Michael Schwerner, 24, of New York, James Chaney, 21, from Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman, 20, of New York were killed in 1964 by Ku Klux Klansman members. Their summary assassination was ordered by Edgar Ray Killen who initially escaped prosecution but was convicted and jailed 45 years after the crime.
Edgar Ray Killen was a Baptist Church Preacher in Mississippi and Ku Klux Klan leader.
The death of this vile creature should be used to celebrate the heroes of the civil right movement and a reminder of how far the struggle has come.
It is important that the story of the victims should be told over and over and prevent the villain becoming a hero and the victim a villain.
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT AS REPORTED BY NY TIMES & WASHINGTON POST
The murder of the three Civil right workers during the “freedom summer of 1964” was among several racial killings which form the basis for the 1988 crime thriller “Mississippi Burning” directed by Alan Parker.
The three civil right workers were ambushed by two cars filled with Ku Klux Klan members, forced out of their car, shot at close range and their bodies buried 15 feet deep nearby. They were on a mission to inspect a black Church that was burned down and to register voters as part of civil rights efforts.
Edgar Killen was suspected and arrested for conspiracy along with other 18 locals but was acquited following a trial because the jury did not return a unanimous verdict. An all-white jury reportedly voted 11-to-1 in favor of convicting him, but the lone holdout said she could “never convict a preacher.”
He told David Oshinsky of New York Times that “Those boys were Communists who went to a Communist training school. I’m sorry they got themselves killed. But I can’t show remorse for something I didn’t do.” referring to the three murdered civil right activists.
He was convicted following a retrial in 2005 after a secret tape containing an interview of another Ku Klux Klan leader who suggests the instigator of the 1964 killings was still a free man.
Further investigations led to the eventual conviction of Edgar Killen, however not for murder but manslaughter and was sentenced to three consecutive terms of 20 years, for a total of 60 years in prison.