4/28/2004 6:00:00 PM Missing auto of trio
found by FBI Tuesday (1964)
June 25, 1964
The car driven by three integrationists who disappeared after being arrested last Sunday night here has been found by Federal Bureau of Investigation officers about 13 miles from Philadelphia, in the northeast corner of Neshoba County.
The car, a 1963 or 1964 Ford station wagon, was located in heavy sweetgum growth on Highway 21, about 100 feet from the Bogue Chitto creek and about 100 feet off the highway. The station wagon had been burned.
The whereabouts of the three persons arrested in the car Sunday night, Andy Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, both white, of New York, and Negro James Chaney, 21, of Meridian, is still unknown. FBI agents, the Mississippi Highway Patrol and the Neshoba County Sheriff’s office are continuing the search for the three who were arrested for speeding Sunday night about 6:00 o’clock and fined $20.00. Chaney was driving the car when stopped by [a sheriff’s deputy]. The three paid the fine and were released about 10:30 p.m., said [the deputy].
He said they signed a release slip at the county jail and that he followed them to the intersection of Main Street and Highway 19, the route to Meridian, from where the trio had come Sunday. The two New Yorkers and Meridianite said they were here to investigate the burning of the Mt. Zion Negro church last Tuesday night.
The search for the three has been underway since they were reported missing by the Congress of Federated Organizations (COFO) in New York Monday morning. It has not been established yet what caused the church to burn. Three Negroes were reported to have been beaten by about 300 white persons the same night, but no report was made to local law enforcement officers, either about the fire or the beatings. The church is located about 12 miles east of Philadelphia near the Longdale community which is predominantly Negro.
After finding the burned station wagon about 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, the FBI roped off the area and took every clue from the car and area which might give them a clue as to what might have happened to the three occupants. Impressions of footprints near the car were made and the contents of the burned car were carefully collected by the agents. They would not reveal how they found the vehicle or what led them to its location. Rumors were that a passerby found it and reported it to the Meridian office of the FBI. There were other rumors that a helicopter located it and still another was that a resident in the area notified the officers.
At one time there were between 12 and 15 FBI agents investigating the car and immediate area. After they were through scrutinizing the vehicle, about 5:30 p.m., they started a search in the area for the three missing men. However, it was becoming cloudy and rain started to fall and most of them came back to their autos on the highway.
The automobile had a Hinds County tag, number H25503, and was reported to be registered to CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) in Canton.
Neshoba County Sheriff Lawrence Rainey was not present when the trio was arrested. He was in Meridian where his wife had undergone an operation a few days before.
Out-of-town and out-of-state newsmen began pouring into Philadelphia Monday and continued through yesterday, (Wednesday). Among them were reporters from the Associated Press, United Press-International, the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Times, Newsweek, Life, CBS and NBC television, WDSU-TV New Orleans and several others.
The two missing white men are both from New York, Goodman from Queens and Schwerner from Brooklyn. Schwerner has been in Meridian for about six months, it was reported, while Goodman is a “student volunteer” who had been in Meridian for only a few days. Chaney is a resident of Meridian. The city of Meridian is one of the centers in the state from which the COFO has headquarters for the summer.
Mississippi Highway patrolmen started pouring into Philadelphia Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday there was an estimated 200 in the area. Negro James Farmer, national director of CORE, of Washington, D.C., was expected in Meridian Tuesday night, it was reported, to help with the investigation. Just what authority he has or would have was not learned.
The search for the missing trio continues in the county, with the FBI, Highway Patrol and local officers centering their activities Wednesday afternoon in the area where the car was found and between Philadelphia and Meridian on Highway 19.