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February 25, 2005

Justice delayed...again

Three civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Abdrew Goodman, were reported missing on June 21st, 1964. They had been helping Black people in Mississippi to register to vote.

Two days later, after a tip, police found the station wagon the three had last been seen in. They had been arrested for speeding and were released after paying the fine. The car, found near Philadelphia, Miss. had been gutted by fire. Attorney General Robert Kennedy ordered an FBI investigation.

On June 25th, the parents of Schwerner and Goodman, both New York natives, along with the mother of Chaney joining by a phone-hookup,  held a press conference. They said their sons were devoted to their work, “which should be he task of every American.”

June 29th, Schwerner's wife, along with Congressman Ogden Reid also talked with reporters after meeting with President Johnson. By the end of the month there was still no word on the whereabouts of the three men.


On August 5th, that year, authorities finally located the bodies of the three men. They were discovered by an FBI agent, buried 25 feet down in an earthen dam. near Philadelphia, Miss. Both Schwerner and Goodman had been shot through the heart. Chaney had been beaten to death. The FBI refused to say how the bodies had been discovered, but a $25,000 reward had been offered.

In December 20 people had been charged with conspiracy in the deaths of the three civil rights workers, including Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and Deputy Cecil Price (pictured). On December 10th U.S. Commissioner Esther Carter dropped the charges against 19 of them. Another Commissioner in Biloxi released the 20th defendant.

The FBI claimed that 10 of the 19  had actually taken part in the slaying.

Mrs. Fannie Lee Chaney (on the left), mother of James Chaney, attended the hearings, only to watch as all of the accused were freed.



Reputed Ku Klux Klansman, Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old part-time preacher and former lumber mill operator, had been scheduled to go on trial March 28 of this year for the murders-- 41 years after the fact -- but after a request by Defense attorney Mitch Moran asking for time to look into information received via a tip line that was set up by a church organization, Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon granted a three-week delay.


Some residents of Killen's town, where the bodies were found, are not pleased with the attention.

Posted by Jack Lewis at February 25, 2005 09:12 AM

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