• 91°
franklin county times

Meridian honors slain civil rights worker

By Staff
CHANEY MEMORIAL Elaine Arias, left, of New York City, listens as Ashley Henderson, of Chattanooga, Tenn., talks about why she decided to help register voters as part of Freedom Riders 2004. Arias, Henderson and other group members participated in a graveside memorial Monday for James Chaney, a Meridian civil rights worker killed by Klansmen on June 21, 1964. PHOTO BY KYLE CARTER / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Georgia E. Frye / staff writer
June 22, 2004
Ben Chaney remembers when his older brother James bought him a football uniform. He remembers his brother singing all the time. And he remembers that his brother had many girlfriends.
Then, on June 21, 1964, Ben's brother, a black civil rights worker, was killed in one of the most notorious civil rights murders in Mississippi history an event recounted in history books and movies.
James Chaney, a Meridian man who was killed along with two white civil rights workers from New York, was honored Monday during a memorial service at his grave at Okatibbee Missionary Baptist Church.
About 100 people packed into hot cars, buses and motor homes and followed a police escort down the narrow road to mark the 40th anniversary of Chaney's murder in Neshoba County.
Chaney was working at the time to register black voters.
Memorial services
The service was the second day of memorials for Chaney and New Yorkers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who were killed by Klansmen while headed to Philadelphia to investigate a church burning.
Their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam two months later. Five men were convicted of federal conspiracy charges in connection with the deaths but none of them served more than six years in prison.
The first memorial was Sunday in Philadelphia.
The second began Monday with the graveside service. That was followed by a luncheon at Mt. Olive Baptist Church, a voter registration drive at Dumont Plaza and a worship rally at First Union Baptist Church.
The Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of the Fitkins Church of the Nazarene, said during the graveside ceremony that he worked with Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner to register black voters in the 1960s.
He said he probably would have been with them when they were murdered if he had not been out of town at a meeting.
Special event
Ben Chaney, who was 11 when his brother died, said this year's anniversary is special.
Chaney said he and a group of about 10 young people from across the country are on a 15-day journey from New York to Louisiana to register voters. He calls the group Freedom Riders 2004.
Chaney said he has hosted a Freedom Ride each year since 1989 to educate people about James' legacy.
This year, he said, freedom riders have registered more than 400 voters in 18 cities in Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Today, the group plans to head to Baton Rouge, La.
Chaney said he believes that young people can be more successful at registering other young people because they can better communicate with them.
The freedom riders were joined on their bus by an independent film crew from the Pro Bono Production Co. in Los Angeles. The company plans to make a documentary about the murders.
Luncheon speaker
At the luncheon, plans called for Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple," to speak to the crowd. Walker, however, couldn't make the trip.
Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith said at the luncheon that he remembers being 15 when the Chaney-Schwerner-Goodman murders took place. He said he remembers many people in the community did nothing.
Several local pastors also attended the luncheon, including the Rev. Elvin Sunds of St. Joseph's and St. Patrick Catholic churches; the Rev. John Jacob of Grace Church in Collinsville; and the Rev. Gerald Hudson of New Chapel CME Church.
Jacob said Chaney's legacy will never be forgotten in Meridian.

Franklin County

PROGRESS 2024: Veteran Spotlight – Tony Chard

News

Car show benefit helps raise needed funds

News

Russellville High School varsity cheerleaders attend UCA cheer camp

Franklin County

NWSCC receives $18,000 in grants from Dollar General Literacy Foundation

News

Russellville equine therapy visits library program

News

Steam locomotive delivery to Red Bay delayed, arrives July 1

News

Local author holds book signing at RPL

Franklin County

Former Russellville resident performs ‘Miracle Worker’

News

Presenting: Miss Phil Campbell

Franklin County

All American Tang Soo Do students recognized

News

Russellville High School students sign to pursue fine arts careers

Franklin County

Football Funday, special needs probowl take place June 15

Galleries

PHOTOS: RMS students take the stage for spring sing

News

Russellville member named among finalists for GFWC Jennie Award

East Franklin

East Franklin Junior High celebrates May 21 graduation

Belgreen

Belgreen Class of 2024 celebrates graduation

Franklin County

Local churches plan Vacation Bible School programs

Galleries

PHOTOS: Tharptown High School Wildcats graduate

Galleries

PHOTOS: Phil Campbell High School students graduate

Franklin County

NEMCC announces more than 400 to spring vice president’s list

Franklin County

UNA releases spring dean’s, president’s lists

News

Roxy holds June 15 concert, plans other events

Franklin County

Free summer meal program available at Franklin County Schools

News

PHOTOS: Red Bay High School graduates celebrate

x