Appointments to a broad-based, tri-racial task force planning the 40th anniversary commemoration of the 1964 civil rights murders remain open, organizers said.

Meanwhile, a tourism committee is planning an art contest for students to depict that era in conjunction with a brochure that is being planned. (See stories, pages 8A and 10A.)

A number of slots on the 40th anniversary task force have been filled with African-Americans and white males, but white females and Choctaw Indians are needed, said Leroy Clemons and Jim Prince, co-chairmen of the task force.

Those who are interested in serving should call Sally Beam at the Community Development Partnership, 601-656-1000, to submit their names.

Additionally, volunteers will be needed to fill committees that will handle details of the commemoration planned Sunday, June 20, organizers said.

Three civil rights workers were murdered in Neshoba County by the Ku Klux Klan on June 21, 1964, after they came here to investigate the burning of Mt. Zion Methodist Church.

As many as 3,000 people are expected to be here to mark the anniversary, said John Steele, a Neshoba County native living in California who has helped plan commemorations at Mt. Zion in the past.

Jewel McDonald, who has worked on the memorial committee at Mt. Zion as well, said she was encouraged by the progress being made with the task force.

McDonald said organizers want to “try and show Neshoba County proud. I think it’s going quite well. We just have to get a little more organized,” she said, noting that additional members would be selected in the near future.

“It’s not an all black committee. We’re trying to get more ladies, more white ladies that are willing to help. We can work together. We can do things together. We don’t want all this history lost. Whether it’s good or bad, it’s history,” she said.

She has fielded several calls from people wanting to get on the program.

“We’re going to have to get together and set a limit for speakers or we’ll never finish, even if we started at 9 a.m.,” she said.

A group of six community leaders met on March 15 to discuss the anniversary.

There was unanimous consent that a broad-based task force should be formed and would offer assistance to the Mt. Zion planning committee. The full resources of city, county and tribal governments were committed to the effort.

The task force — in conjunction with the Mt. Zion committee — is charged with helping to plan the public commemoration, to study an appropriate public memorial to the civil rights workers in Neshoba County and to establish a perpetual structure that would foster racial harmony and reconciliation.

Meeting were: Leroy Clemons, head of the Neshoba County NAACP and a host at Pearl River Resort; Stanley Dearman, editor and publisher emeritus of The Neshoba Democrat; Jim Prince, editor and publisher of The Neshoba Democrat; David Vowell, president of the Community Development Partnership; Philadelphia Mayor Rayburn Waddell and James Young, president of the Board of Supervisors.

In a telephone consultation before the meeting, Choctaw Indian Tribal Chief Phillip Martin offered his support.

Dick Molpus, former Secretary of State and a Philadelphia native, joined by teleconference from Jackson.

Meeting with the initial group on Monday and appointed to the task force were: Elsie Kirksey, McDonald, Jennifer Hathorn and Cecil Hooker.

Also appointed were: Eva Tisdale, Fenton DeWeese and Nettie A. Moore Cox.

The task force is modeled after a 30-member committee that planned a 1989 commemoration.