Murders Around Mississippi

Newest information on Mississippi murders involving African Americans and/or Mississippi politicians and leaders. SYNDICATE SUSAN'S ARTICLES on your site! Fast, Easy & Free! (El Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles en Estados Unidos)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Why this blog?

At left, relatives of early Tallahatchie County civil rights activist, Birdia Keglar, take part in a road-naming ceremony for the woman who was killed in January of 1966.

I've been asked why I started and maintain this blog. An answer is deserved, and here it is.

After living in the Mississippi Delta for several years, and using the time to write a book about the Delta's civil rights history, I wanted to keep up with related issues and so I started this Blog. Historically, Mississippi's civil rights history has been plagued with unsolved and questionably resolved murders.

Today, the FBI is finally investigating some of the civil rights cold cases from the 1960s and 1970s, including several in Mississippi. This really is not not good enough, because there are many more unanswered questions about people who were killed or who simply disappeared because of their race and/or their politics.

Who killed Adlena Hamlett and Birdia Keglar? The women were coming home from a Jackson, Miss. civil rights meeting on January 11, 1966 when their car reportedly swerved and went off the road and they were killed. But no police reports were filed. There are no official records of what happened that night. One short newspaper account accompanies a host of stories that are told by friends and others. None of the stories seem to match. Keglar was the first black person to register and vote in Tallahatchie County since the days of Reconstruction ended. Hamlett was a long-time teacher and civil rights volunteer.

Some Mississippians still question who assassinated civil rights leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963. Byron De La Beckwith, a fellow Mississippian, was arrested and eventually found guilty of this crime. But what about the men who used to talk brag about their own involvement in coffee shops in Greenwood, Miss., their laughter and whispered conversations overheard by waitresses? What is to be made of the stories still floating around the Delta by black people who knew and loved Medgar Evers? These questions are legitimate and deserve answers for the sake of history.

The murders of James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, three young civil rights volunteers killed in Philadelphia, Miss. in the summer of 1964, have never been adequately resolved. At least a dozen men living in and around Philadelphia are said to have been involved yet many are still living and only one person has ever been convicted and sent to prison, 79-year-old self-acclaimed white supremacist, Edgar Ray Killen. But why won't the state of Mississippi's attorney general bring anyone else to trial?

Who really killed Drew, Miss. attorney Cleve McDowell in March of 1997? The attorney who was mentored by Medgar Evers and James Meredith (first black student admitted to the University of Mississippi) was shot and killed in his home but the police reports have never been released. Do they exist? What about the court records involving the trial of the man convicted of McDowell's murder? Why won't the Sunflower County Courts release these records? What is there to hide? Were others involved? McDowell's autopsy records suggest others were part of the murdering team. Try finding a copy of this record (I have one!). The young man convicted of the murder later recanted. What ever happened to him?

What prompted McDowell to tell his best friends that he would be "next in line" after hearing of Alabama attorney- friend Henry S. Mims' strange death three years earlier? What happened to McDowell's personal computer soon after he was killed? His firearms? His civil rights records kept on various cases including the killing of young Emmett Till? How did the fire get started in his office six months later-- the fire that "destroyed" all of McDowell's investigative records? Why don't McDowell's colleagues want to talk about their old friend?

And what about Sam Block? This early civil rights leader from Cleveland, Miss. died suddenly in his California home in 2000. His body was immediately removed from his home, says his sister Margaret Block, and was embalmed before it could be examined by the county's medical examiner. Block's computer disappeared shortly after his death.

Even the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has strange Mississippi ties. Was the state's infamous long-time senator James O. Eastland involved? Seven years before JFK was assassinated, the magnolia state's Eastland met for the first time with Guy Banister, a controversial CIA operative and retired FBI agent in charge of the Chicago bureau.

Banister -- remember him as the man who "pistol-whipped" David Ferrie in Oliver Stone's film "JFK" -- was later linked to Lee Harvey Oswald and Eastland through the senator's Senate Internal Security Subcommittee or SISS (sometimes called "SISSY"). All SISS records, of course, are classified.

Questions surround the murder of a white, racist Mississippi detective who worked for Banister and was killed within the year after Kennedy's assassination. Private investigator John D. Sullivan of Vicksburg bled to death after he was "accidentally" shot in the groin. He was with a "friend" after they came home from hunting.

A former FBI agent, Sullivan had worked for Banister both inside the FBI and privately; he was a private self-employed investigator who often did work for hire for the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission (Mississippi's mini CIA); the private white Citizens Councils (the state's uptown Klan made up of bankers, physicians, ministers, etc.) of which he was an active member; and he often worked for Eastland's SISS, as had Banister and Lee Harvey Oswald.

So much to figure out and so little time! I am trying to capture as much history as possible about Mississippi civil rights murders before available information disappears. Also, the blog's purpose is to keep up with any current activity on the part of law enforcement to resolve these cases.

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