There’s no dateline on this column to note where it was written. Technically, it was done in Tupelo, but the column actually originated in Philadelphia.

My footprints are all over those red clay hills, from most of my 30 years in Neshoba County. As a Philadelphia native, I’ve also carried the town’s black eye with me wherever I’ve gone.

Countless times people have asked me about “Mississippi Burning” and what happened in 1964. Even though I was born 10 years after the fact, outsiders saw me as a should-be expert on one of the mysteries of the civil rights ‘60s.

I followed the Edgar Ray Killen trial with a concerned eye. It was my hometown under the microscope. They weren’t there for the famous Neshoba County Fair; the world media were there to cover the Killen trial. The shine Philadelphia bore was being seen in full color by millions.

The names tossed around were familiar, and they weren’t changed to protect my innocence. Very few reports shocked me. After getting kicked around for four decades, you get used to things.

Since the trial and the verdict, a lot of people who know my Neshoba roots have asked, “Do you think this will change race relations there?” and “Do you feel closure now that it is over?”

It’s a shame most of the national media covering the trial didn’t have the time to look at race relations in the county. I didn’t see race relations ever being a major issue unless people talked about what happened in 1964.

I don’t think Edgar Ray Killen’s going to jail will make race relations better or worse.

I feel confident I can go see Vincent Spencer, Pashen Thompson or Francisco Wilson and our relationship will be just fine. They are three black friends. We went to school together and we played ball together. Our common bond was age and friendship, not color.

As far as closure, I hope there is some for the family members of the slain civil rights workers. They’re the ones who truly deserve it. For those of us whose lives will always be a part of the community, there won’t ever be any.

I’m happy they convicted Edgar Ray Killen and I’m happy he won’t ever be a free man again. But the verdict does make me mad in a way.

It makes me mad because it took 41 years to get something done. And why did they just go after Edgar Ray Killen and not everybody else who was involved?

Edgar Ray Killen has gotten what he deserved for a long time. But the community of Philadelphia hasn’t gotten what it’s deserved in a long time.

It makes me mad that my hometown will always be known for “Mississippi Burning” and not for the Philadelphia I grew up with. The town I grew up with is one where folks still wave when they pass, where you don’t have to share blood to be family.

Here in a just a few weeks the Neshoba County Fair will be starting again. Like I have for three decades, I’m going to find a front porch and sit. The saying, “Home is where your heart is” is very true, and sometimes you have to get back home to heal a broken heart.

Mark Beason, a sportswriter for the Daily Journal, grew up in the Fork community in Neshoba County. Contact him at 678-1576 or