Edgar Ray Killen, "Mississippi Burnings" Klan leader, passed at 92

JACKSON, Miss. — Edgar Ray Killen, a former Ku Klux Klan personality who was convicted in the 1964 “Mississippi Burning” slayings of 3 polite rights workers, has died in jail at the age of 92, the state’s corrections dialect announced Friday. The one-time Klan personality was portion 3 uninterrupted 20-year terms for killing when he died at 9 p.m. Thursday night inside the Mississippi State Penitentiary. An autopsy was pending, but no tainted play was suspected, the corrections’ matter said.

His self-assurance came 41 years to the day after James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, all in their 20s, were ambushed and killed by Klansmen on Jun 21, 1964. The 3 Freedom Summer workers had been questioning the blazing of a black church circuitously Philadelphia, Mississippi. A emissary policeman in Philadelphia had arrested them on a traffic charge, then expelled them after alerting a mob. Mississippi’s then-governor claimed their disappearance was a hoax before their bodies were dug up. 

Trial of Klansman For 1964 Murders Continues

Edgar Ray Killen gestures while watchful in the courtroom for a outcome in his murder hearing Jun 20, 2005 in Philadelphia, Mississippi. 

The slayings repelled the nation, helped coax thoroughfare of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and were dramatized in the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning.”

The part-time reverend and lumber indent user was 80 when a Neshoba County jury convicted him of 3 depends of killing on Jun 21, 2005, despite his assertions that he was trusting of the killings. Killen was the only person ever to face state murder charges in the case.

Killen wouldn’t contend much about the 1964 killings during a 2014 talk with The Associated Press inside the penitentiary. He pronounced he remained a segregationist who did not trust in secular equality, but contended he harbored no ill will toward blacks. Killen pronounced he never had talked about the events that landed him behind bars, and never would.

Long a think in the 1964 slayings, Killen had done a provision from farming, handling his sawmill and priesthood to a tiny assemblage at Smyrna Baptist Church in Union, south of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

According to FBI files and justice transcripts from a 1967 sovereign swindling trial, Killen did many of the formulation in the waylay killings of the polite rights workers. According to testimony in the 2005 murder trial, Killen served as a kleagle, or organizer, of the Klan in Neshoba County and helped set up a klavern, or internal Klan group, in a circuitously county.

Nineteen men, including Killen, were indicted on sovereign charges in the 1967 case. Seven were convicted of violating the victims’ polite rights. None served some-more than 6 years.

Killen’s sovereign case finished with a hung jury after one juror pronounced she couldn’t crook a preacher. During his state hearing in 2005, witnesses testified that on Jun 21, 1964, Killen went to Meridian to turn up carloads of Klansmen to waylay Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, revelation some of the Klan members to bring plastic or rubber gloves. Witnesses pronounced Killen then went to a Philadelphia wake home as an pretext while the deadly attack occurred.

President Lyndon Johnson systematic the FBI to support internal law coercion officers in the hunt for the vacant men. Johnson’s help Lee White told the boss that there was no snippet of the men and they had “disappeared from the face of the earth.” Civil rights colleagues worried they had been nabbed by the KKK. Some locals discharged their disappearance as a broadside stunt.

Finally, on Aug 4, 1964, their bodies were found buried on the isolated skill of a Klansman. All 3 men had been shot at indicate vacant operation and Chaney had been badly beaten.

In Feb 2010, Killen sued the FBI, claiming the supervision used a mafia hit man to pistol-whip and dominate witnesses for information in the case. The sovereign lawsuit sought millions of dollars in damages and a stipulation that his rights were disregarded when the FBI allegedly used a mafiosi famous as “The Grim Reaper” during the investigation. The lawsuit was after dismissed. 

In the 2014 AP interview, Killen steady his row that he was not a criminal, but a domestic prisoner. Of one thing he was certain: “I could have kick that thing if I’d had the mental ability.”

In the four-hour interview, he spoke of associations with hundreds of people during his life — from domestic total to friends and neighbors. He was garrulous about crime in the Mississippi jail system, his good times and close attribute with the late Sen. James O. Eastland and his priesthood at a tiny Baptist church in easterly Mississippi from which he got the nickname “Preacher.”

Killen pronounced people at Parchman were good wakeful of his temperament before he arrived: “Oh yes. They knew who we was,” he said.


In this Friday, Jan. 7, 2005 file photo, Edgar Ray Killen, center, stands as Neshoba County District Attorney Mark Duncan, right, reads the complaint charging him with murder in the 1964 slayings of 3 polite rights workers during his coming in circuit justice in Philadelphia, Miss. 

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