Civil Rights Division Emmett Till Act (Cold Case Closing Memoranda)

Civil Rights Division Emmett Till Act (Cold Case Closing Memoranda)


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Title Incident Date Overview
Emmett Till August 26, 1955

On August 26, 1955, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American teenager from Chicago, Illinois was abducted while visiting relatives near Money, Mississippi, and was murdered.  His body was discovered three days later in the Tallahatchie River.  In September 1955, two local Mississippi men, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, were prosecuted by state authorities for Till’s murder in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.  They were acquitted in a jury trial. Both men subsequently admitted to a journalist in an interview that was published in Look Magazine that they murdered Till.  Milam and Bryant died in 1981 and 1994, respectively.

Clinton Melton December 3, 1955

On December 3, 1955, Clinton Melton, the African-American victim, was shot and killed by Elmer Otis Kimbell, the subject, at a Glendora, Mississippi, gas station where the victim was employed.  The subject was charged and tried on a state murder charge.  At the trial, Kimbell claimed that he shot the victim in self-defense after the victim shot at him three times, wounding him in the shoulder.  The subject admitted that the shooting occurred after an argument between him and the victim over the amount of gasoline the victim had pumped into his car.  XXXXX XXXXXX testified that after the argument over the amount of gasoline, Kimbell told XXXXXXX that he planned to go home, retrieve a gun, and come back to kill both the victim and XXXXXX.

George Lee May 7, 1955

On May 7, 1955, at about 11:45 p.m., Reverend George Lee, an African-American minister active in voter registration drives, was shot and fatally wounded in the face, while driving on Church Street in Belzoni, Mississippi.  As a result of the shooting, the victim crashed his car into the house of neighborhood resident XXXXXXXX.  Following the crash, the victim exited his car, and a taxi that was driving by stopped to assist Lee and transported him to a nearby hospital where, upon arrival, staff determined that he was deceased.  Eyewitnesses on Church Street indicated that the shooters were traveling in a convertible that was initially following the victim’s car and then passed it on the right side and sped away.  The majority of the witnesses stated that they heard two shots, and a few heard three shots.

Lamar Smith August 13, 1955

On the morning of August 13, 1955, Lamar Smith, an African-American World War I veteran active in voter registration drives, was shot and killed outside the Brookhaven, Mississippi, courthouse.  The victim had worked on the campaign of a man running against the incumbent in a county supervisor race.  The run-off election for the supervisor was to take place days after the shooting.  Three white men, Noah Smith, Mack Smith, and Charles Falvey, were arrested for the shooting.  According to an August 17, 1955 Daily Worker article, a state Coroner’s Jury heard testimony for four hours on the night of August 16 and then ruled that the victim had died as a result “of a gunshot wound in an altercation with Noah Smith, Mack Smith and Charles Falvey and probably other parties unknown.

John Earl Reese October 22, 1955

On October 22, 1955, John Earl Reese, a 16-year-old African-American youth, was shot and killed in rural Longview, Texas, by a Caucasian man opposed to the integration of public schools.  According to media reports, Reese was dancing with friends in a café when he was fatally injured by the gunfire sprayed from a car passing on the highway.  Two other patrons of the café, XXXX, XXX, and XXXX, XXX, suffered minor gunshot wounds.  That same night, gunmen targeted additional locations where any victims were likely to be African-American.  At one location, XXXXXXXX was praying at her bedside at her home when bullets came through the Venetian blinds and bullet fragments sprayed her face.   Investigators found seven bullets, one embedded in a bedpost.  At another, windows were shot out of a local school.  And at yet another, mailboxes were damaged by bullet spray.

James Edward Evansingston December 24, 1955

On December 24, 1955, the body of James Edward Evansingston, a 52-year-old African-American educator, was found drowned in Long Lake a few miles outside of Drew, Mississippi. Ed Grittman, the owner of a nearby farm, found the victim’s body in a few feet of water near the end of a bridge. The victim had been last seen by relatives when he left his house three days earlier. Prior to finding the victim’s body, Grittman had found the victim’s car, inside which was a note from the victim to his wife and friends stating that the victim could not “stand [his] sickness and worries any longer.” On the reverse side of the note, the victim had stated that the car-keys were in his “pocket in the lake.” A coroner’s hearing held on December 24, 1955, concluded that the victim’s death was self-inflicted. An autopsy conducted on December 27, 1955, found no evidence of foul play.

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