The following reports incidents of racial violence in Pike County, Miss., during 1964 which have been investigated by the staff of the Commission.
1. On January 25, 1964, between 25 and 50 crosses were burned throughout Pike County. On March 19, 1964, numerous crosses were again burned throughout the county. These incidents came to the attention of the sheriff. No arrests were made on either occasion. (Cross burning is not a crime in Mississippi.)
2. Curtis C. Bryant is a middle-aged Negro who works as a craneman for the Illinois Central Railroad, and as a part-time barber. He is president of the local NAACP and has lived in Pike County most of his life, and in McComb for the past 25 years. He lives with his wife and two children in his own home in the Beartown section of McComb. Mr. Bryant is a deacon of his church and chairman of his union local of the railway clerks.
He has suffered repeated acts of violence or intimidation.
(a) On January 25, 1964, between 7 and 8 p.m., a cross was burned on his front lawn. The incident was reported to the police. No arrests were made.
(b) On April 28, 1964, between 8:30 and 9 p.m., someone threw a firebomb into his barbershop, next to his house. No one was in the building at the time. The interior of the building was damaged and a chair, destroyed. The incident was reported to the police. No arrests were made.
(c) On June 22, 1964, about 10 p.m., Mr. Bryant's son, Curtis, Jr., was on guard in a car outside his father's house. He saw a truck pass several times and on the third time, a bomb was thrown, which exploded on the lawn. This attack was reported to the police. No arrests were made.
(d) On the evening of July 24,1964, four shots were fired at Mr. Bryant's house from a passing car. The shots did not hit the house. He gave a description of the car to the police. No arrests were made.
3. On June 8, 1964, Louis Asekoff, Andre Martinsons, and Rene Robert Jonas, all white men, were traveling in the South for the purpose of obtaining information for publication of a magazine article. They arrived in McComb about 2 p.m. Shortly after their arrival Police Chief Guy came up to them and asked them what they were doing in McComb. The men talked with Chief Guy for a short while and then went to city hall, where they interviewed him and Mayor Gordon Burt. They then Interviewed various Negroes in the community. Their movements were observed by police officers.
About 9 p.m. they left McComb. About 10 to 15 miles north of McComb they were forced over to the side of the road by cars which had been following them. Seven to nine men jumped out of the cars and one man said: "This is the law." One man with a revolver ordered the driver out of the car and directed him to the side of the road where he held him at gun point. Another man told the two passengers to get out of the car. When they refused, he struck them repeatedly with brass knuckles. The assailants apparently feared discovery by passing cars, and drove off. Asekoff and his friends drove to Jackson, where the two had been injured were treated for their injuries. Jonas required about 20 stitches. One of the men called Chief Guy and told him what had happened, but was unable to give him the license numbers of the car or any other identification. No arrests have been made.
4. Ivey Gutter is a 54-year-old Negro who had until recently lived in Pike County all of his life. He is married and has live children. He worked for the Illinois Central Railroad for 18 years. Mr. Gutter is a member of the NAACP and the Masons. He has not been involved in any civil rights activities, except attendance at meetings of the NAACP.
On June 11, 1964, Mr. Gutter arrived home from work at his accustomed time, about 4:30 p.m. As he walked from the road to his house, he was stopped by three men wearing black hoods, armed with pistols and shotguns. The men said that he was a member of the NAACP and that they had him now. Mr. Gutter did not think they meant any trouble and laughed at them. He told them that he was not a member of the NAACP. They began to hit him with what appeared to him to be home-made metal clubs. He fought back and kept trying to get to his house, but they would not let him. They then tried to force him into their car, but he resisted. They finally knocked him out with blows of a club, and when he came to, he was lying on the floor of the back seat of the car with one of the men astride his legs and another astride his shoulders. in the car they kept talking to him and threatening him. They drove him about 6 or 7 miles and then ordered him out of the car. They made him face away from them and said, "Now you are going to talk." They took his wallet from his back pocket and looked into it. One of them said, "The damn Nigger isn't lying." When Mr. Gutter tried to look back, one of them said, "Don't you look back or I'll shoot you in two." They told him to walk away, and then got into the car and drove off. Mr. Gutter found the home of a Negro whom he knew and tried, to call his wife to have her drive him to the doctor. The telephone wires at his home had been cut and he had to call a neighbor. His wife finally came and drove him to the infirmary, where he was X-rayed and had eight stitches in his scalp. He was treated by Dr. Mayer, who stated that Mr. Gutter was badly beaten.
When Mr. Gutter went to the infirmary, the nurse asked him what had happened. He said that he did not want to tell her because the men had warned him not to tell anyone about the beating. She said that she could not treat him unless she knew what had happened, so he told her. She called the sheriff, who came with a deputy to talk to Mr. Gutter. Mr. Gutter told him that the Car was a 1954 or 1955 two-door Chevrolet, with a black top and white bottom. He saw that the license plate was from Mississippi, but could not see what county. The sheriff kept asking him if it was an out-of-state license, but Mr. Gutter insisted it was a Mississippi license. He also told the sheriff that the men had called the driver "Charles," and that he had done most of the talking.
The sheriff never talked to Mr. Gutter again. Mr. Gutter called him on June 12 to tell him that he had heard that someone over in Walthall County had a car of that description and that he had heard the man was the kind of person who might be involved in this kind of Incident. Mr. Gutter wanted the sheriff to go look at the car because he thought there would probably be blood on the Inside. The sheriff never called him back. Mr. Gutter did not call him again because be thought the sheriff was not Interested. There have been no arrests.
5. Wilbert Lewis is a 45-year-old Negro who worked as an automobile mechanic in a garage owned by a white man in McComb. He moved from Louisiana to Pike County six years ago and lives with his father-in-law. He is not a member of the NAACP and has never been Involved in civil rights activities.
On June 19, 1964, Mr. Lewis was told by his boss to go with a white customer to fix a car which had broken down on the road. Mr. Lewis went with the man, whom he had seen before, but whose name he did not know, to a spot where another car was parked with Its hood up. As he bent over to begin work on the motor, a man who appeared to have been working under the hood of the car put a gun to Lewis' head. He said, "Don't try to look me in the face." At this point, two other men with black hoods on came out of the bushes; they, too, were armed. The men put a tarpaulin bag over Lewis' head, ordered him Into the car, and forced him to lie down on the floor of the back seat. Because his head was covered, he does not know what happened to the other car. He was driven for almost half an hour. The men then took him from the car, tied his hand together around a tree and began asking questions about the NAACP and COFO. They asked him the names of the lieutenants of the NAACP and then the name of the secretary of the NAACP. He told them that he did not know and that he did not attend any meetings. They told him that he was lying and asked him about the meeting places of the NAACP. He said again that he did not know, so they whipped him with a "cat-o'-nine-tails" until he told them who he thought was the secretary and who the members were and where they met. The men were not satisfied with the information he gave them, so they put a rope around his neck, threatened to hang him, and whipped him some more. They kept asking him questions, and when he refused to answer or did not answer to their satisfaction, they whipped him. They told him to tell his friends that this was only a sample of what they would get if they engaged in civil rights activities. And they told him to tell his father-in-law -- who is a minister -- to stay out of Amite County. Finally he was untied and told to "get running." He was driven home by a Negro he found about 3 and 1/2 miles from the scene of the beating. He was treated by Dr. Howard.
Lewis was questioned by the police and by the sheriff's office immediately after the beating. He was afraid of them and therefore did not speak freely. He did, however, Identify the car at that time, and subsequently Identified one of the men to the FBI by pictures shown to him by them. He also stated that he recognized another of the men. There have been no arrests.
6. Mr. Freddie Bates is a 45-year-old Negro service-station owner who lives in his own home at 928 Summit Street in McComb. He has lived in southwest Mississippi all of his life, and in McComb for more than 25 years. He has been very active in civil rights activities in McComb, but has not attempted to register to vote.
On June 22, 1964, about 10:30 p.m., a woman teacher who was boarding in Bates' house came running to the back of the house and warned Bates and another man who was with him that she had seen a white man throw something on the porch. The bomb exploded half a minute later, breaking seven windows and two doors, destroying the porch, and venetian blinds Inside the house, and cracking some of the walls inside the house. The cost of the repairs was over $1,000. The incident was reported to the police. No arrests have been made.
7. Mrs. Corine Andrews is a 52-year-old Negro who has lived in McComb all of her life. She lives with her 11-year-old son in a house which she owns in McComb. Mrs. Andrews works as a maid for a white family. She has never been involved in civil rights activities.
On June 22, 19G4, between 10 and 11 p.m., her three dogs began barking. She went to her front door and saw smoke on her porch. She ran into the back of the house, taking her son with her. The dynamite exploded, tearing a hole in the porch, knocking other boards loose and shattering glass in the front door. The incident was reported to the police. No arrests have been made.
8. Early in the summer of 1964 the city of McComb hired two Negro policemen, Vernel Felder and Artis Garner, to patrol the Negro neighborhood. On July 8, 1964, about 10 p.m., Felder and Garner were on duty in front of The DeSoto, a Negro hotel. A car containing four whites drove past and a shot was fired at them. Garner fired two shots back. Shortly thereafter, four young white men were arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. The police found a .22 caliber pistol in their possession and determined that it had recently been fired, despite the denial of the four men. The men pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Three of them were fined $22.50 and one was fined $47.50.
9. The congregation of the Zion Hill Baptist Church was organized in 1876. Some of the original families are still members. in 1962, the congregation built a new wooden church 7 miles west of McComb, near the Percy Quin State Park. The church was never used for civil rights activities and no members of the congregation participated in the civil rights movement in McComb.
Sometime after midnight on July 17, 1964, the church was destroyed by fire. Local law enforcement officials have concluded that the fire was the result of arson. The incident was reported to the sheriff. No arrests have been made.
The church was insured for $8,800, but the insurance has not yet been paid. Replacement of the church will cost $16,000, and $5,000 of the insurance money must be used to pay off the mortgage on the old church.
10. The congregation of Sweet Home Baptist Church was organized in 1895 and today numbers over 400 persons. The present church building in southeast McComb was constructed 7 years ago; an annex to the building was being added this year. The church building has never been used for civil rights activities, although some of the members have participated in such activities.
During the evening of July 18, 1964, an attempt was made to burn the church. The floor carpeting was soaked with kerosene, but a fuse leading to a pan of black powder burned out before reaching the pan. No arrests were made.
11. The Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church was a wooden building constructed 65 years ago. The church stood on Highway 48, 5 miles west of Magnolia. There are 150 Negroes who worshipped at Mt. Vernon; this summer they were renovating the church. The building was never used for civil rights meetings and none of the congregants had been involved in such activities.
About 10:30 p.m., on July 21, 1964, the Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church burned to the ground. The fire was reported to Sheriff Warren. No arrests were made. The congregation plans to rebuild the church at a cost of $20,000. Insurance will cover $5,000.
12. The Rose Bower Baptist Church is located in Amite County on Highway 24, about 9 miles west of McComb. It is a wooden building and has a congregation of 120 members.
On July 23, 1964, the church was damaged by a fire. Rugs and ii chair were burned and a hole about 3 feet in diameter was burned in the floor. The repairs cost $300, which was paid by insurance. No arrests were made.
13. Mrs. Bryant is a 51-year-old housewife who is married to Charles A. Bryant, who was a carpenter in McComb. She had lived in McComb all of her life. She was very active in civil rights, as was her husband, who had been a member of the NAACP for 20 years.
On July 26, 1964, about 1 a.m., Mr. Bryant was asleep and Mrs. Bryant was awake because she had difficulty sleeping. She noticed a car parked in front of their house with some white men in it. About 2 minutes later, the lights of a passing car lit up the parked car, and it drove away. Mrs. Bryant thought the car might be dangerous, so she got her gun and waited. About 15 minutes later, the car Caine back and stopped in front of the house. She took aim at It with her shotgun. Something was thrown into the yard from the car, and she fired. The car then drove away. She ran to the back of the house to wake her husband, and heard a popping sound. She woke Mr. Bryant, who took the gun from her and ran out the back door. Mrs. Bryant took a rifle and went to the kitchen door. The car drove by again and two shots were fired at the house. At that moment there was a loud explosion. The dynamite landed about 12 feet from the house. The explosion blew out all the front windows, tore the asbestos siding off the house, ripped screens, blasted a large hole in the lawn and uprooted shrubbery around the house. Following the attack, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant took turns to stand guard over the house every night. in September they moved to California. Arrests were made in this case.
14. The Mt. Canaan Baptist Church is a wooden structure built about 100 years ago when the congregation was formed. It is located in Smithtown, about 15 miles east of McComb. The congregation numbers over 300. The church had not been used for civil rights meetings, and none of the congregants had participated in civil rights activities.
Early in the early morning of August 6, 1964, the church was damaged by fire. The fire was caused by an explosion of some kind of fuel oil. The interior of the building was badly burned, benches and chairs were destroyed, and a piano was ruined. The repairs to the church will cost $2,500. There was no insurance.
The incident was reported to the sheriff, who investigated and concluded the fire was the result of arson. No arrests have been made.
15. Dr. W. T. Mayer is a 41-year-old white physician who has lived in Mississippi for 15 years. On August 12, 1964, a cross was burned in front of his home.. He reported the incident to the police.
The only reason that Dr. Mayer can think of for the burning of the cross was that he made a contribution to a fund to rebuild various Negro churches which had been destroyed in McComb, and his name was on the list of contributors that was published in the paper on July 27.
16. On August 12, 1964, a cross was burned in front of the home of a. T. Vaccarella, Jr., a white resident of McComb. The incident was reported to the police. The Vaccarella family owns several stores in the McComb area, and, according to the police chief, had been subjected to pressure to fire some Negro employees who had attempted to register. According to Sheriff Warren, the men arrested in November admitted burning these crosses.
17. Mr. Pete Lewis is a 65-year-old Negro who has lived for 48 years in Pike County. His wife died one year ago. He is retired from the Illinois Central Railroad where he had worked as a fireman for 49 years. He is a stockholder in a Negro corporation which opened the Burgland Market at 630 Warren Street in 1956. The market corporation went into debt and Mr. Lewis agreed to take over the debts and operate the market until the debts were repaid, when it would return to the stockholders. The store has about $7,000 worth of stock, appliances, and equipment. It is in a two-story, cinder-block building owned by a Negro Masonic lodge, which occupies the second floor.
Mr. Lewis has been registered to vote for over 10 years. He is treasurer of the Citizens League and has supported COFO activities in McComb. He has been active in other Negro community affairs as well. The Masonic hall was used for a freedom school during the school walkout in 1961, and executive meetings of the NAACP have been held there regularly for 10 years.
On the night of August 14,1964, a bomb was thrown at the store building. Mr. Lewis was not in the store at the time and was called by an employee. The bomb tore a hole in the sidewalk about four feet from the building where it hit. It also blew a double door from its hinges into the store, broke every window on all four sides on both floors, destroyed a wooden awning, and broke windows in Mr. Lewis' house 200 feet away. The building Itself was shaken and long cracks opened in the interior walls. Mr. Lewis thinks the building is no longer structurally safe. He lost about one-third of his stock, mainly fruits, vegetables, breads, and cakes, from flying splinters. One counter was broken and a cigarette machine damaged. The lost stock was valued at $1,200 and the cost of replacing windows at $500. Mr. Lewis' equipment was insured by him, but the Masons carried no insurance on the building, so Lewis had to pay for those repairs himself. The store reopened for business the next day. He received no threats before the blast and one afterwards. The incident was reported to the police. No arrests have been made.
18. On August 22, 1964, in the evening, Pat Cleborn Martin, a white man, was being driven home by three Negroes. Near his home, the road was blocked by a log. Five armed and masked white men stepped out of the bushes, ordered the Negroes not to move, and told Martin to come with them. They drove him some distance and then took him out and hit him several times with a strap. They told him he had been talking too much with Negroes. Martin asked the sheriff not to investigate the case. No arrests have been made.
19. Mr. Willie Dillon is a 42-year-old Negro who has lived all of his life in Pike County. He was formerly employed as a mechanic by the McComb Scrap Iron Co., and now repairs cars at his home. He lives with his wife and three children in his own house in McComb. Mrs. Dillon has been a member of the NAACP for about a year; her children went to freedom school this summer, and COFO workers have been around their house frequently. in August 1964 she attempted unsuccessfully to register. She has been active in all aspects of the civil rights movement in McComb.
According to Mr. Dillon, on August 28, about 1 a.m., a detonator cap exploded in his front yard, 20 feet from the house. Nine sticks of dynamite failed to explode. At the time of the explosion, Mr. Dillon was washing up after repairing a car, Mrs. Dillon was asleep in the front bedroom, and the three children were asleep in the back bedroom. Mrs. Dillon called the FBI, who arrived with the police and the sheriff. The sheriff questioned Mr. Dillon closely about a car which was parked in front of his home. Mr. Dillon told them that he had repaired the car, that he did not know the name of the owner, but knew that It was from COFO. The police searched the car to determine its owner. Mr. Dillon was then arrested by the sheriff and charged with operating a garage without a permit, and stealing electricity by attaching an electric wire outside the meter. (The wire was attached to a floodlight which had been recently installed because cars had been circling the house at night.)
Mr. Dillon was taken to jail in Magnolia about 4 a.m., and appeared in justice of the peace court in McComb the next day. He pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to $100 and 3 months in jail for stealing the electricity and $500 and 5 months for operating a garage without a permit. He was not represented by counsel and saw no friends from the time of his arrest until after he was sentenced, when he was permitted to see his wife for 15 minutes.
According to Mr. Dillon's understanding, appeal bond was set at $1,200, and was raised by Mrs. Dillon, with the help of COFO. When she presented the bond to the sheriff however, the amount was raised to $2,000 and Mr. Dillon was not released. Subsequently, District Judge Mize ordered Mr. Dillon released on $500 ball. The appeal bond was posted on September 28,1964.
According to Sheriff Warren, bond was originally $2,000 and he then lowered It to $1,000 before he was ordered to release Dillon on $500 bond. No arrests have been made in connection with the bombing.
Mr. Dillon's sentence has been appealed for trial de novo; the case was removed to Federal court, where Judge Mize reduced the appeal bond to $500 and then remanded the case to the State court. The remand order is now on appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
20. Presiding Minister Hugh Washington is a Negro contractor who lives in Summit, Miss. He is a Jehovah's Witness and for this reason has not participated in any civil rights activities.
On September 7, 1964, about 1 a.m., dynamite was thrown on the roof of his home. The explosion blew a hole in the roof of the carport and tore away parts of the wall of the house. The door leading from the carport was slightly damaged. Washington, his wife, and their five children were in the house at the time; none of them was injured. Washington called the Summit city police, who notified the sheriff. No arrests have been made.
21. Allen Coney is the principal of the Consolidated School in Magnolia. He has lived in Pike County all of his life. He has never been Involved in civil rights, but he is registered to vote. He has a Master's Degree from Atlanta University. He lives with his wife and two daughters in his own home in Magnolia. Mr. Coney also owns a farm several miles east of Magnolia, near Rose Hill community. On that farm there was a wooden building used for cookouts. It had a large fireplace and chimney.
On September 7, 1964, soon after midnight, dynamite exploded in the cookout building, completely destroying the structure. Parts of the building were scattered several hundred feet away. The damage amounted to $300. The sheriff was notified. No arrests have been made.
After this incident, Mr. Coney's brother and sister installed floodlights at their homes and at a store owned by his brother. On September 17, two of these lights were shot out by a shotgun. The shells were recovered but no arrests have been made. According to the sheriff, the six men arrested in November admitted their responsibility for the shooting.
22. Booker T. Gutter is a Negro construction worker who lives in Ruth, near Summit, where he and his wife also operate a grocery store. He has not been involved in civil rights activities.
On September 7, 1964, between 1:30 and 2 a.m., dynamite was exploded under the front portion of the store, and the front room was ripped from the structure. Items inside the store were damaged. The loss amounted to $1,000. Insurance covered $400. Mrs. Gutter called the sheriff. No arrests have been made.
23. Reverend James Baker is a 51-year-old Negro who is married and has five children. He has lived all of his life in Pike County. He works as a mechanic, and a part-time minister at two churches in the area. Reverend Baker and his wife own their home, near Summit, and 51 acres of farmland. He is registered to vote and is president of the local Negro PTA. Mrs. Baker is an invalid. Although it was rumored that Reverend Baker was active in civil rights, neither he nor his wife has participated in civil rights activities, and Reverend Baker had taken the position that membership in a civil rights organization was inconsistent with membership in either of his churches. On January 25, a cross was burned on his lawn.
About 12:30 a.m., on September 9, 1964, Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Bessie Forrest, a friend, were asleep in the Baker's home. Reverend Baker was in the hospital. Mrs. Baker was awakened by a car driving away from the house; immediately thereafter there was an explosion. The blast broke windows and glass in the front door, tore shingles and wooden eaves from one place in the roof and blasted a large hole in the front lawn. Arrests were made.
24. Mrs. Aylene Quin is a familiar figure in the Negro community. She has lived in McComb for 11 years, and has run a cafe at different locations in the Negro section. She was married and has four children. During the summer of 1964 Mrs. Quin's cafe was a meeting and eating place for civil rights workers. Her daughter was involved in the school walkout in 1961 and she herself attended civil rights meetings. She registered to vote in Harrison County in 1952, but has failed the test in Pike County several times.
On the evening of September 20, Mrs. Quin was at her cafe, while a 19-year-old baby-sitter looked after her two youngest children, 4-year-old Anthony and 9-year-old Jacqueline. Shortly before 11 p.m., her home was bombed. Anthony was pinned to his bed by the fallen ceiling, but was not injured. Jacqueline suffered injuries to her ears from the explosion. They were carried from the house by neighbors who rushed to the house and broke down the front door.
The damage to the house was severe. The front wall of the children's room was blown in. The estimated cost of repairing the damage is $6,000. The house was Insured for $5,000, and Mrs. Quin's claim has been paid. Arrests were made.
25. The congregation of the Society Hill Baptist Church was organized in 1910. At present it includes 275 members. The church building is a frame building over 50 years old, on Route 51, just south of McComb. The congregation refused to permit COFO meetings to be held at the church during the summer, but many members of the congregation, including Curtis Bryant, were active in civil rights, and the church was used for mass meetings of the NAACP and for weekly voter-registration classes.
On September 20, 1964, a bomb was thrown at the church, causing severe damage. The entire center portion of the roof caved in and brought the walls with it. The church was a total loss. The church was insured for $11,000, which has been paid. Contributions were received from the North to rebuild the church. The sheriff was Informed of the bombing, but no arrests have been made.
26. Matthew Jackson is 59 years old, a Negro who has lived in Pike County since 1919. He has worked for the Illinois Central Railroad for 35 years. He has 5 children and 19 grandchildren. He owns his own home, southeast of McComb, and shares 40 acres of farmland with his brother. He has never registered to vote, but has been a member of the NAACP for several years.
On September 23, 1964, between 11:30 and 12 p.m., he and his wife were asleep when they were awakened by an explosion in the front of their house. Some dynamite had torn a hole in their lawn, 45 feet from the house. There was no damage to the building. The sheriff came when his deputies heard the explosion. No arrests have been made.
27. Artis Garner is a McComb Negro who was hired at the beginning of the summer to act as a policeman in the Negro section of the city. Mr. Garner worked for about 2 months, and then left around August 20. Shortly thereafter, he began to receive threats against his life. On August 26, the other Negro policeman, Vernel Felder, warned him to get out of town. On September 16, 17, and 18, two white policemen drove around the house which Garner rented on Wilson Street, shining lights in the windows. On September 19, Garner was asked to come down to the police station. He went to the station and was arrested by a deputy sheriff on unspecified charges. He was held in the Pike County jail at Magnolia from 2 p.m. that day until the afternoon of the next, when he was released without any charges. On September 23, Mr. Garner made preparations to leave McComb. He arranged for his wife and child to go to Jackson while he went to Greenville to testify at a hearing of the Mississippi State advisory committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
He testified publicly concerning alleged Klan influence in the McComb police force and to a number of Incidents involving the police. That night a bomb exploded at his house in McComb, about one hour after his wife and child boarded the bus for Jackson. The Garners have never returned to McComb. No arrests have been made.
28. There were several incidents of violence directed against COF0 workers.
(a) On July 8, 1964, a bomb was thrown at the Freedom House, blowing away the outside wall of one of the bedrooms. One of the people sleeping in the bedroom was cut by flying glass, others were not Injured. The incident was reported to the police, but no arrests have been made.
(b) On July 19, 1964, Mendy Samsteln, a white COFO worker, was assaulted in the street. He was not seriously hurt. He reported the incident to the police. There have been no arrests.
(c) On September 2, 1964, Robert V. Stone, a 25-year-old white philosophy student working with COFO, was knocked to the ground and kicked by a white man on a street in McComb. He telephoned the police and described his assailant. The Officer did not ask any questions about the beating or the assailant and did not ask Stone to come to the police station. Chief Guy later came out to the COFO office to talk to him. No arrests have been made.
(d) Rev. Russell Bennett is a 27-year-old white minister of the United Church of Christ, a graduate of Occidental College, where be was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and of the Harvard Divinity School. He now lives in California. On September 2, 1964, he drove another white COFO worker, Brian Peterson, into the center of town to the Western Union office. When Peterson went into the office, the car was surrounded by six white men. One man stuck his head into the car and asked what he was doing in McComb. He replied that he was a minister working for COFO. This man then told Bennett to take off his glasses. Bennett compiled and was struck in the nose by the man's flat. He was then pulled from the car and was kicked and beaten by the group of men. The beating lasted for about two minutes, after which the men drifted away. Bennett got back into the car and waited for Peterson, in order to return to Freedom House. When Peterson got back into the car, he, too, was hit. As they drove back to Freedom House, they noticed that they were being followed by a police car. This car followed them back to the Freedom House. it turned out to be Police Chief Guy, who was on his way to investigate the assault on Robert V. Stone. When they got out of their car, Chief Guy pulled up behind them. They reported the incident to him, and he expressed surprise. Peterson asked Chief Guy to go to the scene with them, so that Bennett might try to point out one of the assailants. Chief Guy refused since he thought that the men would have left. Bennett was then taken to the hospital for treatment. He was treated by Dr. Janes. He was interviewed by the FBI the same day and signed an affidavit. There have been no arrests and the police never talked with him again regarding this incident.
(e) On October 27, 11964, a white man pulled a gun on a white Canadian COFO worker named Malcolm Campbell who was working with COFO, and threatened him. The man was arrested, but Campbell was in jail when the trial came up, and the case was dismissed for lack of prosecution.
29. Beginning on September 30, 1964, 11 local white men were arrested in connection with the violence in Pike County. Charges against one of them were dismissed, and the other 10 were Indicted by the grand jury in connection with the bombings at the home of Charles Bryant on July 26, at the home of Reverend Baker on September 7, and at the home of Mrs. Quin on September 20. They were charged with violation of section 2143 of the Mississippi Code, which carries a maximum penalty of death.
Nine of the men were tried on October 23, before Judge Watkins in Magnolia. Six of them pleaded guilty to the substantive crime of Illegal use of explosives. Two of the men had been charged with all three of the bombings, and the other four had been charged with one violation. Each of these six men was sentenced to five years on each charge, the terms to run concurrently. The sentences were then all suspended and each man was placed on probation for five years. All nine of the men pleaded nolo contendere to charges of conspiracy. They were given the maximum penalty for the crime -- six months in jail and $500 fine. The jail sentences were then suspended. It was stipulated that the 10th defendant would plead nolo contendere to conspiracy and receive the same sentence.
Judge Watkins cautioned the defendants that they were not to possess or own any firearms, dynamite, or combustibles during the probation period. Another condition of the probation period was that if at any time violence or crimes or unlawful acts occur or erupt in Pike County to such an extent that the court is persuaded or satisfied that a systematic plan has developed for crime and violence, such as to endanger people's health, lives, or property, then the probation is subject to being revoked by the court, whether the defendants actually individually are involved or not.
30. On November 4, 1964, six white men were arrested by Sheriff Warren. They were implicated in four recent incidents of violence in McComb. Some of these were racial in nature, and others, while typical of Ku Klux Klan activity, were not racially directed.
The first incident involved a white man named J. K. Wallace. On October 26, 1964, four men attacked him, threw household ammonia in his face, and beat him. Four white men were charged with assault with intent to maim in connection with this incident.
On October 29, 1964, shots were fired at Charles J. Hughes, an Englishman who has lived in McComb for 10 years. Five white men, Including the four above, were charged with pointing, aiming, and discharging a firearm at a human being.
On November 1, shots from a 20-gage shotgun were fired into the home of G. T. VaccarelIa on Highway 51 in McComb. One of the men charged in the two above incidents and another white man were charged with pointing, aiming, and discharging a firearm at a human being in connection with this incident. The same night, steel balls were shot into the window of the Shop-rite at the intersection of Routes 24 and 51 in McComb. The store is owned by the Vaccarella family. One of the white men was charged with malicious mischief in connection with this offense.
Five of the men pleaded guilty to these
incidents and were sentenced to one year in the county jail; the
sixth is to be tried in March.
Source: United States Commission on Civil Rights, Hearings Held in Jackson, Miss., February 16-20, 1965, Vol. II: Administration of Justice (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office), Exhibit 11: Staff Report of Investigation of Incidents of Racial Violence, Pike County, Miss., 1964.