EDITORIAL/Three lives remembered
The murders of three young men, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in Neshoba County 57 years ago this month registering blacks to vote changed world history by propelling passage of the Civil Right Act in the United States Congress.
Chaney, 21, Goodman, 20, and Schwerner, 24, were remembered again here on Sunday at the church in the Longdale community the Ku Klux Klan burned to the ground looking for Schwerner, who had been in Mississippi that summer based out of Meridian.
“We should never forget these young men,” said Jewel McDonald, a senior in high school when the Klan burned her church. “We should always try to commemorate them each year. There should be something talked about or done each year for them. We should never forget. Never, ever, ever.”
Evelyn Calloway’s parents, Bud and Beatrice Cole, were severely beaten the night of the fire on June 16, 1964, and Mr. Cole was left impaired for the rest of his life.
“All she could do was pray,” Calloway said of her mother the night of the beating. “She prayed and she told them, ‘Will you let me pray?’ and one of the guys said, ‘Oh, woman, you can pray all you want to but it ain’t going to help you now.’”
Calloway said her mother fell on her knees and said, “‘Father, I stretch my hand to thee for the help I know. If I withdraw myself from thee where else could I go?’”
Calloway said after her mother said those words she heard someone in the crowd say, “Let him live.” As the men were leaving, Calloway said, they told her parents, “You better not tell anybody.”
Mayor James A. Young gave the welcome at the memorial on Sunday.
Young said it is important to hold the annual event as a reminder of not only the events of 1964 but also of the importance of voting.
“I reverence that day in remembrance of those young men whose lives were taken for the very reason of training, teaching people the importance of voting,” Young said. “We see it now more than ever of the systems trying to deny in some case voters privilege to vote or delay it. It reminds me it is an ongoing battle for equality and representation.
“That was a very severe case of hatred, animosity, whatever words you want to use to take someone’s lives simply because they were trying to get people to learn the importance of registering to vote.
“Also in today’s market, I cringe at the lackluster approach to voting that we see all over this nation and especially during local elections. There are so many reasons why people don’t go vote. Some say it doesn’t matter, my vote won’t count but it matters. It matters enough for those men to sacrifice, to lose their lives, trying to get the rural South and others to step up and be represented.
“It is more than just a program to me. It is a troubling reminder of the price that so many have paid that we might have the privilege that we have today. I dare not take that privilege or right lightly. I’m hoping it reminds us we all need to participate in our government.”
Our community remembers gratefully.