Klansman Convicted in Killing of Civil Rights Workers Dies

Elias Hubbard
January 13, 2018

The Mississippi Ku Klux Klan leader jailed for orchestrating the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers has died in prison.

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, all in their 20s, were members of the Congress of Racial Equality (Core) and had been working on a campaign to register black voters in the southern state.

Killen would have turned 93 on January 17.

David Goodman, Andrew's brother, said Friday he was informed of Killen's death on Thursday by state corrections officers. Authorities said no foul play is suspected.

Their bodies were found 44 days later, buried in an earthen dam, after an extensive FBI investigation. Killen was one of 18 people put on trial in 1967 for the murders, but the jury was hung after one juror said she couldn't convict a preacher.

Edgar Ray Killen was serving a 60-year prison sentence for spearheading the 1964 slayings of the men who were in the southern U.S. state as part of a drive to register black voters.

The slayings shocked the nation, helped spur passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning". The others were acquitted. His conviction and sentence of three consecutive 20-year sentences was upheld by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2007.

Even after his imprisonment, Killen was said to maintain segregationist views about racial inequality.

Clarion-Ledger investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell uncovered new evidence from Bowers that lead to Killen as the ringleader.

Killen did not testify at the trial, which was attended by Schwerner's widow and the mothers of Chaney and Goodman, and sat impassively in a wheelchair, breathing from an oxygen tank as the verdict was announced.

The trio went missing after being arrested by local police on a traffic charge while in Neshoba County, Mississippi.

Almost 40 years later, he was retried after the state reopened the murder investigations.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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