Seven-year-old De’Andre Cole stared in amazement at his great-grandfather’s picture displayed on the bulletin board in the front foyer of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church.

But instead of just looking into the face of Papaw Cole, the wide-eyed youngster was – for the first time in his young life – seeing his own very personal connection to the civil rights movement that 40 years ago changed Mississippi – and his family’s – history forever.

“I’ve been trying to explain to him about the movement. The younger generation today, they don’t have any idea what went on here back then,” Lavada Cole said, bear-hugging her great-grandson tightly before he wriggled loose to get a drink of water.

“He has seen this photo before, but when I was telling him the story earlier today, he made the connection for the first time, I think. I want to make sure he knows and understands what happened back in those days.”

Lavada Cole, who married into the Neshoba County family and moved back to Philadelphia with her husband in 1993, used the opportunity of the 40 anniversary commemoration of the Goodman-Schwerner-Chaney murders to tell the story of how Bud Cole was beaten by the Ku Klux Klan as he was leaving Mt. Zion after a finance meeting on June 16.

He was one of several church members injured that evening in the Klan’s “warning” not to have anything to do with the civil rights workers and their voter registration drive.

“If you mess around with them, we can’t help you,” the Klansmen reportedly warned.

Beatrice Cole prayed aloud while the Klansmen were beating her husband, “Father I stretch my hands to thee, no other help I know.
If thou withdraw thyself from me, where else can I go.”

Although his life was spared, Cole suffered permanent nerve damage to his back and his leg was 75 percent paralyzed as a result of the brutal attack.

“He walked with a limp for the rest of his life,” Cole’s daughter-in-law recalled Sunday. “He died with that limp.”

The Coles are buried in the Mt. Zion cemetery.

Reminding her grandson of a scene in a movie they’d watched together, she told him “that little boy was supposed to be him.”

She went on to explain that her father-in-law, who died just before De’Andre was born, was actually an adult when the beating occurred.
He wore a brace constantly because of the injuries he received and used a cane until he died.

“It wasn’t really him. It didn’t happened like that. He wasn’t a little boy when it happened, but they used it to tell the story,” she said.

A few minutes later, while his grandmother was busy ushering people to their seats in the small sanctuary, De’Andre walked up to a group of visitors standing near the church bulletin board.

Pointing to the cover of a civil rights history brochure posted just behind them, the youngster proudly announced, “That’s my papaw up there.”