Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Comment: Edgar Ray Killen and Richard Barrett - Grumpy Ole Boys

James Chaney your body exploded in pain,
And the beating they gave you is pounding my brain.
And they murdered much more with their dark bloody chains.
And the body of pity lies bleeding.
Tom Paxton, "Goodman and Schwerner and Chaney"

Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Ku Klux Klansman has been convicted of manslaughter in the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner.

The jury of nine whites and three blacks reached the verdict on their second day of deliberations, rejecting murder charges against Edgar Ray Killen.

On July 4, 2004, Killen was interviewed by Richard Barrett, the founder and leader of the Nationalist Movement, a white supremacist organization based in Learned, Mississippi.

Barrett is best known for staging well-publicized rallies, often following legal actions that uphold the group's free speech rights. It was Barrett who last year advertised that Killen would hand out leaflets at the state fair. Killen's wife, Betty Jo, later told reporters, "Richard Barrett wanted publicity and he got plenty".

During the interview, Killen was asked who he most admired. Killen replied,

"Big Jim" Eastland. I used to go to see him a lot. The security guards would always let me in. I got stopped for speeding on the way to his house one time and the patrolman just waved me through".

U.S. Sen. James O. "Big Jim" Eastland, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, boasted 30 years in office. Historian Robert Caro recorded Eastland, then the powerful chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as taking the lectern and calling blacks "African flesh eaters ... slimy, juicy, unbearably stinking niggers".

To Killen and others like him, Big Jim was a hero.

Killen likes to boast about his friendship with Eastland - and Eastland's power and influence.

"We would talk a lot and he would say that he would do anything he could for me. He was a powerful man and could bottle up laws that were wrong. He even told me that Bobby Kennedy once asked him to pick someone to succeed J. Edgar Hoover, because his brother was fixing to fire Hoover.

When "Big Jim" said that he was supporting Hoover, no matter what, Bobby came back and said that he gave in. Hoover stayed on".

Influential friends and promises of support, flow from Killen's poisoned tongue like the Mississippi. Violence it seems, is never far from him.

Barrett mentioned William Winter, former Democratic governor of Mississippi.

"William Winter was a major opponent of the flag, who got beaten badly".

Killen told his friend that,

"When he was running for office, Winter came up to me and told me that he was "on my side", but that he would have to keep it quiet. I asked his wife if he was a man of his word and she said, "Oh, yes". But, he was not. He was one of the worst we've ever had.

"Little Jimmy" Swan told me that if he [Swan] was elected and I ever needed a pardon, he would give it to me. Congressman Arthur Winstead, also, was a close friend, who would call me and back me up".

Barrett also raised the question of Killen's earlier trial, although there was no mention of murder, manslaughter or slaying.

"You were put on trial, once, over trying to keep Communists out of Mississippi".

In his usual style, the now convicted pastor replied,

"Old John Doar kept staring at me, like he was trying to look right through me. I stared right back at him and sent him a signal that made him mad. He was really mad when he could not convict me".

Barrett has little time for communists which may explain his reluctance to mention the violent deaths of three young men.

In a news conference at the Neshoba County Courthouse, on June 15, 2005, following opening arguments, Barrett compared the 1964 "Communist-invaders" to the 1775 Red-Coat invaders and called upon the world to stand with Mississippi in defense of home, blood, land and rights. When asked about the prospects for, "defeating Communism and integration," Killen quoted R. G. Lee, a Memphis preacher, "Payday's Coming".

Edgar Ray Killen. It's finally time for you to pay.

Full interview, photo and background The Edgar Ray Killen Interview