Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mitchell blog: Records show Klan leader, 77, involved in abduction of murdered civil rights workers

Jackson Clarion-Ledget reporter Jerry Mitchell. in his latest blog entry, writes about a former KKK leader, still alive, who was involved in plotting the kidnapping of murdered civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, in 1964:

My story in today’s Clarion-Ledger details the case against reputed Klan leader Pete Harris, now 77. Let’s look at them in order:

1) In spring 1964, he and Klansman James Jordan visited Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, who was quoted by Jordan as remarking that civil rights worker Mickey Schwerner was “a thorn in the side of everyone living, especially the white people, and that he should be taken care of.”

2) In spring 1964, Harris attended key Klan meetings where Klansmen discussed “eliminating” civil rights worker Mickey Schwerner.

3) On June 16, 1964, Harris was present at a Neshoba County meeting, where Klansmen left and beat members of the Mt. Zion Methodist Church and then burned their church.

4) On the evening of the killings, June 21, 1964, Killen gathered Klansmen, including Harris, at Akin mobile homes sales lot in Meridian, according to testimony. Earlier that day, Neshoba County Deputy Cecil Price had arrested three civil rights workers, including Schwerner, James Chaney and Andy Goodman. Killen told Klansmen that the civil rights workers were being held in jail and “needed their rear ends torn up,” according to testimony.

Jordan testified Harris made telephone calls, gathering more Klansmen for the job. When the Klansmen gathered to leave, Jordan said Harris told them he had to stay behind because he was a leader in the Klan.

That night, Klansmen intercepted the trio, killing them and burying their bodies 15 feet down in an earthen dam. But all the world knew on June 22, 1964, was that they were missing.

5) Jordan testified that a month after the killings he and Harris met with Bowers, who praised their work in eliminating the three civil rights workers.

Jordan testified Bowers urged them to get rid of their weapons and to stay quiet.

Don Cochran, a former prosecutor, said he believes there is almost enough evidence in the transcript alone to bring a case against Harris.

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