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 ArtNet.
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
FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONDate: 11/24/64
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 athttp://www.artnet.com/artist/648121/bill-eppridge.html
Next: My reactions to the caucuses in Nevada and an explanation of how the caucus system works – and why Minnesota chooses to use them.