic Party's candidates, Barack Obama, praising Ronald Reagan's presidency.

There is speculation that Obama took his position in order to curry the favor of some conservative newspaper editors. It appears to have worked. Personally, I would be all over Obama to find out what he is talking about. Was it Reagan's keen political acumen that you like, Mr. Obama? Certainly, sir, you're not talking about his presidency.

Rating Ronald Reagan as a great president, which Obama didn't exactly do, but came too close to it for comfort, is a gymnastics exercise practiced by rich, singularly Republican big-wigs. And, they are so good at this slight-of-hand that they actually have an awful lot of people believing them. I think Paul Krugman was right-on in one of his columns this week, written in reaction to Obama's praise of Reagan.

"The Reagan economy was a one-hit wonder. Yes, there was a boom in the mid-1980s, as the economy recovered from a severe recession. But while the rich got much richer, there was little sustained economic improvement for most Americans. By the late 1980s, middle-class incomes were barely higher than they had been a decade before — and the poverty rate had actually risen.

"When the inevitable recession arrived, people felt betrayed — a sense of betrayal that Mr. Clinton was able to ride into the White House.

"Given that reality, what was Mr. Obama talking about? Some good things did eventually happen to the U.S. economy — but not on Reagan's watch."

Ronald Reagan was a tough guy! He was stubborn, too. Anti-trust law went to hell in the Reagan years. He took government out of the business of protecting the American consumer. Corporate greed grew to unimaginable levels during Reagan's years. His theme song was "deregulation" and he put cabinet secretaries to work accomplishing it.

Tough guy, Dutch Reagan came into the White House on a conservative platform that declared wild spending and government debt was the enemy. He left behind, after eight years, the largest amount of debt in the history of the United States (until George W, of course).

It wasn't only a bad economy that Dutch left us. Our educational system tumbled under Ronald Reagan. He wanted the federal government to get out of the state's proper business. No more fat checks from government to fund education. Take a look at education in South Carolina and Mississippi, Mr. Obama. That's what education can look like when it's left to the states.

Here's just a little teaser from a column written by Bob Herbert this week about education and racism in South Carolina:

"The host of a dinner party I attended was Bud Ferillo, a white public relations executive who produced and directed a documentary called "Corridor of Shame" to call attention to the terrible neglect of rural schools in South Carolina.

"If you were to walk into some of those schools — which are spread along a crescent-shaped corridor on either side of Interstate 95 from the southern edge of North Carolina to the northern edge of Georgia — you might forget that you were in the United States.

"A former South Carolina commerce secretary, Charles Way, talks in the film about the time his car broke down near one of these schools and he went inside to use a phone.

"'I just couldn't really believe my eyes,' he said. 'It was the most deplorable building condition that I've ever seen in my life. How the hell somebody could teach in an environment like that is really just beyond me.'"

Now, this is the first time I've questioned Mr. Obama's good sense. He praised Reagan's "sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship." Our young presidential candidate has got his values all out of whack if he thinks dynamism makes for a good presidency. Krugman wonders "why would a self-proclaimed progressive say anything that lends credibility to this rewriting of history."

Because, that's what is going on here. That's what Obama did! He didn't go as far in that praise as many pundits are saying he did, but he went too far. Now, the after-spinners on Obama's comments on Reagan are trying to insinuate that he was not really praising Reagan at all. I ask you to listen to the words carefully. This, in fact, was misplaced praise.

The U.S. economy never really got going until about half way through the Clinton years in the White House and, then, only after reversing most of the Reagan economic blunders. Reagan's tax cuts, like those of George W. Bush, were favors for the rich. It was Reagan who began the great weakening of the American middle-class and his student, George, has put the great crown on the effort. Even honest Republicans admit that trickle-down didn't work under Reagan's presidency and it isn't working under the leadership of George W. Bush either.

The comparisons between Bush's 2008 and Reagan's 1992 are eerily similar and amazingly dismal. Poor employment growth, family income that lags behind the inflation rate, economic pessimism, and an amazing growth of the power of the corporation over that of individuals.

Any Democrat worth his salt should see what remarkable set-backs America suffered under both Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

It was Reagan who loosened the restrictions on international banking. Had it not been for Reagan, Arab kingdoms would not now be buying huge percentages of American banks. China would not be holding the papers on huge amounts of our debt.

Obama's kiss-up statements about Reagan have moved me a long way toward supporting Senator Clinton. His debate on Monday night (22 January 2008) also moved me away from supporting him. I sensed a real meanness of spirit in him and I was disappointed. I'm betting that other American's sensed it, too. We'll see if South Carolina sensed it when the next polls come out. So far Obama has a crushing lead in that state.

As I feared, these debates have deteriorated exactly to the low level that Republicans had hoped they would. The one great chance the Republicans have in November is precisely in the hands of the Democratic candidates.

If you survive to keep going, Mr. Obama, please remember the following. We don't need more favors for the rich. We don't need more attacks on the middle class. We don't need more blessings for giant corporations. We don't need more isolationism. We don't need more bully-pulpit diplomacy. These were all gifts of Ronald Reagan's administration and they've caused us problems ever since.

The Republican Party has not been, as Mr. Obama said it has, "the party of big ideas." Unless, of course, you are thinking about big ideas for the rich and big ideas for corporate America. We hear you trying to wiggle out of this mistake now and your campaign organization is trying to say you were talking about Reagan's political prowess. Sorry, Senator, we heard the remarks and we know better. [Listen to the Obama comments.]

Here's what James Clyburn, South Carolina Representative, says and he could not be any more right-on!

“You can’t allow your description to sound like praise.”

Let's not have any more praise for Ronald Reagan. Mr. Obama, you comments hurt you, whether you want to admit it or not.

There is a possibility that Obama is a wounded candidate who, out of desperation, is now flailing out wildly. It didn't appear to me that losing in New Hampshire and Nevada had hurt him that much. Perhaps it did. Perhaps he fears another New Hampshire surprise in South Carolina!

In my mind, South Carolina is a must win for Obama. It would pull him even with Clinton and make this a race right to the finish. There's even a chance this one might go to the convention floor, though Howard Dean, the head of the party says it will not.

On, or about, February 14th (Valentine's Day), I will make my selection – my personal favorite – for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. Unfortunately, it will NOT be John Edwards. It will either be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The nation waits in great anticipation!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Still Hunting the Killers

My drawing above of Ben Chaney and his mother, grieving at the
funeral for James Chaney, is based on a stunning and inspiring
photograph by the famous photographer, Bill Eppridge.You can
see the photograph, and perhaps purchase it, at

The Neshoba murders case is still alive
and justice is still the ultimate goal!
by Charlie Leck

There has been a good response to the series about my sojourn in Mississippi in 1964. I appreciate all the kind notes and comments people have sent me; however, one stands out and needs to be mentioned here. John Gibson, of the Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center, sent me a number of emails with a slug of information. Mr. Gibson, with a coalition of others, is a part of an umbrella association called the Truth and Justice Alliance. According to him, these are “folks who are still pushing for as full a measure of justice as is possible in the Neshoba murders case.” In all, the packet of emails ran about 60 pages, so I simply put off reading them.

Mr. Gibson tracked down my telephone number and called me the other night. He wanted to tell me about his work. I promised him that I’d read the emails he sent. I did that. They rather stunned me, I must say. There are so many people from the ’64 Mississippi Summer Project who are still active and still plugging along on behalf of African Americans in Mississippi. Though Mr. Gibson is not one of vets of the summer of ‘64, he pointed me to one large organization of them that he thought I should join.

I feel somewhat like a piker. As I’ve written somewhere else, in trying to explain the beginning and the end of the decade we call the 60s, everything came to an end for me in May of 1970.

In my mind, the monumental period of the 60s came to a sudden and shattering end on May 4, 1970, at Kent State University in Ohio. I was in our nation’s capital city on that day, when the news broke. When those black children entered Central High School in Little Rock, I had just turned 17 years old. I was still a high school student myself. I was 29 years old when I heard the stunning news about the senseless gunning down of the college students in Ohio.

“We, of the 60s, had faced a lot in our early adult years. Nothing had frightened us into inaction. Nothing had turned us back. On that day, in early May, in 1970, I’d
had enough. I couldn’t stop crying. I was supposed to be in a meeting in Washington, but I could only wander aimlessly, with tears streaming from eyes. It was so revolting, it sickened me.

How could such an insane thing have happened? These were kids, begging for peace and harmony. They were exercising their constitutionally protected rights to protest. They were only rookies who were just joining up with us, the veterans of the decade long struggle for justice, righteousness and peace. They died so young. They were so bright and beautiful and they had rich, wonderful lives ahead of them.

John Kennedy had died so wastefully. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken from us at the height of his power and influence. Bobby Kennedy had filled us with hope and dreams and courage. He was snatched from us. In 1964, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, young dreamers, were murdered in Mississippi by advocates of hate. Now, these young, vigorous, delightful kids at Kent State University were dead just when their lives were really about to begin.

I was finished on that day. I turned away and moved on. As I cried and cried, I knew the battle had taken its toll on me. The 60s had come to end. Wrap them up. Put them on a shelf. Go back in forty years and try to figure it out all over again."

Now, here is John Gibson, trying to reel me back in. He didn’t understand. Right through 1969, I was doing civil rights work in an African-American neighborhood in Minneapolis, when the Black Power movement made it clear to me that it was time for “whitey” to move on and get out of the way. Messages of “reconciliation” and “interracial companionship” didn’t resonate anymore. Sadly, the message made sense to me and I stepped aside and looked instead toward a business career and life in “a different lane.”

Of course, I kept an eye on things and I kept hoping for full justice and a complete equality of the races. I tried to vote for the best candidates. Yet, I had moved on. I was certainly not an activist over the next 37 years. I had joined the run-of-the-mill, ordinary folk of America. In a way, I was seeking peace for myself and quiet for my mind. People who weren’t involved in that historic decade don’t understand the constant pressure and tension under which the activists lived. So many of the outsiders thought this was nothing but a bunch of lazy, good-for-nothing beatniks, just having a good time. No! This was a cadre of committed and dedicated young people who sought something better from the country they loved. They wanted the nation to live up to its constitution. They wanted justice for all. They wanted to get rid of the hopelessness that clung to so many people of color.

In our phone conversation, John Gibson asked me if I knew this activist in Minnesota or that one, as if I was still a part of the army. I had been only one of the soldiers – and only a private-first-class at that – in the noble battle. I sought and received an honorable discharge. There are still battle-scars, John, but I moved on.

“Come back to Mississippi,” he said, so invitingly. “Join the Civil Rights Movement Veterans, and go to one of its conventions. Come back on June 21st for the Annual Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service and Conference. It’s a good way to pay tribute to the three young men who were so brutally murdered. I’ll get you more information about the organizations that arrange these events.”

I wanted to be polite. I answered as if I might do it. Through the evening, the invitation hung over me and haunted me. I needed to attend an important community meeting. I tried to listen and concentrate as I sat in the audience. I could feel people urging me to speak up; however, I hadn’t been tracking. I was making up my mind to go back to Mississippi in 2008, to join with those wonderful people in paying tribute to these young men who have remained heroes to me throughout my life. I told my wife. She said she’d go with me. I think she knows I’ll need someone to support me – to physically hold me up and keep me together. I want our baby to go along, too – the one who asked me to remember and retell the story of Mississippi in 1964.

John, you know, I’ve never even been able to view the movie about the summer (Mississippi Burning). I dangle in life on a very slender emotional thread. That awful decade took its toll on me. Nevertheless, I made a pledge. I’ll go back, if for nothing else but, to remember those three guys.

Included in the papers John emailed to me were the confessions (November 1964) of Horace Doyle Barnette and James E. Jordan. They gave them freely and voluntarily to the FBI. I read them very slowly and carefully.

“Killen also stated that when the civil rights workers were released [from jail], officers of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol would stop them when they left Philadelphia. [Jordan]

“While we were talking, Killen stated that ‘we have to have a place to bury them…’ This was the first time I realized that the three civil rights workers were to be killed.” [Barnette]

Barnette goes on to describe the evening and the manner in which the three young men were murdered. The quiet of my home was enormous as I read the words. The cold-hearted nature of it made me tremble.

“I do not know who put the bodies in the car, but I only put Chaney’s foot inside the car.” [Barnette]

I suppose the confessions have been on-line for years and I could easily have found them. I didn’t want to read them, to hear the details. Now, however, I realize that it has been cathartic. The intense quiet settled not only over my house, but over me. I understand now what parents with lost children mean when they seek closure in their lives. It was a terrible document to read; yet it brought a sense of understanding to me.

Now, however, I want to know why there is no justice in Mississippi. The names are clear. The evidence is staggering.

I told my wife about the confession and about all the piles of evidence John had sent me.“Why haven’t they been convicted?”

She asked her question earnestly and innocently. I pondered my answer. I knew the reason, but it was a dirty, filthy thing to say.

“Because the killers were white and it was considered an act against black people. In reality, it wasn’t considered a crime if a white was acting against a black in Mississippi. It was as if a fellow just shot a rabid dog. No matter that two of them were white. Civil rights workers were considered as low-down as blacks – as rabid dogs.”

I guess things haven’t changed all that much in Mississippi. They put Edgar Ray Killen away forty years after the fact. He was already an old man in a wheelchair. Mississippi congratulated itself on the successful pursuit of justice. The newspapers were filled with praise for the prosecution.

What about Sheriff Rainey and Deputy Sheriff Price? What about Olen Burrage? What about Billy Wayne Posey? What about Jimmy Arledge, Pete Harris, Tommy Horne, Jimmy Snowden, Jimmy Lee Townsend, and Richard Willis?

Gibson wrote the following to me:

“In December 1964, the FBI arrested twenty-one (21) suspects in connection with the murders of the three young men. Nineteen (19) of the suspects were charged with conspiring to deprive the victims of their constitutional rights. Two (2) suspects were arrested on charges of withholding knowledge of a felony. The group tried in 1967 differed a little from those arrested in 1964. On 20 October 1967, in Meridian, after a federal trial of eighteen (18) suspects, seven (7) were convicted on conspiracy to deny civil rights charges. Seven (7) were acquitted. Mistrials were declared in the cases of three (3). None of the seven men convicted served more than six years in federal prison. In addition to Edgar Ray “Preacher” Killen, eight of the suspects, who were federally arrested or charged in the 60s, are still alive. These eight have never been indicted by the state of Mississippi.”

It is shocking to me that no one (0) – zero, zed, de nada – has ever been convicted of murder by the state of Mississippi in this case! Edgar Ray Killen (“Preacher”) was convicted of three counts of manslaughter in 2005.

In May of 2001, Cecil Price, the former deputy sheriff, had begun to cooperate with state investigators when he suddenly died of head injuries he suffered in a fall. Interestingly, no one witnessed the fall. Or, at least, no one came forward as a witness to the incident.

John Gibson has rhetorically asked: “Why can’t Mississippi adequately pursue justice in this civil rights murder case? Why can’t Mississippi indict the many other living suspects in the Neshoba murders on state charges – those who were indicted and tried under federal law for conspiracy to deny civil rights in the 1960s? Why can’t Mississippi at least indict the living suspects in the Neshoba murders on state charges? Why can’t Mississippi convict those who were convicted on federal charges?”

Gibson replied very simply: “The answer is that Mississippi can, if it has made as much progress as its public relations campaign claims it has.”

The evidence against the suspects in this case is staggering, to say the least; however, it has certainly grown cold and the ability and rights of defense lawyers to cross examine witnesses will be impossible in many instances. Though it is John Gibson’s dream to see those suspects in this case, who are still alive, charged and convicted, I cannot imagine it will ever happen. It will be a dirty fact of history with which the State of Mississippi will always have to live. The stain on its history book will never wash away!

Mississippi still has a long way to go and continues to deserve its reputation as the most racist piece of geography in North America. In a remarkable column in the Meridian Star, Steve Brody pleaded with his native community to restore and protect the grave site of civil rights hero, James Chaney. To this day, the resting place of James Chaney is constantly desecrated. The engraved image of Chaney on his tombstone has been destroyed by numerous bullet holes. On my trip to Mississippi this coming June, I plan to go to his grave site and leave flowers in an attempt to express my love and appreciation.

At this point, only the brave should read on
The story ain’t pretty! These are excerpts taken from the book, We Are Not Afraid: The Mississippi Murder of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney. The book was written by Seth Gagin and Phillip Dray. It was originally published in 1988. [ISBN: 002520260X] Good used copies of it can be purchased on ABE (American Book Exchange) for as little as a dollar. I’ve also included the full texts of the confessions of Barnette and Jordan.

The owner of a local trucking company, Olen Burrage, was having a cattle pond dug on his property, five miles southwest of town on Highway 21. Burrage had hired Herman Tucker, one of his part-time drivers and the owner/operator of two Caterpillar dozers, to build the pond and the large dam that would restrain it. The Neshoba Klansman arranged for Billy Wayne Posey to arrive at midnight on the lane of the Burrage property with the bodies of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney. Once the bodies were placed in the center of the dam, fifteen or twenty feet down, Tucker would reseal it with one of bulldozers. When the pond filled with rainwater, the place where the bodies were stashed would simply become an innocuous part of the Neshoba landscape--a Klansman version of a Choctaw burial mound.
"So you wanted to come to Mississippi?" one of the murderers is reputed to have told the victims later that night. "Well, now we're gonna let you stay here. We're not even gonna run you out. We're gonna let you stay here with us." p. 55

Killen, as organizer of the Neshoba and Lauderdale County klaverns of the White Knights of Mississippi and point man for the conspiracy, was eager to return to Philadelphia as soon as he had collected enough men for the operation. There were "arrangements" to be made, he explained to the men at Akin's. Quickly he sketched for them the plan he had devised in collusion with Neshoba County deputy sheriff Cecil Price and Billy Wayne Posey, and possibly--to infer from the events that would transpire--Hop Barnett and Olen Burrage. Deputy Price would release Goatee and the other two civil rights workers as soon as it got dark. Once the civil rights workers were turned loose and were alone out on the highway, they would be stopped by the a Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol car and turned over to the Klan. p. 336

Billy Wayne Posey was among those who attempted the Bonanza alibi, but in fact Posey had been far too busy that day to watch television. His role in the conspiracy was to arrange for the disposal of the victims' bodies, a grisly task easily as complex as setting them up to be done away with in the first place. After Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney were arrested late on the afternoon of June 21, Posey met with Olen Burrage, who owned a trucking firm and several pieces of farm property west of Philadelphia, and Herman Tucker, a bulldozer operator who occasionally worked for Burrage. This meeting took place either at Burrage’s garage, southwest of Philadelphia, or at the Phillips 66 station... Posey's arrangement with Burrage to use a dam being built on Burrage's property as a burial site for the three civil rights workers' was probably not the result of brainstorm thinking by the conspirators. In all likelihood, Burrage's dam site had been previously scouted out by the Neshoba klavern for its potential as a secret grave, perhaps as early as mid-May, when Mickey Schwerner's incursions into Longdale were becoming known to the Klansmen. Mississippi FBI agent John Proctor claims to have learned from an informant that Burrage once told a roomful of Neshoba Klansmen discussing the impending invasion of civil rights workers, "Hell, I've got a dam that'll hold a hundred of them." Although the Meridian Klansmen had been instructed to leave Mickey Schwerner alone, the leaders of the Neshoba klavern had apparently been given Sam Bowers's approval to "eliminate" him if they caught him in Neshoba County. They may well have expected to have further opportunities to nab Schwerner on one of his visits to Longdale, and it is possible many elements of the conspiracy--the release from jail, the highway chase, and the secret burial--were loosely in place before June 21.

The previous summer, Burrage had consulted an agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Soil Conservation Service about joining a program under which landowners could obtain government funding for pond dams that met certain conservation requirements. Burrage's proposed dam met the program's specifications, but the approval of the funding was contingent upon periodic inspections of the construction site by agents from the Department of Agriculture. In May 1964, when Burrage finalized arrangements with Herman Tucker and authorized him to begin work on the dam, Burrage chose--for reason he never explained--to do so without participating in the government program. pp 340-342

With the civil rights workers' bodies in the hole, Posey signaled Tucker to start moving. The tractor ran fifteen minutes as Tucker bladed off the top of the dam so it would look as though it had not been disturbed... The eight Klansmen got into Barnette's car and the civil rights workers' station wagon for the short ride down highway 21 to Burrage's trucking garage.

There the men replaced the license plates on Barnette's car, which had been removed earlier in Meridian, and Jordan was given all the gloves the men had worn and told to dispose of them. Tucker took a glass gallon jug and filled it with gasoline from one of Burrage's pumps, to use in setting fire to the station wagon. p 361

Below, I have included the confessions of Barnette and Jordan. You may find them interesting to read. They can be found many places on line. Just enter a Google search with the words ‘Confession of Horace Doyle Barnette’ or ‘Confession of James E. Jordan.’

Horace Doyle Barnette’s 20 November 1964 confession to the FBI (with whatever typos that appeared in the original document):

From FBI documents
The following is a signed statement which was furnished by HORACE DOYLE BARNETTE on November 20, 1964: Springhill, La.Nov. 20, 1964

"I, Horace Doyle Barnette, do hereby make this free and voluntary statement to Special Agent Henry Rask and Special Agent James A. Wooten, who have identified themselves to me to be special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Special Agent Henry Rask have informed me that I do not have to make a statement, that any statement made by me can be used against me in a court of law and that I am entitled to consult with an attorney before making this statement and that if I can not afford an attorney and I am required to appear in court, the court will appoint one for me. That no force, threats or promises were made to induce me to make this statement. I presently reside at Cullen, La. I am 26 years old and was born on September 11, 1938, at Plain Dealing, La.

"On June 21, 1964 about 8:00 P.M., I was having supper at Jimmy Arledge's house, Meridian, Mississippi. Travis Barnette called Arledge on the telephone and told Arledge that the Klan had a job and wanted to know if Arledge and I could go. Arledge asked me if I could go and we went to Akins trailer park on Highway 80 in Meridian, Miss. We did not know what the job was.

"Upon arriving at Akins trailer park we were met by Preacher Killen, Mr. Akins, Jim Jordan and Wayne. I do not know Wayne's last name, but I do know his brother is a police officer in Meridian, Miss. Killen told us that three civil rights workers were in jail in Philadelphia, Miss., and that these three civil rights workers were going to be released from jail and that we were going to catch them and give them a whipping. We were given brown cloth gloves and my car was filled with gas from Mr. Akins gas tank. Jim Snowden, who works for Troy Laundry in Meridian came to Akins trailer park, too. Arledge, Snowden, and Jordan got into my car and we drove to Philadelphia. Killen and Wayne left before we did and we were told that we would meet him there. Killen had a 1962 or 1961 white Buick. When we arrived in Philadelphia, about 9:30 P.M., we met Killen and he got into my car and directed me where to park and wait for someone to tell us when the three civil rights workers were being released from jail. While we were talking, Killen stated that 'we have a place to bury them, and a man to run the dozer to cover them up.' This was the first time I realized that the three civil rights workers were to be killed. About 5 or 10 minutes after we parked, a patrolman from Philadelphia came to the car and said that 'they are going toward Meridian on Highway 19.' We proceeded out Highway 19 and caught up to a Mississippi State Patrol Car, who pulled into a store on the left hand side of the road. We pulled along side of the patrol car and then another car from Philadelphia pulled in between us. I was driving a 1957 Ford, 4 door, 2 tone blue bearing Louisiana license. The Philadelphia car was a 1958 Chevrolet, 2 door and color maroon. It also had a dent on front right hand fender next to the light. No one got out of the cars, but the driver of the Philadelphia car, who I later learned was named Posey, talked to the patrolmen. Posey then drove away and we followed. About 2 or 3 miles down the Highway Posey's car stopped and pulled off on the right hand side of the road. Posey motioned for me to go ahead. I then drove fast and caught up to the car that the three civil rights workers were in, pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. About a minute or 2 later, Deputy Sheriff Price came along and stopped on the pavement beside my car. Jordan asked him who was going to stop them and Price said that he would and took after them and we followed. The Civil Rights workers turned off Highway 19 on to a side road and drove about a couple of miles before Price stopped them. Price stopped his car behind the 1963 Ford Fairlane Station Wagon driven by the Civil Rights Workers and we stopped behind Price's car. Price was driving a 1956 Chevrolet, 2 door and 2 tone blue in color. Price stated 'I thought you were going back to Meridian if we let you out of jail.' The Civil Rights Workers stated that they were and Price asked them why they were taking the long way around. Price told them to get out and get into his car. They got out of their car and proceed to get into Price's car and then Price took his blackjack and struck Chaney on the back of the head.

"At the junction of Highway 19 and where we turned off, I had let Arledge out of the car to signal the fellows in the Philadelphia car. We then turned around and proceeded back toward Philadelphia. The first car to start back was Price and he had Jim Jordan in the front seat with him and the three civil rights workers in the back seat. I followed next and picked up Arledge at the junction of Highway 19. Snowden drove the 1963 Ford, belonging to the Civil Rights Workers. When we came to Posey's car Price and Snowden pulled over to the left side of the Highway and stopped in front of Posey's car. I stopped behind it. Wayne and Posey and the other men from Philadelphia got into the 1963 Ford and rode with Snowden. I do not know how many men were from Philadelphia. Price then started first and I pulled in behind him and Snowden driving the 1963 Ford came last. I followed Price down Highway 19 and he turned left on to a gravel road. About a mile up the road he stopped and Snowden and I stopped behind him, with about a car length between each car. Before I could get out of the car Wayne ran past my car to Price's car, opened the left rear door, pulled Schwerner out of the car, spun him around so that Schwerner was standing on the left side of the road, with his back to the ditch and said 'Are you that nigger lover' and Schwerner said 'Sir, I know just how you feel.' Wayne had a pistol in his right hand, then shot Schwerner. Wayne then went back to Price's car and got Goodman, took him to the left side of the road with Goodman facing the road, and shot Goodman.

"When Wayne shot Schwerner, Wayne had his hand on Schwerner's shoulder. When Wayne shot Goodman, Wayne was standing within reach of him. Schwerner fell to the left so that he was laying along side the road. Goodman spun around and fell back toward the bank in back.

"At this time Jim Jordan said 'save one for me.' He then got out of Price's car and got Chaney out. I remember Chaney backing up, facing the road, and standing on the bank on the other side of the ditch and Jordan stood in the middle of the road and shot him. I do not remember how many times Jordan shot. Jordan then said. 'You didn't leave me anything but a nigger, but at least I killed me a nigger.' The three civil rights workers were then put into the back of their 1963 Ford wagon. I do not know who put the bodies in the car, but I only put Chaney's foot inside the car, Price then got into his car and drove back toward Highway 19. Wayne, Posey and Jordan then got into the 1963 Ford and started up the road. Snowden, Arledge and another person who I do not know the name of got into my car and we followed. I do not know the roads we took, but went through the outskirts of Philadelphia and to the Dam site on Burrage's property. When we arrived at the Dam site someone said that the bulldozer operator was not there and Wayne, Arledge and I went in my car to find him. We drove out to a paved road and about a mile down the road.

"We saw a 1957 Chevrolet, white and green, parked on the left side of the road. Wayne told me to stop and we backed up to this car. Burrage and 2 other men were in the car. Wayne said that they were already down there and Burrage said to follow them. I followed the 1957 Chevrolet back toward the Dam site, taking a different road, until the Chevrolet stopped. Burrage said 'it is just a little ways over there,' and Wayne and the bulldozer operator walked the rest of the way. The bulldozer operator was about 40 years old, 6 ft - 2 inches tall, slim built and a white male. He was wearing khaki clothes. Arledge and I then followed Burrage and the other man back to Burrage's garage. The other man was a white male, about 40 years old, 5 feet 8 or 9 inches tall, stocky built. Burrage's garage is on the road toward Philadelphia and he had tractors and trailer parked there. His house is across the road.

"We were there about 30 minutes when the other fellows came from the dam site in the 1963 Ford. Burrage got a glass gallon jug and filled it with gasoline to be used to burn the 1963 Ford car owned by the three civil rights workers. Burrage took one of the diesel trucks from under a trailer and said 'I will use this to pick you up, no one will suspect a truck on the road this time at night.' It was then about 1:00 to 1:30 in the morning. Snowden, Arledge, Jordan, Wayne and I then got into my car and we drove back toward Philadelphia. When we got to Philadelphia a city patrol car stopped us and we got out. Sheriff Rainey, Deputy Sheriff Price and the City Patrolman, who told us which way the civil rights workers were leaving town, got out of the patrol car. The patrolman was a white male, about 50 years old, 5 feet 8 to 9 inches, 160 lbs., and was wearing a uniform. This was about 2:00,AM., June 22, 1964. I do not know his name, but I have met him before and would know him again.

"We talked for 2 or 3 minutes and then someone said that we better not talk about this and Sheriff Rainey said 'I'll kill anyone who talks, even if it was my own brother.' We then got back into my car and drove back to Meridian and passed Posey's car which was still parked along side the road. We did not stop and there was one or two men standing by Posey's car. We then kept going to Meridian. I took Wayne home, left Jordan and Snowden at Akins Mobile Homes, took Arledge home and went home myself.

I have read the above Statement, consisting of this and 9 other pages and they are true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.

I have signed my initials to the bottom of the first 9 pages and initial mistakes. No force threats or promises were made to induce me to make this statement."

Signed: Horace Doyle Barnette.
Witnessed: Henry Rask, Special Agent, FBI Nov. 20, 1964
James A. Wooten, Special Agent, FBI, New Orleans, La. 11-20-64

James E. Jordan’s 9 November 1964 confession to the FBI (with whatever typos that appeared in the original document):

From FBI documents

"I, James E. Jordan, make the following free and voluntary statement to John H. Proctor, Jr., and Roy Martin Mitchell who have identified themselves to me as Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Proctor advised that I did not have to make any statement, that any statement I made could be used against me in a court of law and further, that I have a right to counsel before making a statement. I have consulted counsel concerning this matter and still choose to make the following voluntary statement which is not made under any threat, duress or promise.

"I was born on October 5, 1926, and reside at 2414 19th Avenue, Gulfport, Mississippi, with my wife, Wanda, and one child. I have a high school education and can read and write.

"At about 6:30 p.m. on June 21, 1964, I was at the Longhorn Drive-In, Tom Bailey Drive, Meridian, Mississippi, in the company of Pete Harris, Frank Herndon and several others. 'Preacher' Edgar Ray Killen from Philadelphia came to the Longhorn along with Jerry Sharp and a second individual believed to be Jimmy Lee Townsend. They were traveling in a 1959 Chevrolet, gray and white in color. Killen called Frank Herndon out to the porch of the Longhorn and talked to him for several minutes. Frank then called me over and asked me if I could make a trip. I said 'yes.' Killen then said that they had three civil rights workers in jail in Philadelphia and that they needed their 'asses tore up.' Killen said that it had to be done in a hurry since they were being held on a minor charge. He further said that they would need four or five men from Lauderdale County to go and that there would be several from Neshoba County.

"Herndon went to the telephone and started making several calls. Arrangements were made to meet behind B.L. Akin's trailer at Akin's Mobile Homes, Tom Bailey Drive, Meridian, Mississippi. Sharp and I went to the home of Wayne Roberts in Mountain View Village, Meridian, to see if Roberts could go. I went to the front door of Roberts' residence and asked him if he could go on a trip. Roberts answered 'yes' and came out and got into the car. We then proceeded to Akin's Mobile Homes where we met Travis Barnette, Doyle Barnette, Jim Snowden, Jim Aldridge, B.L. Akin, 'Preacher' Killen and Pete Harris. B.L. Akin filled Doyle Barnette's car with gas. This car was a 1959 Ford bearing 1964 Louisiana license plate and was blue and white in color and believed to be a four-door model. Akin said 'I can't go, wish I could.' Pete Harris advised he was unable to go since officers of the Klan are not allowed to go on jobs of any kind. Pete Harris is an investigator for the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi.

"'Preacher' Killen asked if anyone knew where rubber surgical gloves could be obtained, and none were available. Someone suggested that gloves could be obtained from Dick Warner's grocery store located on Grand Avenue, Meridian, since Warner was a member of the Klan. (Alton Wayne) Roberts, (Jerry) Sharpe and I went in Sharpe's car to Dick Warner's store to see if he had any gloves. Roberts got out of the car and obtained six pairs of brown cloth gloves from Warner. He returned to the car, and this group drove back to Akin's Mobile Homes.

"Upon arriving at Akin's Mobile Homes, all of the above --mentioned persons were still there. Doyle Barnette, Travis Barnette, Jim Snowden, Jim Aldridge and I got into Doyle Barnette's automobile. Prior to them getting into the car, 'Preacher' Killen said that Wayne Roberts, Sharpe, Townsend and himself would go in Sharpe's 1059 Chevrolet on to Philadelphia to see if everything was okay. Killen stated that Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, Neshoba County Sheriff's Office, had arrested the three civil rights workers on a traffic charge and that they could not be held too long. Killen also stated that when the civil rights workers were released, officers of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol would stop them when they left Philadelphia. After they were stopped, then the group mentioned above would take over. 'Preacher' Killen asked if everyone had their guns, and everyone present said that they did. Killen advised the second car that they should meet him on the west side of the courthouse in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

"The above group with Doyle Barnette driving proceeded to Philadelphia and parked on the west side of the Neshoba County Courthouse alongside a pickup truck, black in color, which contained I.GO. 'Hop' Barnett and another man. Barnett greeted this group and about this time another car came around the square and 'Preacher' Killen got out and said that he had been by the jail and that the civil rights workers were still in jail. 'Preacher' Killen got into the car and said that he would show the group where they could go so they could park and watch for the workers when they were released from jail. E.G. 'Hop' Barnett and the other man in the pickup truck left and drove away. 'Preacher' Killen took the group and showed them the jail where an old woman was sitting in front and also showed them where they could park and see the civil rights workers if they left town by proceeding north. This car was parked about two blocks northwest of the courthouse (on) a small, dark street. 'Preacher' Killen said that when he got word which way the civil rights workers were going out of town, the group was to go out on the road, and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol would stop them. The group dropped Killen off at the funeral home located about two blocks from the Neshoba County Courthouse and went and parked at the above-mentioned location. They did not wait long until a policeman, white male, elderly and heavy set, drove up and said that the civil rights workers were leaving on Highway 19. The group left their parking place and headed south on Highway 19 out of Philadelphia. When they were on the outskirts of town, Sharpe Billy Posey, Wayne Roberts and the young man believed to be Townsend drove up alongside the group in a 1955 or 1956 red and white Chevrolet and said to follow them. This happened just before the group reached the Neshoba County Hospital on Highway 19 south of Philadelphia. The group followed them and there could be seen a patrol car ahead of the above-mentioned 1955 or 1956 Chevrolet. There were two officers in uniform in this car. The patrol car proceeded out of Philadelphia a short distance and pulled off to the left in front of a Standard Service Station where it stopped.

"Billy Posey, who was driving the 1955 or 1956 red and white Chevrolet, pulled up alongside of this car and the group in the 1959 Ford pulled in back of Posey's car. Posey talked to the officers in the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol car and at this point, Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price drove up in his 1956 blue Chevrolet alone and parked next to Posey's car. The Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol car turned around and headed back toward Philadelphia. Posey got out of his car and talked with Price and shortly thereafter Price took off down Highway 19 in a southerly direction. Posey walked over to the other car and said that Price would catch them and that the group was to follow him.

"Posey drove south on Highway 19 and the group followed. Near House, Mississippi and within sight of Posey's Store located on the right side of Highway 19, Billy Posey's car pulled over to the right side of the road and Posey said he was having carburetor trouble and to proceed after Price's car. Price turned west on the road to Union, Mississippi and the group followed. They traveled some distance to a point in the road where the road went down a hill and had pasture land on each side and just prior to crossing a small bridge. Price had the red light on and the station wagon had stopped just before crossing the bridge. Price got out of his car and walked up to the station wagon on the driver's side and talked to the occupants of the station wagon. The group pulled up behind Price's car and parked. All three civil rights workers got out of the station wagon and got in the rear of Price's car. Price said for one of the group to drive the station wagon and to follow him. Price further stated he was taking these boys in.

"Jim Aldridge got into the station wagon and Jim Snowden got into the front seat of Price's car with Price and all vehicles turned around and drove to Highway 19 and proceeded to where Posey's red and white Chevrolet was parked. The occupants of this car were working on this automobile.

"Price proceeded very slowly north on Highway 19. Wayne Roberts, Jerry Sharpe and Billy Posey got into the 1959 Ford and the man believed to be Jimmy Lee Townsend was left to work on the Chevrolet. Townsend indicated that he would get the car running and catch up with the others later.

"Price proceeded north on Highway 19 to a gravel road where he turned west. At this point there is a wooden frame house on the left side of this gravel road and there is a red brick house on the east side of Highway 19 where Price turned off.

"Price's car, the civil rights workers' station wagon and the 1959 Ford all turned off onto this road.

"A short distance down this gravel road Posey suggested that someone get out and stop the person believed to be Townsend who was working on his 1955 or 1956 Chevrolet and show him where the others went. I got out of the 1959 Ford and walked back to Highway 19 and waited for Posey's car.

"During the 15 or 20 minute period I waited at this intersection, I heard the cars stop, the motors stop running and car doors shut. I could not hear any conversation but could make out muffled voices. I then proceeded toward the cars. Approximately 200 to 300 yards from the vehicles, a volley of shots, approximately six or seven in
number, were heard followed by two separate shots. At this time I called out, 'Is everything all right?'

"As I appeared around the right bend of the road, the Ford headlights were on. Someone said, 'Yes, help us get these empty shells.' Someone, sounding like the same individual, said, 'I've already got mine.'

"All vehicles were parked on the right side of the road except the civil rights workers' station wagon which was on the left side of the road and two car lengths in front of Price's car which wads followed by Doyle Barnette's car. Price was standing just to the front of his car holding a rifle, make unknown; Doyle had a .30 rifle, Travis did not have a gun. Roberts had a snub nose gun which appeared to be a .38 caliber of English origin similar to the Police Special but more nearly like the English Commando weapon, and I had a .22 caliber German revolver. Posey had a pistol, make and model unknown, and Aldridge had a long-barreled pistol similar to the type referred to as 'Old Horse Pistol.' This weapon had a ring in the butt and the barrel is either hexagon or octagon shaped giving it an appearance similar to the old Army-type weapon. Snowden had a sawed-off shotgun, gauge unknown. From the volley of shots, it did not sound like the shotgun was fired. These men were milling around and not remaining in one position.

"The Negro was lying in the ditch on the left side of the road face down, headed west and body more or less parallel to the road and about a car length behind the station wagon and a car length in front of Price's car. Goodman was believed to be lying face down in a crumpled position, headed in an approximately southerly direction and more or less perpendicular to the road. Schwerner was lying face down in a position similar to Chaney. The two white boys were in the ditch on the left side of the road in a position between Price and Barnette's car. The description of where this incident took place as near as recalled is as follows:

"The gravel road leads from Highway 19 in a westerly direction bending slightly to the left and then curving to the right in a gradual upgrade. Just prior to the crest of this hill, there is a bank along the south side of the road approximately 5 feet in height which consists of rock and clay and has a deep ditch running along the edge of the road. On the north side of the road is a shallow ditch, no bank, and the trees grow near the edge of the road.

"About this time Posey said, 'Let's load these guys in their wagon and take them to the spot.'

"At this time Doyle Barnette and Snowden put their guns under the front seat of Doyle's car. It is assumed that Price put his rifle in his car but this was not observed. The rest of the men put their guns in their respective pockets. It is not known what became of the empty cartridges.

"The two white boys were loaded first and the Negro last through the tailgate of the station wagon which had been previously opened. It is unrecalled who loaded the white boys but Price not help load any of the three. Price got into his car and turned around driving back toward Mississippi State Highway 19. Snowden asked me to help load the Negro who was placed on top of the white boys.

"Posey and Sharpe got into the station wagon and Posey said, 'Everyone follow me, we'll go the back way.' The rest of us got into Barnette's car with Doyle at the wheel and followed Posey. We traveled on gravel roads to the outskirts of Philadelphia, Mississippi where we turned right onto the pave road following it for a short distance then turned left onto another dirt road. We traveled on gravel roads all the way until after we passed a house and a barn on our right. Posey turned left onto a dirt road and stopped immediately at a gap in the fence which was constructed of light posts and barbed wire.

"Someone in the car asked, 'Who lives here?' Posey said, 'Some old man who is not a member and we cannot let him see us.' Sharpe got out of the station wagon and opened the gap from the left side of the vehicle. We then drove down a dirt road to the dam. We passed over a rough ditch similar to a drainage ditch and Posey parked the station wagon perpendicular to a mound of dirt approximately three feet high. Doyle parked his car a short distance from the dam then everyone got out. Posey said, 'I wonder where our operator is?' Posey then said, 'Someone go and get the operator.'

"Sharpe, Wayne and Doyle left in Doyle's car to get the operator. They drove back on the dirt road which we had just come down. Someone at the dam suggested that one of those remaining go up this dirt road a short distance and watch for any stranger which might come by. Snowden and I proceeded up this dirt road and took a position near a gap in a row of trees where they had previously driven through.

"Everyone waited approximately 20 to 30 minutes then a whistle was heard which came from our right when facing the dam and to the north of the dam site. Snowden went down to see what it was and I asked, 'What is it?' Snowden said 'nothing. The operator is thee and they are taking care of things.'

"About this time we heard a noise similar to a tractor and assumed it was one of the two bulldozers which we had previously seen near the dam. The tractor ran approximately 15 minutes then stopped.

"Posey then came up to Snowden and I and said, 'We will wait on Doyle to come around this way for us.' I asked if it was over already and Posey said, 'Yes, he can finish it in the morning since he will be returning to work in a few hours and will be able to complete the job before anyone else comes to work. Posey said 'They will be under 20 feet of dirt before it is all over.' Snowden asked if the station wagon was buried and Posey replied, 'No. Herman will take it to Alabama where it will be burned.'

"Doyle came back down the road to the dam and picked up Snowden, Posey and I. All of the men got in Doyle's car and drove to the garage of Olen Burrage where Wayne and Sharpe were standing talking. At this point another man drove off in the direction of Philadelphia in a vehicle which appeared to be a 1956 or 1957 Pontiac. While parked at this spot, we put Doyle's license plates back on the car which had been previously removed before driving to Philadelphia.

"Wayne and Posey got into Doyle's car with the other men and proceeded down the main street of Philadelphia where a police vehicle containing the same policeman who had previously contacted us and Price drove up behind Doyle's car blinking his lights. Posey said for us to pull over which Doyle did. This was on the street near the parking lot of A&P Grocery Store. Posey got out and talked to the officers and then got back in the car. We drove south on Highway 19 to where Posey’s car was still parked and the boy believed to be Townsend was still working on the car. Posey got out of the car and said he did not need any help, that we had done a good job. We drove back to Meridian where everyone returned home.

"I would like to state that it is my belief that none of the persons who live in the Meridian area went to Philadelphia on the night of June 21, 1964 with the intended purpose of killing the three civil right workers.

"I have read the foregoing statement consisting of this page and 15 others and declare that same is entirely true."

Signed: James E. Jordan
Witness: John H. Proctor Jr. Special Agent FBI, Jackson, Miss. 11/5/64
Roy Martin Mitchell Special Agent FBI, New Orleans, La. 11/5/64

On Nov. 6, 1964, Jordan was reinterviewed regarding additional details and asked questions regarding specific events as related in the above signed statement. At the outset of this interview, Jordan was again advised of his rights as set out in the above signed statement.

Bill Eppridge photograph of Ben Cheney can be viewed at


Next: My reactions to the caucuses in Nevada and an explanation of how the caucus system works – and why Minnesota chooses to use them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Democrats Must Win Back the White House

I don't mean to sound panicky, but I am!
by Charlie Leck

There are plenty of reasons why the Democrats must take back the White House. I'll list them for you.

The economy!
This is one of the high priority reasons. We are in a terrible fix right now. I can't believe that there are so many people who are shocked about our current recession. One could see it coming for months. Take a look at our national debt. It is at a level that would have seemed unimaginable 7 years ago. The Clinton administration left the nation with the highest, richest surplus in its history. Unemployment is now starting to inch up. So is inflation. The housing market is awful and the mortgage crisis will test our nation to the hilt.

The war can not be blamed for all of this. It's clear that the debt would be astronomical even without the expense of the war. Tax treats for the rich must get some share of the blame, too. Remember what Warren Buffett, one of America's wealthiest persons, said: "My cleaning lady pays a higher rate of tax on her earnings than I do on my dividends and investments." The same was true for a majority of his office staff. "It has been a marvelous, marvelous time for the super-rich. The catch? Nothing trickles down."

Buffet also pointed out, in regard to the Republican fantasy of removing the estate tax: "Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog. If there were no estate tax, the dog would have gotten 22 million."

The Supreme Court!
Our constitutional system can't handle more ultra conservative appointments to the supreme bench. Where are Republicans candidates on the court?

McCain: "I'm proud that we have Justice Alito and Roberts on the U.S. Supreme Court." Antonin Scalia is the justice he admires most particularly.

Huckabee: "My own personal favorite here on the court is Scalia."

Giuliani: "I will nominate strict constructionist judges with respect for the rule of law and a proven fidelity to the Constitution – judges in the mold Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito, and Chief Justice Roberts."

Romney: "I think the justices that President Bush has appointed are exactly spot-on."

Health Care!
Folks the only ones being well taken care of by the current health care system in America are the major health care corporate executives. Here in Minnesota, the CEO of United Health Care got bonuses of over 90 million dollars in two consecutive years. No, that was not a misprint. Bonuses! 90 million dollars! Two consecutive years!

The entire health care delivery system in America must be examined. The industry itself keeps promulgating a myth that we have the best delivery system on earth. The World Health Organization rates us behind 16 other nations. And, for what we pay, that's a crime!

The war and international relations!
I've said enough on this subject over the last several months. You all know where I stand on this. We were dragged into a war with lies. Not fibs! Out-and-out lies! This administration has virtually destroyed the ties we so carefully created over decades and centuries with other nations of the world.

The air we breathe and the water we drink!
We've got to get our environment cleaned up, my friends. All knowing, thinking people are aware of this. Yet, George Bush is not! It's been like whacking him with a sledge-hammer to get him to move an inch on this issue. At the same time, the presidential candidate who originally lost to him has won a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of mother earth.

Enough? Vote for the nominee of the Democratic Party! Whoever it is!

Let's close with a little fun – if you've managed to read this far you deserve a laugh! I swiped this from the one email-blogger I read regularly and admire a great deal:

A woman's group concluded that computers should be considered masculine because:

  1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on;
  2. They have a lot of data but still can't think for themselves;
  3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they are the problem;
  4. And, as soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waited a little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

And, truth-to-tell, I also took the following off his blog.

My Living Will
Last night, my wife and I were sitting in the living room
and I said to her: "I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on
some machine and fluids from a bottle. If that every happens, just pull the

She got up, unplugged the TV and threw out my drink.

such a bitch!

Next: Something is pulling me back to Mississippi. You should join me!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Obama: An Enigma Wrapped in Mystery!

A Democrat's Dilemma: Which Way to Go?
by Charlie Leck

Before I get started, you should know that I am a blog reader
as well as a blog writer. When I find what I think is a wonderful
blog, I like to share it with others. So, it was with great pleasure
that I found just such a wonderful blog this week and I recommend
it to you. Go take a look at Freakonomics, a blog written by
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt. The two also published a book
by the same title in 2005. While we're at it, there is another new
blog from the New York Times that appears to be a good one and
one I'll visit regularly. It's called: Laughlines Blogs. My first visits to
it brought me plenty of laughs. I was able to jump right into the
day's Doonesbury carton and to the wonderful editorial cartoons by
Rudy Park, Ton Auth, Jeff Danziger, Glenn McCoy, Pat Oliphant,
Ben Sargent and Tom Toles.

Now, on to my own blog…

It was a long time ago that I wrote here that the Democratic Party had three good and strong candidates for the Presidency. My great fear, I said, was that they might start carving each other up when the going got tough. For Hillary Clinton, it got tough last week when it seemed oh so clear that she was going to lose in the New Hampshire (NH) primary election. Hilary panicked a bit. Bill Clinton panicked a lot and he went hard after Barack Obama. The former president did not sound very presidential when he described Obama candidacy as the "biggest fairy tale I've ever seen." Then, of course, Obama got a little too sure of himself when all the polls indicated he would be a run-away winner in NH. It's the first time he's slipped from his composed, earnest approach. He got too certain of himself and too full of himself. With a voice filled with sarcasm he referred to Senator Clinton as "likable enough." Senator Clinton's shocking victory brought Senator Obama back down to earth.

This is exactly what we don't need. It is vital that the Democratic candidates avoid back-stabbing and name –calling.

We also didn't need John Kerry making endorsements. There will be time enough for that later. Right now, let's keep everything tidy, professional and polite.

Personally, I think the campaign has now shrunk down to just Clinton and Obama. I've been exceptionally high on John Edwards and hoped he'd make a good show of it. He hasn't been able to crack the nut, however, and voters don't seem to be convinced he's presidential timbre. Like I, one of our daughters had decided she'd back Edwards, and the two of us will probably need to go back to the drawing board on this one.

Mark Leibovich, writing in the NY Times definitely agrees that the race is down to the two.

"Barring some seismic scandal, unforeseen late entry ('Al Who?'), or unlikely surge by John Edwards, it is wholly inevitable that the race for the Democratic nomination will end next August in an epochal first…. Either Senator Barack Obama will be the first African-American or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will be the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major American political party. One of them will take the stage at Denver's Pepsi Center, specked with confetti and soaked in history as a culminating figure of one of the great ideological movements of the last century – civil rights or women's rights."

So, now that the choice seems to be down to two, I'm still not ready to commit myself. Trying to choose between the Senator from New York and the Senator from Illinois is not easy. I need to figure out how to make a move. To help me, I need the candidates to begin giving me more information. Even more, I need to unwrap Barack Obama and take a look at who he actually is. So far, he's keeping it very secret.

Obama is an enigma. He is playing his cards very close to his vest, not revealing his hand. Who is Barack Obama? I'm glad to read that he's a participating member of a local congregation of the United Church of Christ. It's my denomination of choice, a church struggling to understand faith from a rational, intelligent perspective, and it is very committed to ministering to people and to a world in need.

Clearly, Obama is very intelligent. He's broadly educated, extremely well read and a student of history and law. He is also an outstanding communicator. His book, The Audacity of Hope, which I reviewed here many months ago, gives us a good look at his positions on many of the crucial issues facing our nation. [My review: Obama Book is Fine, Man]

Yet, in his campaigning, he is bland and touches only lightly on the most significant issues, working carefully to avoid controversy. He has an enthusiastic following and he knows how to reach "right into his youngish fans' hearts, [magnifying] their desires to feel something big and [rocking] their worlds." [Judith Warner in the NY Times].

Shelby Steele wrote a book about the Senator, A Bound Man (Why we are excited about Obama and why he can't win.) Though Steele is a conservative, he is worth listening to – especially on Obama. Like Obama, he is the product of a white mother and a black father. He seems genuinely proud of what Obama has achieved. He argues that people don't yet know him.

"We don't yet quite know what his deep abiding convictions are. And he seems to have, you know, almost in a sense kept them concealed. And a part of the, I think, infatuation with Obama is because he's something of an invisible man. He's a kind of projection screen and you sort of see… your better side of yourself when you look at Obama than you see actually Barack Obama." [Shelby Steele in an interview with Bill Moyers]

Steele is considered a heavy weight thinker, and I'm not going to dismiss him easily. So, I want to think about it when he says that a good part of the white population of our nation thinks that Obama's election to the Presidency "would be redemptive for America – would indicate that we truly have moved away from that shameful racist past that we had."

Obama moves now to some states with significant black populations. It will be interesting to see how he does there. Steele has his doubts and his questions.

"I think that the black community in general has been very conflicted about Barack Obama precisely because he's been so successful among whites. And that makes black people nervous… the black identity, certainly black American politics are grounded in what I call challenging. It's basically, they look at white America and say we're going to presume that you're a racist until you prove otherwise. The whole concept is you keep whites on the hook. You keep the leverage. You keep the pressure. Here's a guy who's… giving whites the benefit of the doubt." [Shelby Steele in an interview with Bill Moyers]

Steel calls Obama "a bargainer." That's someone who gives Whites the benefit of the doubt – a black person who let's whites know that they won't be considered racists until they prove themselves to be. He also calls Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby "bargainers." Steele says that "one of the iron clad rules for bargainers is they can never tell you what they actually think and feel. They can never reveal their deep abiding convictions."

"He's all over television. But if you listen to his speeches – 'change,' 'hope' – I mean, it's a kind of – it's an empty mantra. I mean a surprising degree of emptiness, a lack of specificity. What change? Change from what to what? What direction do you want to take the country? What do you mean by hope? There's never any specificity because specificity is dangerous to a bargainer." [Shelby Steele in an interview with Bill Moyers]

Following the same theme, in Timothy's Eagan Blog in the NY Times, he writes that Obama now goes on to Nevada and has an opportunity to make himself better known.

"For Obama, this state offers a chance to show that he's not just the candidate of Dartmouth students and people worried about what the dollar will do to Bordeaux futures."

In Nevada, Obama will be appealing to the people of a state where the population is 24 percent Hispanic and 8 percent African-American. It strikes me as odd and startles me to think that the presidency may be decided in Las Vegas. Bob Herbert spoke of the irony in his latest opinion column.

"It just so happens that the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning this week in the misogyny capital of America: Nevada. It's a perfect place to bring up the way women are viewed and treated in this society, but don't hold your breath. Presidential wannabes are hardly in the habit of insulting the locals."

I look forward to Obama's appeal to the voters in Nevada (January 19) and South Carolina (January 26). I think these two states – not either one of them, but the two of them together – will reveal to us whether Barak Obama is really qualified to be President of the United States. In this morning's issue of the NY Times it was reported that the consensus feeling is that the vote of black women in SC is about equally split. If it stays that way, it will probably signal a slim victory for Obama in the state. Edwards, in his own state, appears to be lagging far behind.

It's quite possible that Obama may win this national nomination to run for President without ever revealing any more about himself. That could be dangerous for the Democrats because, in a long, hard Presidential campaign, Obama will become known to all of us and it would be tragic for the party if he turns out not to be all that attractive as he is on the surface. Let's hope, in the next few weeks, we get a real, in-depth look at Barack Obama. If Obama doesn't open up in the next two weeks, and allow America to learn more about him, I'll make my decision to back Senator Clinton. That'll rock the country, won't it?

[BLOG UPDATE: 12:45 pm, 15 January 2008]
I just finished reading Charles Krauthammer's column, Are we through swooning? Good. Let's scrutinize Obama. He's a good columnist distributed by the Washington Post Writers Group. In that column, he pretty much says what I've try to say above. He closes the column with these words:

"The New Hampshire surprise has at least temporarily broken the spell. Maybe now someone will lift the curtain and subject our newest man from hope to the scrutiny that every candidate deserves."

There are two major issues facing the next President of the United States
For instance, let's hear from Obama and Clinton, in a very concrete way, about the following two issues. As the NY Times editorialized recently, there is an "unfinished debate on Iraq." The next President is going to have this mess to clean up. The recent reports that the President's surge policy is showing strong signs of success are changing the nature of the debate somewhat; however, we need to know how the next occupant of the White House will manage this war.
The NY Times outlines the significant questions that must be asked and answered about the War in Iraq and its solution:

  1. What is to become of the thousands of Iraqis who have helped the U.S. and will likely face retribution?

  2. What about future of long-term relations with Iraq?

  3. What role will Congress play in solving the problems created by the Iraq War?

  4. Will we retain military bases in Iraq and/or in the region?

  5. How will we get other nations to assist us in stabilizing Iraq?

  6. How will repair the massive damage done by this war to our international relations?

  7. Should the U.N. be involved?

The second major issue is the economy, stupid. To the administration's delight, it has replaced the war as the front-burner issue. Our economy is a mess. Our national debt is at a record high and far bigger than any of us could have imagined when Bill Clinton left office and left the nation with a huge surplus of funds. They'll try to spin it a hundred ways, but our weak and wounded economy gets put squarely on the shoulders of this Republican administration. I don't think tax cuts for the rich has worked one little bit.

[Added on 19 January 2008] I just found a blogging heads video on the NY Times in which two distinguished black academics talking about How Black Barack Obama may or may not be. It is very worth watching and raises my opinion of some of Obama's talents.]