Johnson State on Feb. 4 to Welcome Reporter Whose Work Led to Convictions of Four Klansmen

Jerry MitchellJerry Mitchell, the award-winning investigative reporter whose work led to the convictions of four Klansmen responsible for civil rights era murders, will speak at Johnson State College on Monday, Feb. 4.

 

Mitchell's talk, titled "Tales of Justice and Redemption in Mississippi," is free and open to the public. He will speak at 6 p.m. in 207 Bentley Hall as part of a visit sponsored by Johnson State College Friends of the Arts.

 

Since 1989, as a reporter for The Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss., Mitchell has uncovered documents, tracked down suspects and witnesses, and prompted law enforcement officials to reopen the "cold cases" of civil rights era violence. His investigative stories led to the convictions of four Klansmen responsible for killing civil rights activists and bystanders during the 1960s, including:

 

  • Byron De La Beckwith for the assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers on June 12, 1963 (Mitchell's pursuit of justice was depicted in Ghosts of Mississippi, the 1996 film about the case).
  • Bobby Cherry, for the bombing of deaths of four young girls in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., on Sept. 15, 1963.
  • Edgar Ray Killen, who helped organize the lynchings of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964 (the FBI investigation into the murders was depicted in the 1988 film Mississippi Burning).
  • Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, for ordering the fatal firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966.

Mitchell's exposés encouraged other journalists to pursue investigation into cold cases from the civil rights era; together, their stories have spurred law enforcement officials in six states to reopen 29 murder cases, resulting in 23 convictions.

 

"It is fair to say that without Mitchell’s dogged and often courageous reporting ... many murders from the civil rights era would have remained unvindicated, locked forever in the vaults of regional amnesia," noted syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker.

 

Mitchell has won more than 30 national awards for his work, including the Ralph McGill Medal for Courage and MacArthur Genius Award.

 

For more information about his visit, contact Emily Neilsen, 802-635-1408 or Emily.Neilsen@jsc.edu.