I was reading a detective novel today by James Lee Burke. His detective lives in New Iberia, Louisiana. The writer seems to have a little trouble with female characters though -- the ones in his book are two-dimensional figures who always want sex. I think life does not imitate art in this case. Anyway, I'm deep into this mystery when I get a mysterious e-mail of my own.
My father was a pathologist in Natchez, Mississippi, during the Civil Rights movement in the '60s. He was routinely called out to do autopsies after gruesome racially motivated killings. He used to talk about the cases to us kids, show us the murder slides, play the tapes of the trials where the white guys always got off, and so on.
Now the FBI is re-opening the cases. This is from the Natchez Democrat:
NATCHEZ — An FBI agent was in town Wednesday to do a little stone turning.
The agent, from the Hattiesburg office, is one of several federal agents working the recently re-opened Civil Rights case involving the 1967 death of Wharlest Jackson Sr.
And though FBI policy prevents agents from talking about their work, a press release from the agency said the goal in Jackson’s case and 42 others is to leave no stone unturned.
“We will explore every lead and every tip provided to us in our effort to bring closure to these cases,” said Frederick T. Brink, special agent in charge of the FBI in Mississippi.
“The FBI, together with our federal, state and local partners, will work diligently in these cases to uncover the truth, should it be hidden, and to bring to justice anyone who so heinously violates the rights of our citizens.”
Jackson, a black man, died when his truck exploded from a planted bomb. He had recently received a job promotion at Armstrong Tire. The new job was widely considered a “white man’s job.”
No arrests were ever made.
An investigator e-mailed me to see if I could give him any information about the unsolved murder of Clifton Walker. He wrote:
"Walker was driving home from the 3-11 shift at International Paper on Friday night, February 28, 1964, and was ambushed when he turned onto Poor House Road, which he always took as a shortcut off of 61 to Old 61. There was probably a mob of white men firing at the car to bring it to a halt and then several stood around the car and fired in at close range and blew his face apart."
If only I could reach back into time and bring back some of that information for the families of the victims who still have no details about what really happened. My father kept everything about his cases but now he's dead and all of his stuff -- well, who knows what happened to it?
It's frustrating to me to think that at one point in my life I had access to all the information the family would need, but now it's gone, and I can't help them.