Mississippi Burning Murderer Dies: A Children's Story

This tale is about three men: Andrew Goodman, Michael "Mickey" Schwerner, and James Chaney. These three men, well, boys really, they were college age and down in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. Freedom Summer. They were there helping people of color register to vote.

    On June 21, 1964, a church was set ablaze by the Ku Klux Klan.  Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney went out to the church that night to see if everyone was okay. On the way back, they were pulled over and arrested. They were held by police until ten o'clock at night when they were freed. Their ride along Highway 19, followed by a police car, could only be one of creeping dread.

    Eventually they were stopped again by police. The officer told them to follow him back the way they came, toward Philadelphia, Mississippi. Other cars joined the caravan and they were lead out to a deserted road.

    Cheney, a black man, was beaten and shot while over half a dozen men looked on. Schwerner and Goodman were shot as well. The three were buried in an earthen damn and not discovered for forty-four days. It took the combined efforts of the FBI and other federal agencies to find the bodies. Seven men were convicted of federal court for civil rights violations because the state of Mississippi would not charge anyone with the state crime of murder. None served more than six years total for the crime.

    In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was convicted of planning and organizing the killings. A recruiter and organizer for the Klan, Killen made his living as a saw mill operator and part-time preacher. On January 11, 2018 he died in prison. Reports say near the end he changed his ways, signing over his land and power of attorney to his black cellmate.

    Franklin Roosevelt said, "“I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.” Killen made enemies for himself of three college aged boys, boys who only came to help and who had their lives sprawling out before them. He and over half a dozen other men judged those boys and killed them. Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner did not get the fifty-three years of life Killen got. I hope he used the years well. I hope he did his enemies proud in the end.

    So go out and tell your children that bad men exist. Tell them bad men can change. Evil can be defeated and all men die. Tell your children that sometimes, though, justice takes a long time after the heroes are dead and gone.