Sheriff's investigation rules out vandalism at historical marker
Wednesday, May 8, 2013 1:00 AM
A motorist apparently lost control of a vehicle on a county road and struck a civil rights historical marker, Neshoba County Sheriff Tommy Waddell said this week, although media reports initially suggested vandalism in the February incident.
The civil rights historical marker on Road 515 was apparently knocked down by a motorist who lost control of a vehicle in a curve, the sheriff said.
Media reports first surfaced in April suggesting the marker was vandalized, but Waddell told the Democrat Tuesday he investigated the incident himself when it occurred on or about Feb. 18.
Neshoba County NAACP President Leroy Clemons said this week he's satisfied with the Sheriff's investigation.
Another motorist called the Neshoba County Sheriff's Department to say they'd run over a sign in the middle of Mississippi 19, Waddell said, although no written report was made.
That motorist reported stopping and propping the broken sign against the sign post at the intersection of Road 515.
The historical marker commemorates the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers who were driven down the county road and shot at point-blank range by the Ku Klux Klan in a conspiracy that involved law enforcement because the trio was helping register blacks to vote.
"You could tell by the skid marks that the driver lost control of the vehicle in the curve, skidded 50 or 60 yards across the road, went into the ditch and hit the sign," the Sheriff said.
The sign was snapped off at the base.
Waddell said the sign was picked up by officials with the state Department of Transportation and taken to their Philadelphia headquarters.
"It could not be repaired," he said.
The vandalism was first reported on April 9 in The Clarion-Ledger by Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter, who wrote the sign had "been ripped down and stolen."
In Mitchell's report, Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi, said that "the steel pole was ripped apart. I mean they had to use a bulldozer - or total a truck or something."
The Democrat on April 17 reported the sign had been vandalized based on an interview with Clemons.
The damaged sign has also attracted the attention of the national news media this week.
Clemons said Monday that he had discussed the investigation with the Sheriff and was satisfied with his report.
Clemons said he took civil rights groups to the historic marker on Feb. 16 and 17.
"I got a call the next morning that the sign had been broken," he said.
"The sign will be replaced."