Wednesday, October 6, 2004
With all the talk about boycotts and protests against Richard Barrett's white-supremacist booth at the Mississippi State Fair, it was his own guest Edgar Ray Killen who stopped the plan cold.
The plan started unraveling last week after Betty Jo Killen—the wife of accused murder conspirator Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen—said that the booth was all Barrett's idea and that her husband had not agreed to appear at the fair with Barrett to solicit signatures in his support. "This is his (Barrett's) red wagon," she said in a phone interview Friday. "We are not coming to the Fair, and that is final!"
In the 1967 trial for conspiracy to violate the civil rights of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, Killen narrowly escaped (by one vote) doing time in federal prison. Accused of orchestrating the crime on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan and then leaving while others carried it out, Killen's alibi then was that he was at the funeral home. According to the sworn confession of Klansman Horace Doyle Barnette, of Meridian, Killen—a KKK "Kleagle"—had told him on June 21, 1964, just hours before the murders while the three men were being held in the local jail: "We have a place to bury them, and a man to run the dozer to cover them up." The men's bodies were found 44 days later buried under a red-clay dam.
The lone juror who held out then, resulting in a hung jury, said she could never vote to convict a preacher. That mistrial does not mean that Killen cannot be tried by the state and county now for the murders. The state and county have never brought a single charge in the case.
Barrett told the JFP that he cannot understand why Killen or his wife would say that he had not agreed to be at the fair. "In fact," Barrett said, "he (Killen) said that he would come out to the booth more than once." But after Mrs. Killen's announcement, Barrett made a formal request to cancel the booth. He said a fair commission representative came to his house to have him to sign the agreement saying that he would not come to the fair. "I think they were just as excited for me not to be at the fair as I was to be there," Barrett said.
Since Killen's wife made her statement, Barrett has not been able to talk to them. "Before this," he said, "Preacher Killen invited me to his church and to a gospel concert. Now they won't talk to me." Killen's wife does confirm that Barrett had been to the church but said that he did not tell her husband anything about the fair scheme until after the fact.
Barrett also said that he has nothing but kind things to say about "Preacher Killen" and his wife. Though Barrett said he does not know why they have decided not to come, he suspects that "it is like a drowning person. Sometimes they will fight the person trying to save them. Go figure," Barrett said, chuckling.
Mayor Harvey Johnson said in a faxed statement that he was pleased with the cancellation: "So many people were upset and outraged by the divisive message of hate this booth would have bought, and the public safety issue was a real concern of mine."
Barrett said he now plans to promote his petition through his Web site. Instead of Edgar Ray Killen, he will be petitioning in favor of the sixth and seventh amendments, which he told the JFP he believes would protect Preacher Killen from being tried again using the same set of facts, even in a different court and for a different charge.
Sheriff Malcolm McMillin still plans to collect signatures at his fair booth calling for the prosecution of Killen and other conspirators. Working with Webmaster Knol Aust, the JFP has collected 591 names, to date, in support of prosecution on the Fahrenheit601.com Web site.
Great! I know many of my show's listeners called the state fair organizers office to express their disgust at this twisted display of racism and insensitivity! Rubbage belongs in the dumpster, not at the State Fair!
- Toi of Harambee Radio