The Home Page
NEW!
Introduction
Site Search
For Students
Veterans Roll Call
Speakers List
In Memory
Photo Album
History & Timeline
Documents
Letters From the Field
Our Words
Our Stories
Our Thoughts
Your Thoughts
Discussions
Poetry
Freedom Rides
Nonviolence
Web Links
Bibliography
Frequent Questions
Blog
Announcements
Release Form
Archive
About Us
Copyright
Privacy

Neshoba Murders Case — A Chronology
by Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center

1963

December 30. The executive committee of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) meeting in Atlanta approves the following resolution: "During the Presidential election year of 1964, SNCC intends to obtain the right for all citizens of Mississippi to vote, using as many people as necessary to obtain that end."

1964

January 21. Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) civil rights workers Michael and Rita Schwerner arrive in Meridian, Mississippi and begin working with Meridian native and civil rights activist James Chaney and others.

Late January. Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), an umbrella organization of civil rights groups in Mississippi, announces Mississippi Summer Project.

February 15. Founding meeting of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi in Brookhaven, MS.

Late Winter - Spring (February - June). Between February and June, civil rights workers James Chaney and Michael Schwerner make over thirty trips to Neshoba County to meet with Cornelius Steele of the Longdale community and other local civil rights pioneers.

April. State-level Klan leadership makes decision to murder Michael Schwerner.

Memorial Day, May 31. James Chaney and Michael Schwerner speak at Mt. Zion Church in the Longdale community. The congregation agrees to host a freedom school.

June 14. Andrew Goodman and other Mississippi Summer Project volunteers attend training session in Oxford, Ohio. James Chaney and Michael Schwerner are also in attendance.

Evening of June 16. Armed KKK members of the Lauderdale and Neshoba counties Klaverns assault leaders of Mt. Zion Church where a church business meeting is being held. The Klansmen think the meeting is a civil rights one and that Michael Schwerner might be there. Later that night Klan members return to Mt. Zion Church and burn it to the ground.

June 20. James Chaney and Michael Schwerner accompanied by Andrew Goodman return to Meridian from the training session in Ohio.

Father's Day, June 21. Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner drive to Longdale and the site of the burned church in Neshoba County. As they are beginning their return drive to Meridian, they are arrested by Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff and Klansman Cecil Ray Price. The three are taken to the Neshoba county jail in Philadelphia at about 4:00 P.M. They are denied their right to make phone calls, so no one knows where they are being held. When Movement activists trying to locate them call the jail they are falsely informed that the three men are not there. The three are released by Price at 10:30 that night. (See Lynching of Chaney, Schwerner, & Goodman for additional information.)

While the civil rights workers are in jail, Klansmen from Lauderdale and Neshoba counties assemble in Philadelphia and wait for the three civil rights workers to be released from jail. After the release, Price, followed by the other Klansmen, stops the young men again after a high speed chase. The Klan lynch mob abducts the three civil rights workers to an isolated area where they are shot. Their bodies are buried in an earthen dam on the property of wealthy landowner and businessman Olen Burrage.

June 22. COFO informs the press of their disappearance and across the country Movement supporters demand that the Federal government investigate. A spokesman for the Goodman family tells the press: "The murder of the boys was the first interracial lynching in the history of the United States."

June 22 — August 3. The FBI tries to solve the case while Navy sailors search the swamps and rivers for the missing bodies. The number of FBI agents assigned to Mississippi is increased ten-fold, from 15 to 150, and for the first time an FBI office is established in the state. Three bodies of young Black men associated with the Freedom Movement are pulled from Mississippi rivers, as are the bodies of five other Black men who are never identified, yet the FBI and the Federal government as a whole continue their refusal to protect Blacks trying to exercise their right to vote. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover assures Mississippi's white power structure that the FBI will give "No protection" to civil rights agitators.

August 4. After learning the location of the bodies from an informant, the FBI unearths the bodies at the dam site.

December 4. The FBI arrests 21 suspects on federal conspiracy charges in connection with the murders of the three civil rights workers. The 19 men charged with conspiring to deprive the three young men of their constitutional rights are:

Bernard Akin — now deceased
Jimmy Arledge — now deceased
Horace Doyle Barnette — now deceased
Travis Maryn Barnette — now deceased
Otha Neal Burkes — now deceased
Olen Burrage — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
James Thomas "Pete" Harris — presently living, Meridian, MS
Frank Herndon — now deceased
James Edward Jordan — now deceased
Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen — presently living, imprisoned Mississippi Department of Corrections
Billy Wayne Posey — presently living, Meridian, MS
Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price — now deceased
Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey — now deceased
Alton Wayne Roberts — now deceased
Jerry McGrew Sharpe — now deceased
Jimmy Snowden — presently living, Hickory, MS
Jimmy Lee Townsend — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
Herman Tucker — now deceased
Oliver Warner — now deceased

Two men are arrested on charges of withholding knowledge of a felony:

Earl Akin — now deceased
Tommy Horne — recently retired long-term state legislator, presently living, Meridian, MS

December 10. At a preliminary hearing, U. S. Commissioner for the Southern District of Mississippi Esther Carter dismisses the charges.

1965

January 15. FBI arrests 18 men in connection with the Neshoba murders. Original defendants Earl Akin, Burkes, Horne and Warner are not indicted. Philadelphia Patrolman Richard Willis — presently living, Noxapater, MS — is added as a suspect.

1967

February 28 A federal grand jury indicts a new group of 19 defendants:

Bernard Akin — now deceased
Jimmy Arledge — now deceased
Former and future Neshoba County sheriff E. G. "Hop" Barnett — now deceased
Horace Doyle Barnette — now deceased
Travis Maryn Barnette — now deceased
Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers — now deceased
Olen Burrage — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
James Thomas "Pete" Harris — presently living, Meridian,MS
Frank Herndon — now deceased
James Edward Jordan — now deceased
Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen — presently living, imprisoned Mississippi Department of Corrections
Billy Wayne Posey — presently living, Meridian, MS
Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price — now deceased
Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey — now deceased
Alton Wayne Roberts — now deceased
Jerry McGrew Sharpe — now deceased
Jimmy Snowden — presently living, Hickory, MS
Herman Tucker -now deceased
Philadelphia Patrolman Richard Willis — presently living, Noxapater, MS

October 7. The federal trial of eighteen defendants on charges of conspiracy to deny civil rights in the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner begins in Meridian, Mississippi.

October 20. The jury convicts of conspiracy:

Jimmy Arledge — now deceased
Horace Doyle Barnette — now deceased
Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers — now deceased
Billy Wayne Posey — presently living, Meridian, MS
Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price — now deceased
Alton Wayne Roberts — now deceased
Jimmy Snowden — presently living, Hickory, MS

The jury acquits:

Bernard Akin — now deceased
Travis Maryn Barnette — now deceased
Olen Burrage — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
James Thomas "Pete" Harris — presently living, Meridian, MS
Frank Herndon — now deceased
Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey — now deceased
Herman Tucker — now deceased
Philadelphia Patrolman Richard Willis — presently living, Noxapater, MS

Three men receive mistrials:

Former and future Neshoba County sheriff E. G. "Hop" Barnette — now deceased
Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen — presently living, imprisoned Mississippi Department of Corrections
Jerry McGrew Sharpe — now deceased

Bowers and Roberts receive 10-year sentences; Price and Posey, six years; Arledge, Snowden and Horace Doyle Barnette, three years.

1970

March 19. All the defendants have appealed their convictions, but the appeals have failed. On March 19, 1970, five and a half years after the murders of the civil rights workers, the seven convicted men enter federal custody. None would serve more than six years.

1989

Early 1989. Then Mississippi Special Assistant Attorney Generals John R. Henry and Jack B. Lacy Jr. conclude in a report to then Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore that enough evidence exists to prosecute the Klansmen responsible for the Neshoba murders on state murder charges (as opposed to the Federal conspiracy charges).

2001

May 6. Former Neshoba County Deputy Sheriff Cecil Price, who had begun to cooperate with state authorities investigating the civil rights workers murders, dies of head injuries allegedly suffered in a fall. There are no reported witnesses to the alleged fall.

2005

January 6. A Mississippi state grand jury convened in Philadelphia hears evidence in regards to the Neshoba murders case. Available to the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and 8th District Attorney Mark Duncan is ample and overwhelming evidence of multiple living suspects complicity in the murders. Hood and Duncan present evidence for less than one full day. They later report that they presented evidence on all living suspects. There are ten living suspects at the time. The grand jury returns the first — and thus far only — state indictment in the Neshoba murders case. Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen is indicted on state murder charges.

June 13. The trial of Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen on three state charges of murder begins in Philadelphia, Mississippi at the Neshoba County courthouse.

June 21. Killen is convicted on three counts of the reduced state charge of manslaughter.

2008

August 4. Forty-fourth anniversary of the recovery of the bodies of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner passes and no one other than Edgar Ray Killen has faced state charges for the planned, coordinated, executed, and cover-up of the lynching.

Epilogue

The State of Mississippi and Neshoba County has yet to indict any additional suspects beyond Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen, in spite of their being, in the words of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals "ample, in fact, overwhelming" evidence against two of the still living suspects. Given the evidence that is available against these two suspects, it appears likely they could be persuaded to be cooperative witnesses against others rather than be defendants. If they refuse to cooperate, they could be defendants themselves.

The Fifth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals ruled in 1969 that:

There is ample--in fact, overwhelming--untainted evidence that the defendants conspired together to have Price, a deputy sheriff, arrest Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman, United States citizens; that Price would hold them in custody until such time that when released, Price, Arledge, Barnette, Roberts, Snowden, Jordan and Posey could and would intercept them, assault and kill them; and that each was present at and participated in the murder of the three men and the disposal of their bodies by burial fifteen feet beneath the top of an earthen dam deep in the woods.

....Specifically, we find ample proof of conspiracy and each appellant's complicity in a calculated, cold-blooded and merciless plot to murder the three men.

Eight people who faced federal conspiracy to deny civil rights or other charges in the 1960s related to the murders of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi are still living.

But only Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen has finally faced state charges.

Why only Killen?

What about the others?

Olen Burrage — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
James Thomas "Pete" Harris — presently living, Meridian, MS
Tommy Horne — recently retired long-term state legislator, presently living, Meridian, MS
Billy Wayne Posey — presently living, Meridian, MS
Jimmy Snowden — presently living, Hickory, MS
Jimmy Lee Townsend — presently living, Philadelphia, MS
Richard Willis — presently living, Noxapater, MS

Why only Killen prosecuted by Mississippi on state charges?

To provide information on the Neshoba murders case, or any of the fifty other known Mississippi civil rights murder cases, of which only four have had any prosecution by the State of Mississippi, or any civil rights murder case, please contact:

Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center at
Ark_Delta_Truth_and_Justice_Ctr@yahoo.com or
arrow@inet-direct.com
(870) 972-9248


Copyright © 2008
Last Modified: August 7, 2008.
Webspinner: webmaster@crmvet.org
(Labor donated)