NBC's Edwin Newman reports from Mississippi on the day the FBI has arrested 21 white men in connection with the murders of three young civil rights workers the summer before.
Civil Rights Workers Slain in Mississippi
EDWIN NEWMAN reporting: The FBI today arrested 21 white men in connection with last summer’s murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. That is the latest development in the drama that began to unfold months ago with the Mississippi summer project. Hundreds of young people were trained and sent to Mississippi, there to instruct Negroes in a variety of subjects including the exercise of constitutional rights. The project was bitterly resented by many white Mississippians, and it was no surprise when last June, three of the civil rights workers disappeared. Two were white New Yorkers, Michael Schwerner, 24, whose wife was also in Mississippi, Andrew Goodman, a student at Queen’s College in New York, Goodman was 21, and the third was James Chaney, a Negro from Meridian, Chaney also was 21. The three had gone from Meridian to Philadelphia, Mississippi to look at a burned out Negro church. The deputy sheriff in Philadelphia, Cecil Price, said later that he had arrested them for speeding and released them after six hours.
Deputy Sheriff CECIL PRICE: They got in the car and said they were going to Meridian, Mississippi. We got in the police car with the city policemen, and we followed them several blocks to be sure that they did go that way, and the last we saw of them, they were going down 19-South toward Meridian. We turned around and come back up and be in this part of the town.
NEWMAN: The last man to admit seeing them alive, and he was among those arrested today. When the FBI entered the case, it found the station wagon that Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman had used. It had been burned. Then in August, the FBI found the bodies, reportedly after paying $25,000 for the necessary information. Today came the arrests.
Reporter: The suspects were taken to the seclusion of the Meridian auxiliary Naval air station south of Philadelphia. Flanked by FBI men and quickly joined by their attorneys, the suspects were brought in two groups. The first group included Sheriff Lawrence Rainey and his deputy Cecil Price, both men in uniform. The bill of complaints signed by an FBI agent and read to the accused men by Ms. Carter, charges the arrest of the murdered civil rights workers with a planned affair. Deputy Price was named specifically as having used the color of his office in taking in the trio on a traffic charge, holding them, then turning them loose to be intercepted, threatened, assaulted, shot and killed, those the words in the complaint. By nightfall, all of those arraigned as a group had made bond and were free pending next week’s court appearance. Sheriff Rainey and his deputy returned to Philadelphia to resume their law enforcement duties there.
Synopsis: Civil rights activist Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi. In 1954, he became the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi. As such, he organized voter-registration efforts, demonstrations, and economic boycotts of companies that practiced discrimination. He also worked to investigate crimes perpetrated against blacks. On June 12, 1963, Evers was assassinated outside of his home in Jackson, Mississippi.