Monday, January 10, 1966: The death of Vernon Dahmer

     HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- A Negro civil rights leader died in a hospital Monday of burns suffered in a predawn firebomb attack that destroyed his home and tiny store.
     Vernon Dahmer, 58, was burned, along with his wife and 10-year-old daughter, while fleeing the fire that destroyed their four-bedroom frame home near here early Monday.
     The attack came one day after Dahmer was identified in a radio broadcast as the leader of a voter registration drive in this area. He had long been active in the civil rights movement. 
     Dahmer was a past president of the Hattiesburg chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
     His daughter, Betty, 10, was listed in fair condition at the hospital. Mrs. Dahmer was treated and released. The couple's two sons, Harold, 26, and Dennis, 12, escaped injury.
     Deputy Sheriff T.A. Woodward said the fire was started by some type of firebomb thrown into the house. Tests may establish the type of bomb, officers said.
     Dahmer, who had talked to a newsman from his hospital bed after the attack, said he was awakened by gunshots around 2:30 a.m. He said he grabbed a shotgun and fired several blasts at a rapidly disappearing car before fleeing with his family from the house. 
     -- Associated Press

Photo from Winfred Moncrief Photograph Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History: @


July 4, 1964: Freedom Summer
     "The events of Freedom Summer were kicked off by a massive Independence Day party at Vernon Dahmer's farm in the Kelly Settlement, featuring a fish fry, band and opportunity for activists and hosts to get to know one another." -- from "Hattiesburg, Mississippi: A History of the Hub City" (Benjamin Morris, 2014): @
* Photos by Herbert Randall: @ (University of Southern Mississippi) and @ (Civil Rights Digital Library)
* Freedom Summer Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society: @
* Earlier blog post on Freedom Summer: @

January 10, 1966: Dahmer's death
* "Nightriders Kill Mississippi Negro" (United Press International, via New York Times): @
* "Rights Leader's Death Triggers Probe" (Associated Press): @
* "Negro Firebomb Victim Respected by Whites" (AP): @

February 1, 1966: Sam Bowers
     Ku Klux Klan leader Samuel Holloway Bowers Jr. of Laurel, Mississippi, testifies in Washington before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
* "Klan Chief Pleads 5th on Mississippi Killing" (UPI): @
* "Ku Klux Klan Probe Completed" (CQ Alamanac, 1966): @
* "Activities of Ku Klux Klan Organizations in the United States" (HUAC, February 1-4 and 7-11, 1966): @

March 28, 1966: Arrests
* "13 Klansmen Arrested in Hattiesburg, Miss. and Charged With Civil Rights Violations" (AP): @
* "Klan Chief Sought, Is Termed Dangerous" (AP): @

March 31, 1966: Bowers 
* "Klan Leader Surrenders to Authorities" (AP): @

February 27, 1967: Federal indictments in Goodman-Chaney-Schwerner deaths
* "18 Arrested in Mississippi Rights Killings" (AP): @

February 27, 1967: Federal indictments in Dahmer's death
* "Alleged Klan Chief Charged in Slaying" (UPI): @

October 20, 1967: Convictions in Goodman-Chaney-Schwerner deaths
* "7 Convicted in Mississippi" (AP): @
* "Mississippi Jury Convicts 7 of 18 in Rights Killings" (New York Times): @
* "The Mississippi Burning Trial" (Douglas O. Linder, University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law): @
* Earlier blog post on deaths: @

Booking photos of Sam Bowers (January 24, 1968) from Winfred Moncrief Photograph Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History: @

January 24, 1968: State indictments in Dahmer's death

* "10 Jailed in Firebomb Slaying" (AP): @

May 17, 1968: Bowers mistrial on arson charges
* "Mistrial Is Declared" (AP): @
* "Convicted Klan Chieftain Still Loose" (Los Angeles Times, August 1968): @
* "Klan Support Dwindling in Mississippi" (Los Angeles Times, August 1968): @

January 25, 1969: Bowers mistrial on murder charges
* "Bowers Awaits Jury's Verdict" (New Orleans Times-Picayune): @
* "Mistrial Ruled in Bowers Case" (Times-Picayune): @
* "Klan Chief's Case Ends Up In Mistrial" (Los Angeles Times): @

May 10, 1969: Mistrial for Bowers and others on conspiracy charges
* "Federal Jury Acquits Three of Conspiracy" (AP): @

July 25, 1969: Bowers mistrial on murder charges
* "Mistrial Ruled in Bowers Case" (AP): @
* "Bowers Gets His Fourth Mistrial" (AP): @

April 2, 1970: Bowers goes to prison for Goodman-Chaney-Schwerner deaths
* "Klansmen Begin Conspiracy Terms" (UPI): @

March 22, 1976: Bowers released from prison
* "Former Klan boss released" (AP): @

Photo of Civil Rights Memorial from Rainbow Studio: @

November 5, 1989: Civil Rights Memorial dedication in Montgomery, Alabama
* Memorial website: @

1991: Dahmer case reopened
* "3 cases: Justice delayed, justice pursued" (AP, 1991): @
* "Mississippi May Reopen Klan Killing" (New York Times, 1995): @

1992: Ellie Dahmer, widow of Vernon Dahmer, wins race for election commissioner in Forrest County 

March 17, 1998: Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission files made public
* "First look at secret files: Obsession with 'agitators' " (AP): @

May 28, 1998: Bowers charged with murder and arson
* "Murder charges revive the ghosts of a racist past" (New York Times): @

August 21, 1998: Bowers convicted
* "Jurors Convict Former Wizard in Klan Murder" (New York Times): @
* "Former Klan leader found guilty of ordering fatal firebombing in 1966" (AP): @
* "Ex-Klan Wizard Gets Life for 1966 Murder of Local Miss. NAACP Official" (Jet magazine): @

November 5, 2006: Bowers dies
* "Klan leader Bowers dies in prison" (AP): @
* "Samuel Bowers, 82, Klan Leader Convicted in Fatal Bombing, Dies" (New York Times): @

Vernon Dahmer gravesite, Shady Grove Baptist Church cemetery; words at bottom read "If you don't vote you don't count" (from Find a Grave: @)


* Southern Poverty Law Center: @
* One Person, One Vote Project: @ (Vernon Dahmer) and @ (Kelly Settlement)
* Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement: @
* FBI: @
* "The Jim Crow Encylopedia" (2008): @
* "Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement" (2014): @

Archives / collections
* Vernon F. Dahmer Collection (University of Southern Mississippi): @
* Civil Rights Digital Library: @
* The Weisberg Archive: @

* "Witness in Philadelphia" (Florence Mars, Lynn Eden, 1989): @
* "The Klan" (Patsy Sims, 1996): @
* "God's Long Summer: Stories of Faith and Civil Rights" (Charles Marsh, 1999): @
* "Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped the Modern South" (Curtis Wilkie, 2002): @
* "Divine Agitators: The Delta Ministry and Civil Rights in Mississippi" (Mark Newman, 2004): @
* "Backfire: How the Ku Klux Klan Helped the Civil Rights Movement" (David Mark Chalmers, 2005): @
* "The Legacy of a Freedom School" (Sandra Adickes, 2005): @ 
* "At Canaan's Edge: American in the King Years, 1965-68" (Taylor Branch, 2007): @
* "The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A History" (Michael Newton, 2010): @
* "Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote" (Gordon A. Martin, 2011): @
* "After the Dream: Black and White Southerners Since 1965" (Timothy J. Minchin, John A. Salmond, 2011): @
* "Racial Reckoning: Prosecuting America's Civil Rights Murders" (Renee C. Romano, 2014): @
* "Right to Revolt: The Crusade for Racial Justice in Mississippi's Central Piney Woods" (Patricia Michelle Boyett, 2015): @

Newspapers / magazines
* "Death in Mississippi" (The Crisis, February 1966): @
* "Confronting a Dark Past" (ABA Journal, June 1998): @
* "From the Fires of Hate, an Ember of Hope" (Washington Post, July 1998): @
* "Another Ghost of Mississippi Laid to Rest" (The Crisis, November 1998): @
* "Journey to Justice" (Jerry Mitchell, Jackson Clarion-Ledger): @

Oral histories
* Ellie Dahmer (1974): @
* Sam Bowers (1983-1984): @
* Hollis Watkins (1996): @
* Sandra Adickes (1999): @

* "The Family Origins of Vernon Dahmer, Civil Rights Activist" (Wilmer Watts Backstrom and Yvonne Bivins, 2009: @
* Historical marker: @
* Film clips (selection from eFootage): @
* Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: @

1 comment:

  1. So much injustice law breaking hateful disgusting acts. This is why I hang my head low when I say I am from MS.


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