Former Mayor Defends Ex-Klansman, KKK
Monday June 20, 2005 5:01 PM
AP Photo MSDJ101
By EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
Associated Press Writer
PHILADELPHIA, Miss. (AP) - A former mayor testified Monday for Edgar Ray Killen in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers, standing up for the former Ku Klux Klansman and calling the white-supremacist group a ``peaceful organization.''
Harlan Majure, who was mayor of this rural Mississippi town in the 1990s, said Killen was a good man and that the part-time preacher's Klan membership would not change his opinion.
Majur said the Klan ``did a lot of good up here'' and said he was not personally aware of the organization's bloody past.
``As far as I know it's a peaceful organization,'' Majure said. His comment was met with murmurs in the packed courtroom.
Killen, an 80-year-old sawmill operator, faces the first-ever state murder charges in the case and could get life in prison if convicted. He was not scheduled to testify Monday.
The victims - James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner - were helping register black voters. They had been stopped for speeding, were jailed briefly and then released, after which they were ambushed by a gang of Klansmen. They were shot, their bodies found 44 days later buried in an earthen dam in rural Neshoba County.
Also Monday, David Winstead testified that his brother, Mike Winstead, 52, lied in testimony last week when he claimed to have overheard a conversation between his grandfather and Killen in which the defendant acknowledged playing a role in the killings.
However, David Winstead acknowledged that he was a friend of the Killen family and was not present during conversations that his brother, who was 10 years old at the time, claimed to have overheard.
On Sunday, Schwerner's widow joined local residents for an annual memorial service in memory of the three young men who were killed.
``It's important that we seek to understand how a government became complicit in terror and how good people looked aside and let it happen,'' said Rita Bender, Schwerner's widow, after the service at Mount Zion United Methodist Church.
She said it was important to understand the racial climate in Mississippi in the 1960s because ``governments can run amok again.''
The victims were investigating a church burning in this small Mississippi town when they were murdered as part of a plot allegedly carried out by the Klan. Klansmen had come to Mount Zion and beaten members of the all-black congregation before setting it ablaze.
Killen's name has been associated with the 1964 slayings from the outset. FBI records and witnesses indicated he organized carloads of men who followed Chaney, a black man from Mississippi, and Schwerner and Goodman, white men from New York.
Their disappearance focused the nation's attention on the Jim Crow code of segregation in the South and helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Killen was tried in 1967 along with several others on federal charges of violating the victims' civil rights. The all-white jury deadlocked in Killen's case, but seven others were convicted. None served more than six years.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
What the ? aka Eediat ting dat
Thought I'd share this story in case you avent seen it yet. The Mayor's account of the KKK is rather interesting. Yep, those wacky KKK, fun loving, black people lynching, peaceful do-gooder types. NOT!