Who's Who in the Emmett Till Case
This page will be updated regularly as I do more research on these, and perhaps other players in the Emmett Till case as I discover them. I also understand that there will be some errors of fact that may be unavoidable at this stage. If you have pertinent information on anyone below, or know of people I may have overlooked, please contact me with that information. This page was last updated on April 13, 2018.
I have listed people with the names they had at the time of the Emmett Till murder and trial.
Abbey, Richard Huntington “R. H.” (1891–1986) was a member of the eighteen-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He married Mary Ellen McGavock in 1925.
Adams, Olive Arnold (1912–2016 ) was the author of an investigative work titled Time Bomb: Mississippi Exposed and the Full Story of Emmett Till, published within two weeks of the article in Look that featured the an account of Till's murder supplied by J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Details in Adams’s work differed drastically from the Look piece. She was the wife of Julius J. Adams, publisher of the New York Age Defender. In 2008, when she was ninety-five, two paraphrases from her operetta, Santa Claus and Unicorn were arranged by pianist Vladimar Shinov and performed at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She died at age 103.
Allison, Lee Russell (1915–1964) lived in Glendora, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for J. W. Milam in the Milam–Bryant murder trial. He married Verda Louise Coleman in 1940.
Armstrong, Howard (1919–1993) served on the jury in the Milam–Bryant murder trial. At the time of the trial, he was a farmer living in Enid, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He married Jane Helms in 1942 in Charleston, Tallahatchie County.
Bell, Charles (1927–1984) was a member of the eighteen-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Billingsley, Walter (c. 1923–?) was slated as a witness for the prosecution in the Milam–Bryant murder trial, but was not called to testify. He was a milkman on the Sturdivant plantation near Drew, Sunflower County, Mississippi, and heard the sounds of the beating in the barn on the morning after Emmett Till was kidnapped in Money. This plantation was managed my Leslie Milam, brother of J. W. Milam and half brother to Roy Bryant. He was supposed to testify at the trial but at the last minute, told prosecutors that he did not see or hear anything. His life after the trial remains unknown at present.
Black, Herbert “H. T.” (1914–1988) was a member of the eighteen-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He served as a corporal in the US Army during World War II.
Black, Joseph (1925–1976) was a member of the eighteen-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He served as a staff sergeant in the US Air Force during World War II.
Booker, Simeon S. (1918–2017 ) was a correspondent for Jet magazine from 1955 until his retirement in 2007. He covered the Milam–Bryant murder trial for that publication and soon after published his “Negro Reporter at the Till Trial” in the Nieman Reports. He had earlier won the Harvard Nieman Fellowship and then in 1952 became the first black reporter to work for the Washington Post, where he stayed until 1955. He was also the first black to win the National Press Club’s Fourth Estate Award. He was educated at Virginia Union University, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in 1942. He afterward attended Harvard University. He is also the recipient of the Washington Association of Black Journalists, Career Achievement Award (1993), the National Black Media Coalition, Master Communicators Award (1999), and the WABJ Lifetime Achievement Award (2000).
Boyack, James E. (1902–1966) was a white journalist who covered the Milam–Bryant murder trial for the black newspaper, the Pittsburgh Courier. He was born in Greenwich, England, and later worked in public relations in New York. He was a freelance writer at the time of the Till murder.
Boyce, L. W. (?–?) lived in Glendora, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for J. W. Milam in the Milam–Bryant murder trial.
Bradley, Amanda (c.1905–?) lived on the Sturdivant plantation near Drew, Sunflower County, Mississippi at the time of the Emmett Till murder. This plantation was managed my Leslie Milam, brother of J. W. Milam and half brother to Roy Bryant. As one of the surprise witnesses gathered by the prosecution, she testified at the murder trial that she saw four white men entering and exiting a barn on the plantation the morning after Emmett was abducted. She also saw a truck outside of the barn. After the trial she, like most of the other black witnesses, moved from Mississippi to Chicago. She is rumored to have moved back to Mississippi before her death, but her whereabouts after 1956 remain unknown. A granddaughter believes she died sometime in the 1960s.
Bradley, Mamie Elizabeth Carthan Till (1921–2003) was the mother of Emmett Louis Till. She was born to Wiley Nash and Alma Smith Carthan in Webb, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. When she was two years old, the family migrated north to Argo, Cook County, Illinois, a racially mixed community near Chicago. From 1936–1941 she was employed as a domestic worker; from 1941–1943 she worked for the Coffey School of Aeronautics, and from 1953–1956 she was employed by the Federal Government, in charge of confidential Air Force files. She married Louis Till in 1940 and gave birth to her only son, Emmett, in 1941. She and Louis later separated but were never divorced. Louis, later serving in the army in Italy, was executed in 1945. Mamie married a second husband, Lemorse Mallory, on August 19, 1946, but they later divorced. After moving to Detroit, she married Pink Bradley on May 5, 1951, but that marriage also failed. On June 24, 1957, she married Gennie Mobley, and this time, she found a love that lasted. In 1956 she entered the Chicago Teacher’s College, where she graduated Cum Laude in 1960. She taught in Chicago schools until her retirement in 1983. During her years as a teacher, she earned a master’s degree in Administration and Supervision at Loyola University. In 1973, she trained the first group of children, who would become the Emmett Till Players, to recite speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She continued to speak and push for justice in her son’s slaying up until the time of her death, during which time she served as president of the Emmett Till Foundation. She also co-authored a play with David Barr, The State of Mississippi vs Emmett Till, which was performed in such cities as Chicago, Los Angeles and San Diego beginning in 1999. She also co-authored her own memoirs with Christopher Benson, Death of Innocence: The Hate Crime That Changed America, published soon after her death in 2003.
Breland, Jesse Josiah “J. J.” (1888–1969) was one of five defense attorneys representing Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam in their murder trial. He was a graduate of Princeton University and began to practice law in Sumner, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi in 1915. He married Sue H. Savage in 1917 in Sumner. He later went on to become Tallahatchie County chairman of the Republican Party.
Broadway, William Henry, Jr., “June” (1907–1957) was the foreman of the grand jury that met in Greenwood, Mississippi in November, 1955, to consider kidnap charges against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. The grand jury returned a no true bill and therefore, all charges against Milam and Bryant were dropped. He committed suicide on a plantation in Mississippi where he was a supervisor. Some family members dispute that he actually took his own life and believe he may have been murdered.
Brownell, Herbert, Jr. (1904–1996) was United States attorney general at the time of the Emmett Till murder, and recipient of a telegram from NAACP attorney William Henry Huff urging the federal government to conduct a complete investigation into the killing. He received intense pressure from groups, individuals, and from those at rallies to bring justice to the case, especially after the acquittal of the defendants in the murder trial. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1927 and was admitted to the New York bar, and practiced law in New York City. He also served three terms in the New York assembly from 1933–1937. In 1944 and 1948 he served as campaign manager for Republican presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. As attorney general he filed the first desegregation suits that followed the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas and drafted the legislative proposal that became the Civil Rights Act of 1957.
Bryant, Carolyn (1934– ) was born in Indianola, Sunflower County, Mississippi. She won two beauty contests in two different high schools, and at age seventeen, left school to marry Roy Bryant on April 25, 1951. She was the target of the “wolf whistle” by Emmett Till while she was running the counter at the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market on August 24, 1955, in Money, Leflore County, Mississippi. She testified during the murder trial that on the occasion of the whistle, “a Negro man” entered the store, grabbed her, asked her for a date, and used various obscenities. Judge Curtis Swango decided that her court testimony of the incident inside the store was not admissible before the jury and so they never heard it. She admitted in 2008 that this part of her testimony (that Till grabbed her) was not true. She had already borne two sons with Roy Bryant by the time of the trial, and later bore a third son and a daughter. The store in Money closed soon after the murder trial, and the family later moved to East Texas and then to Vinton, Louisiana. They returned to Mississippi in 1973. She and Roy Bryant divorced in 1975. She married Griffin Chandler in 1984, and after his death in 1988, she David Donham. She lived for several years in Greenville, Mississippi. She was a major focus of the 2004–2005 investigation by the FBI as a possible accomplice in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till, but there was not evidence to support that and in February 2007 a grand jury failed to indict her. After the death of her son Frank in 2010 she left Mississippi. She suffers from rheumatoid arthritis and lives with her son, Thomas Lamar, in Raleigh, North Carolina
Bryant, Roy (1931–1994) was one of the accused killers of Emmett Till. He was born a twin in Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi to Henry and Eula Lee Morgan Milam Bryant. He attended the Baptist church in Charleston as a child, and for a time lived in Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County. He later spent three years in the military as a paratrooper (1950-53). He married Carolyn Holloway on April 25, 1951, and the couple had three sons and a daughter. After the murder trial, due to black boycotting of his store, he was forced to close the business. Around this time he and J. W. Milam sold their story confessing to the murder of Emmett Till, to reporter William Bradford Huie for $3,150, and it was published in Look magazine in January 1956. In 1956 he went to the Bell Machine Shop in Inverness, Mississippi, and learned welding with the help of the G. I. Bill. He worked as a welder and boilermaker for 16 years in East Texas and Louisiana. He and his family then moved to Ruleville, Sunflower County, Mississippi, in 1973, and Bryant lived there until his death. Legally blind as a result of his years as a welder, he came to own another general store in Ruleville, which he ran until it burned down in 1989. As his store in Money three decades earlier, the Ruleville establishment catered mainly to a black clientele. He and Carolyn divorced in 1979 and he married Vera Joe Orman in 1980. In 1983, while running his grocery store, he was indicted for buying food stamps for less than their value and then selling them at full price to the government. He plead guilty to two counts of food stamp fraud, but due to the pleas of his attorney, he was sentenced to only three years probation and a $750.00 fine. Four years later, however, he was again charged with food stamp fraud and was sentenced to two years in prison. However, he was released after only eight months. The Till case was not discussed in the court in either conviction, and both times, he received the minimum sentence because his attorney argued for leniency. Bryant had been “a good citizen,” the attorney argued Toward the end of his life he spent most of his time at home, but sold watermelon and other fruit at a stand along the road in Ruleville in the summertime. Plagued with health problems, he nearly lost his feet due to diabetes and eventually died of cancer at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.
Caldwell, James Hamilton, Jr. (1898–1962) was one of three members of the prosecuting team representing the state of Mississippi at the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was married to Sarah Petterson, and at the time of the trial he was recovering from a heart attack and was unable to bear much of the responsibility of the prosecution team. He had initially opposed the grand jury indictment, stating his belief that “the case was lost from the start.” Unfortunately, he drowned seven years after the trial.
Caldwell, Nathan T. (1902–1986) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Campbell, Maybelle (c. 1903–?) was Emmett Till’s school teacher at McCosh Elementary School in Chicago, and spoke at his funeral on September 3, 1955. She called him “a fine upstanding pupil.”
Campbell, Melvin L. (1925–1972) was a brother-in-law to J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, and according to the recent FBI investigation, was with Milam and Bryant when Emmett Till was kidnapped and murdered. He married Mary Louise Bryant on August 26, 1948 in Tallahatchie County Mississippi, and at the time of the Emmett Till murder, he and his wife owned a small store in Minter City, Leflore County, Mississippi. According to the FBI report of their interview with Mary Louise, Campbell told his wife of his involvement in the crime.
Carey, Archibald (1908–1981) was a speaker at the Emmett Till funeral. He had been elected twice as a Chicago alderman from 1947-55, and in 1951 was appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower as the first black to serve as chair of the President’s Committee on Government Employment Policy. From 1953-56 he served as a delegate to the United Nations. He was also the pastor of Quinn Chapel AME church in Chicago, and a graduate of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. He served as a circuit judge from 1966-1979. His speech at the 1952 Republican National Convention served in part (the words “Let Freedom Ring”) as inspiration for phrases in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered during the August 28, 1963 March on Washington.
Carlton, Caleb Sidney (1915–1968) was one of five defense attorneys representing Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam at their murder trial. He was admitted to the bar in 1939 and began practicing law in Sumner, Mississippi in 1945. He later became president of the Mississippi Bar Association.
Carter, Hodding (1907–1972) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Delta-Democrat Times, which he founded by merger in 1938. He remained with the paper as editor and publisher until the mid 1960s. He received a B.A. from Bowdoin College in 1927 and did graduate work in journalism at Columbia University. He was awarded a Neiman Fellowship at Harvard in 1940 and later that year helped found the daily PM. During WWI, he served in the Mississippi National Guard. He was a progressive journalist and known as the “Spokesman for the New South.” In 1946 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorials against segregation and racist injustice, and was censured in 1955 by the Mississippi legislature for his criticisms of the White Citizens Councils. He was the author of numerous books
Carthan, Wiley Nash “John” (1902–1969) was the father of Mamie Till-Mobley and grandfather of Emmett Till. He was born in Mississippi and lived there until moving to Argo, Cook County, Illinois with his wife and daughter in 1924. He worked for Corn Products in Argo until his divorce from Alma Smith Carthan in the early 1930s. He later moved to Detroit, Michigan and remarried. His relationship with Mamie was an estranged one until she and Emmett moved briefly to Detroit and in with the Carthans around 1950. He accompanied Mamie to the murder trial in Mississippi in August 1955, providing emotional support during that difficult week. He died at the home of his brother Emmett Carthan while visiting his relatives in Argo and Chicago. He went by the name of John Carthan by the time of the trial.
Chancellor, John (1927–1996) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial as a national reporter for NBC. Two years later, he also reported on the desegregation of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas. He came to NBC in 1950 after two years with the Chicago Sun-Times and worked as a correspondent on the Huntley-Brinkley Report. He became host of the Today Show in 1961 and later served as director of Voice of America from 1965-1967. He was head anchor on the NBC Nightly News from 1970 until his retirement in 1982. He was the sole anchor for most of his tenure.
Chatham, Gerald (1906–1956) was the district attorney who prosecuted J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in their murder trial. He had practiced law in the district since 1931. He had also served as a state representative, county superintendent of education, and county prosecuting attorney before he was elected district attorney in 1942. He held that office until 1956. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack at home one year after the trial in Sumner. His family blames his health issues on stress related to the Till case.
Clark, Hubert (1920–1972) was alleged to have been involved in the murder and kidnapping of Emmett Till. According to the 2004-2006 FBI investigation, this claim originated in reports issued in 1955 as well as being confirmed by J. W. Milam several years later in a conversation with a friend. Clark was a World War II veteran. He married Francis Norene Mitchell in 1939.
Cole, Gwin (1918–2008) was an identification officer for the Mississippi Highway Patrol. He was one of the investigators appointed by governor Hugh White to Drew, Sunflower County, Mississippi to examine the shed on the Shurden plantation where, according to witnesses, Emmett Till was alleged to have been beaten. When questioned about his role in this investigation in the late 1990s, Cole had no recollection of the case.
Coleman, James Plemon “J. P.” (1914–1991) was Mississippi Governor Elect at the time of the Milam-Bryant murder trial and assigned his own special agent, Robert Smith, to aid the prosecution. Prior to his election as governor, he had been an aid to a U. S. congressman, and served as district attorney, circuit judge, state attorney general, and justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court. As governor, he was successful in maintaining racial segregation in Mississippi. After his term as governor ended, he was elected to the state House of Representatives. He ran for governor again in 1963 but lost. In 1965 he was appointed to the United State’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and held the rank of chief judge from 1979 to 1981. He retired from the fifth circuit in 1984.
Collins, Levy “Too Tight” (1935–1992) has been tied to the murder of Emmett Till by various witnesses. At the time of the murder, he was employed by J. W. Milam, and was allegedly in the truck the morning Emmett was taken to the Shurden plantation near Drew, Sunflower County, Mississippi. Investigators learned that to prevent him from witnessing in court, Sheriff H. C. Strider placed him in jail elsewhere in Tallahatchie County under a false name. In an interview published in the Chicago Defender shortly after the trial, he denied any involvement with the murder. Later in life, he was working in a cotton compress warehouse in Drew.
Cothran, John Ed (1914–2008) was deputy sheriff to Leflore County sheriff George Smith. He arrested J. W. Milam on charges of kidnapping Emmett Till and was a witness for the prosecution at the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He later served as sheriff of Leflore County from 1960-1964. He later lived in Moorhead, Mississippi, where he was questioned by the FBI during the course of its 2004-2006 investigation. He could not provide them with details, having forgotten much about the case, but did remember the events leading to Milam’s arrest.
Crawford, John (1933– ) was one of several youths who was with Emmett Till in the evening before his kidnapping. He is the brother of Roosevelt Crawford and uncle of Ruth Crawford, two of the local teenagers who witnessed the incident at the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market. He currently lives in Detroit, Michigan.
Crawford, Roosevelt (1939– ) was one of several youths with Emmett Till who went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market on August 25, 1955, when the incident between Emmett and Carolyn Bryant occurred. He maintains that Till did not whistle at Bryant but that Till was responding to a bad move made by a checker player on the porch. He is the brother of John Crawford, who was with Till on the day he was kidnapped, and uncle of Ruth Crawford, who was also present at the store when Till whistled. He currently lives in Detroit, Michigan.
Crawford, Ruth Mae (1937– ) was one of several youths with Emmett Till who went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market on August 25, 1955, when the incident between Emmett and Carolyn Bryant occurred. Speaking publicly for the first time in Keith Beauchamp’s film The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, she says she watched Till through a window and that all Till did to upset Bryant while in the store was place his money in her hand, rather than on the counter. She is the niece of Roosevelt Crawford, who was also present that evening, and John Crawford. She lives in Greenwood, Mississippi.
Daley, Richard J. (1902–1976) was the mayor of Chicago at the time of the Emmett Till murder, and spoke out publicly against the killing. He sent a telegram to President Dwight D. Eisenhower asking that “all the facilities of the federal government be immediately utilized so that the ends of justice may be served.” His tenure as mayor began in 1955 and ended with his death twenty-one years later. He attended DePaul University and graduated with a degree in law in 1934, but because of his immediate election to the Illinois state legislature, he never practiced. In 1968 he hosted the Democratic National Convention.
Desmond, James (1908–1968) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the New York Daily News. He began his career working for the Associated Press and other news organizations. He was well-known at the Daily News for his “Albany Line” column, which served to analyze New York politics. He was the author of the 1964 book, Nelson Rockefeller: A Political Biography.
Devaney, Ed (1881–1957) served on the jury in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. At 74, he was the oldest member of the jury. He lived in Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and was a retired carpenter.
Diggs, Charles, Jr. (1922–1998) was the African-American congressman from Michigan who attended the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He worked in his family mortuary business before being elected to the Michigan state senate in 1951. He was later elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1955 and served until resigning in 1980. In 1978 he was charged with diverting $60,000 in office operating funds to pay his own expenses. He was convicted and served seven months in prison. Despite his conviction, he was re-elected to his office. He did appeal his conviction, but was censured by the House and stripped of his committee membership before his resignation. After leaving congress, he opened a funeral home in Maryland and earned a degree in political science.
Dogan, Harry H. (1895–1959) was Tallahatchie County sheriff-elect at the time of the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He served from 1956-1960. He allegedly helped pick jurors for the trial that would likely favor an acquittal of the accused. According to one of the defense attorneys, Dogan sent word to the jurors while they were deliberating to stall the verdict in order to make it “look good.” He died in office during this, his fifth term as sheriff.
Duke, Grover (1924–1982) lived in Money, Leflore County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for Roy Bryant in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He worked for the railroad, lived across from the Bryant store in Money, and is the father of singer-songwriter, Roby Duke (who died on December 26, 2007).
Dyess, Claude Vernon “C. V.” (1923–1965) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He was in the fighter control squad in World War II.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1890–1969) was president of the United States at the time of the Emmett Till murder. He received several telegrams after the murder encouraging him to intervene to assure that justice would prevail in the case. He made no public statements regarding the case and failed to respond to the telegram of Mamie Bradley, Emmett’s mother. He first rose to fame as commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II, and led the US invasion of North Africa and the D-Day invasion of France. Later as president, he ended the Korean War with an armistice. Although personally opposed to the Brown v Board of Education decision, in 1957 he sent federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce integration of Central High School.
Evers, Medgar (1925–1963) was field secretary for the Mississippi chapter of the NAACP at the time of the Emmett Till murder. He, with other NAACP officials, helped to seek out witnesses for the trial. He was inducted into the army in 1943 and served in Normandy. He attended Alcorn College (now Alcorn University), where he met his wife to be, Myrlie Beasley. The two were married on December 24, 1951. The following semester, he graduated with a degree in business administration. They moved to Mound Bayou, where he worked as an insurance agent until 1954, and was active in the NAACP and in civil rights activities. He applied for, and was denied entrance into the University of Mississippi Law School. He moved his family to Jackson, where he and Myrlie set up the office of the NAACP and began investigations into violent crimes perpetrated against blacks. His work to bring down segregation made him many enemies, and late in the evening on June 12, 1963, he was gunned down in his driveway as he returned home. His killer, Byron De La Beckwith, was tried twice in 1964 and set free due to two hung juries. Beckwith was finally convicted in 1994 and died in prison.
Falls, Jerry (1905–1979) was the foreman of the 18-man Tallahatchie county grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He married Elizabeth Garner in 1934 and was one of the wealthiest men in Tallahatchie County.
Featherston, James Shoaf (1923–2000) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Jackson Daily News. He later worked for the Dallas Times Herald from 1962-1970, and went on to teach journalism at Louisiana State University from 1970-1994. His began his career in journalism with the Vicksburg Herald in 1951, and his coverage of a 1953 tornado in there won the staff of the paper a Pulitzer Prize.
Fedric, Eugene C. (1917–2005) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Ford, Louis Henry (1914–1995) was the bishop who preached Emmett Till’s funeral sermon. He was also the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ and the namesake of the Bishop Ford Freeway in Chicago. He began his ministry in 1926, and became national director of public relations for the Church of God in Christ in 1945. He was elevated to the position of assistant presiding bishop in 1972 and in 1990, became presiding bishop. A graduate of Saints College in Lexington. Mississippi, he moved to Chicago in 1933. In 1963 he founded the St. Paul Church of God in Christ, and later the C. H. Mason and William Roberts Bible Institute for Bible Studies.
Frasier, John, Jr. (?–?) was a Leflore County prosecutor who worked on the kidnapping case against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. The kidnapping occurred in Leflore County.
Garrett, Simon (1924–2007) was a funeral home assistant to Chester Miller at the Century Burial Association and assisted in bringing the body of Emmett Till to Greenwood after it was retrieved from the Tallahatchie River. He pulled a ring off of Till’s finger that was later used to identify the body. He lived in Greenwood, Mississippi until the time of his death.
Gunter, John (?–?) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
Halberstam, David (1934–2007) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the West Point Daily Times Leader while a reporter living in Mississippi. A 1955 graduate of Harvard, he later worked for the Nashville Tennessean from 1956 to 1960, and as a New York Times staff writer from 1960 to 1967. In 1964 he shared the Pulitzer Prize and George Polk award for foreign reporting. In 1967 he became a contributing reporter for Harper's. He authored several books, including The Fifties (1993), which details the Emmett Till case. He was killed in a car accident in California while researching a new book. A book he completed before his death, The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War was released in September 2007.
Hall, Robert F. (1906–1993) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Communist Daily Worker. He began his career in journalism at age 11 as a cub reporter and printer’s assistant for the Mobile Register and the Mobile News Item. He worked for several newspapers before entering the University of Alabama, which he attended for one year. He later enrolled at Columbia University during the Great Depression. At this time, he sought an alternative to Capitalism, and joined the Communist Party and became editor of their student paper, The Student Review. He joined the Daily Worker in 1945 and left in 1956 due the revelations about Stalin’s atrocities during World War II. He moved to New York that year and became a member of the Republican Party. He became editor of the Valley News, and later began publishing his own Warrensburg News. In 1962 he founded Adirondack Life Magazine. In 1969 he was appointed by Governor Nelson Rockefeller to serve on the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks, and a year later was appointed the editor of The Conservationist. He published three books of essays, and was active in civil and community organizations.
Havens, Willie D. (1904–1998) served as the alternate juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He married Mamie Glover in Charleston, Tallahatchie County in 1929. As an alternate, he was dismissed from the jury by Judge Curtis Swango before it retired to the jury room to deliberate. He was a carpenter living in Charleston.
Haynes, Goldie (1913–1989) was an evangelist who sang a solo, “I Don’t Know Why I Have to Cry Sometimes,” at the Emmett Till funeral.
Henderson, Robert Harvey (1921–2007) was one of five defense attorneys representing J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in their murder trial. At 34, he was the youngest of the legal team. He had been a life-long resident of Tallahatchie County and had been in practice since 1947. As the last surviving member of the defense team, his death came just five days after Tallahatchie County apologized to the Till family for the injustices of the trial on October 2, 2007.
Henry, Aaron E. (1922–1997) was a NAACP official at the time of the Emmett Till murder, and helped find witnesses willing to talk by disguising himself as a sharecropper and going into the fields. He served as president of the Mississippi Conference of Branches of the NAACP from 1960 to 1993, was president of the Council of Federated Organizations, Mississippi, from 1962-1965, and a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives from 1980 to 1995. He was also a pharmacist and ran his own pharmacy in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Herbers, John (1923–2017 ) is a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for United Press International. He graduated from Emory University in 1949, and began his career at the Greenwood, Mississippi Morning Star, and the Jackson, Mississippi Daily News. He was a reporter for UPI from 1953-1963. He joined the New York Times in 1963, was appointed assistant national editor in 1975, deputy Washington bureau chief in 1977, and Washington national correspondent in 1979. He retired in 1987. He authored several books, including The Lost Priority: What Happened to the Civil Right’s Movement in America? (1970).
Hicks, James L. (1915–1986) was a reporter who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial. His investigation into the murder was published in several installments in the Baltimore Afro-American, the Cleveland Call and Post, and the Atlanta Daily World, soon after the trial. He began his career in journalism in 1935 with the Call and Post. He joined the army and was awarded three battle stars for his service in the New Guinea campaign, and was promoted to captain. After World War II, he joined the Afro American in Baltimore and became the Washington Bureau Chief for the National Negro Press Association. He served as editor for the Amsterdam News from 1955 to 1966, and again from 1972 to 1977. He was the first African American member of the State Department Correspondents Association and the first African American accredited to cover the United Nations. In 1977 he became editor of the New York Voice.
Hodges, Robert (c. 1938– ) was the young fisherman who discovered Emmett Till’s body in the Tallahatchie River at a spot called Pecan Point, near Philipp, on August 31, 1955. He was a witness for the prosecution at the murder trial.
Holland, George (1913–1982) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was a farmer living in Glendora, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Howard, Theodore Roosevelt Mason “T. R. M.” (1908–1976) was a doctor, entrepreneur, and fraternal leader in the all-black town of Mound Bayou in the Mississippi Delta. He was chief surgeon of the Friendship Clinic and owned an insurance company, home construction firm, a large plantation, and had many other investments. In 1951, Howard founded the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a civil rights and pro-self-help organization that sponsored an annual rally/festival/speech in Mound Bayou. Speakers at this event included Thurgood Marshall and Rep. Charles Diggs. Medgar Evers, who moved to Mound Bayou to sell insurance for Dr. Howard, was an early leader of the RCNL. During the Milam-Bryant murder trial, Dr. Howard searched for witnesses and other evidence to secure a conviction as well as to prove a broader conspiracy. Mamie Bradley stayed in Dr. Howard's house during the trial, as did many black reporters.
Hubbard, Joe Willie (c. 1928–?) was alleged by T.R.M. Howard to have been with J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in the murder of Emmett Till. This claim was also put forth by two other writers who published investigative pieces on the murder in 1956: Olive Arnold Adams in Time Bomb: Mississippi Exposed and the Full Story of Emmett Till, and Amos Dixon (pseudonym) in a series of articles in the California Eagle(although Adams uses the pseudonym “Herbert” for Hubbard). Although Willie Reed and Henry Loggins recently recalled having once known Hubbard, no one knows what happened to him.
Huff, William Henry (1888–1963) was a NAACP attorney who represented Mamie Bradley after Emmett Till was murdered. He later terminated his services with her when the NAACP ended its sponsorship of Mrs. Bradley’s speaking tour. He attended Georgia Normal and Industrial Institute and Knox Institute in Athens, Georgia. He also attended the Chicago Law School, obtaining his L.L.B., and the John Marshall Law School for his J.D. He was admitted to the Indiana Bar in 1936 and the Illinois Bar in 1946. He was also admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition to law, he was trained at the National Medical University in Chicago, and practiced pharmacy.
Huie, William Bradford (1910–1986) was the reporter who paid J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant $3,150 to tell their story after their acquittal. Their confession appeared in an article by Huie in Look magazine in 1956. He graduated from the University of Alabama in 1930 and worked as a reporter for the Birmingham Post from 1932-1936, and as associate editor for American Mercury from 1941-1943. He served in the U. S. Navy from 1943-1945, and then returned to the Mercury as editor and publisher until 1952. In the 1950s, he interviewed political figures for the CBS series, Chronoscope. He authored numerous books over the years, including Wolf Whistle, in 1969, a chapter of which deals with the Emmett Till murder.
Hurley, Ruby (1913–1980) was southeastern director of the NAACP who, with Amzie Moore and Medgar Evers, helped seek out witnesses for the prosecution in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. To do so, she disguised herself as a field worker. In 1951 she had moved from New York to Birmingham to establish the first permanent office of the NAACP in the deep south. She was the first professional civil rights worker in the south. She was later involved in the 1952-56 case of Autherine Lucy, who was the first black woman to be admitted to the University of Alabama.
Jackson, David (1922–1966) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial as a photographer for Ebony and Jet magazine. He took the famous photo of Emmett Till on the slab at the A. A. Rayner & Sons Funeral Home, published in Jet, which shocked the nation. Just before the trial, while interviewing Mose Wright at his home, with Clotye Murdock, he witnessed a truck carrying six armed white men slow past the house.
Jackson, Woodrow “Champ” (1923–2008) is said to have embalmed the body of Emmett Till in Tutwiler, Mississippi before it was shipped to Chicago. Jackson’s name does not surface as the embalmer publicly until 2000, when he began to be interviewed by researchers of the Till case. In the trial transcript H. D. Malone was said to be the embalmer by his employer, and Malone so testified in court. Malone was also interviewed by Steve Whitaker for his 1962 thesis and was said to be the embalmer. If there is truth to Jackson’s claim, he may have assisted Malone, but was apparently not the primary embalmer.
Johnson, Otha, Jr. (1934–2002) was, according to his son, with Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam on the night they kidnapped and murdered Emmett Till, as stated in the FBI report of its 2004-2006 investigation. He may have been one of four black men seen by Willie Reed on the back of a truck on the morning of Till’s murder.
Jones, Curtis (1938–2000) was a cousin of Emmett Till. He traveled from Illinois to Mississippi to spend time with Mose Wright’s family shortly after Emmett and Wheeler Parker had left, and was in the Wright home the night Emmett was abducted. He is quoted in the film Eyes on the Prize as having been at the store at the time of the incident between Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant, although he had not yet arrived in Mississippi. He served with the Chicago Police Department for years.
Jones, Willie Mae Wright (1917– ) is the oldest child of Moses and Lucinda Larry Wright. She was the mother of Curtis Jones, a cousin of Emmett Till who traveled from Chicago to Mississippi shortly after Emmett and Wheeler Parker left, and was in the Wright home the night Emmett was abducted. It was Willie Mae’s phone call on Sunday morning, August 28, 1955, that notified Mamie Bradley that Emmett had been kidnapped from her father’s home. As of 2008, she is still living in Chicago, and is the oldest living direct link to the Emmett Till case.
Kellum, Joseph W. (1911–1996) was one of five defense attorneys representing J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in their murder trial. He had lived in Tallahatchie County since 1920 and was admitted to the bar in 1939. In 1955 he ran for District Attorney and lost that race just a week before Emmett Till was murdered.
Kempton, Murray (1917–1997) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the New York Post. He was educated at Johns Hopkins University, where he was editor of the Johns Hopkins News-Letter. He graduated in 1939 and then worked as a labor organizer until joining the Post. During the 1960s he became editor of the New Republic, and began writing columns for Newsday in 1981, which he did until his death. He won the Pulitzer Prize for these columns in 1985. He also authored several books.
Kilgallen, James (1888–1982) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for INS. He was the father of Dorothy Kilgallen, a regular panelist on the T V game show, What’s My Line?. He was best known for his coverage of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, as well as the trials of Bruno Hauptman and Machine Gun Kelley.
Kimbell, Elmer O. (1922–1985) was a friend of J. W. Milam, and according to Carolyn Bryant, in her testimony before the FBI in its 2004-2006 investigation, he was present with Milam and Roy Bryant on the night Emmett Till was kidnapped. Shortly after the Milam-Bryant murder trial, he shot and killed a black man, Clinton Melton in Glendora, Mississippi, at the gas station that Melton worked at, because Melton put more gas in Kimbell’s car than he had asked for. Kimbell was acquitted by an all-white jury in Sumner, Mississippi shortly thereafter.
King, Joe J. (?–?) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Kinnard, Roy (?–?) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Lance, Frank (1931–1981) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Loggins, Henry Lee (1923–2009) is believed to have been with J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant during the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till. He was employed by J. W. Milam at the time of the murder and went missing shortly thereafter. During the trial, it was rumored that he, and another possible accomplice named Leroy Collins were placed in the county jail at Charleston, Mississippi under false names in order to keep them from testifying, but this was never substantially proven. He later moved to Ohio. During the 2004-2006 FBI investigation he denied having anything to do with the murder.
McCool, Noel L. (1907–1976) was a deputy sheriff in Leflore County who aided in the kidnap and murder investigation of Emmett Till. His phone call sent Leflore county officials to the Tallahatchie River after Emmett Till’s body was found there.
McGarrh, Lee (1920–2002) lived in Glendora, Leflore County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for J. W. Milam in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. A few months after the trial, his employee at his service station, a black man named Clinton Melton, was murdered at the station by a white man, Elmer Kimbrell. The trial was held in Sumner, Mississippi, with several of the same cast of characters as the Milam-Bryant trial. This time, McGarrh, outraged at the murder, testified for the prosecution.
Malone, Harry D. (1920–1993) worked for white and black funeral homes in Tutlwiler, Mississippi at the time of the Emmett Till murder. As the embalmer of the body at the Avent funeral home in Tutwiler, MS, he testified at the trial in behalf of the defense. His testimony stated that he believed the body had been in the river for at least ten days, aiding the defense argument that the body was not that of Emmett Till.
Matthews, Bishop G. (1909–1973) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He married Mildred Arlene Cole in 1937 and was a carpenter living in Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Melnick, Curtis (1915–1984) was principle of McCosh Elementary School in Chicago, where Emmett Till attended. He spoke to reporters after the murder, describing Emmett as an average student who never got into trouble.
Melton, Garland (1907–1962) was deputy sheriff of Tallahatchie County who arrived at the scene at the Tallahatchie River when Emmett Till’s body was found. He and Robert Hodges (who discovered the body) took separate boats into the river in order to retrieve the body. He married Myrtha Campbell in 1939 in Charleston, Tallahatchie County.
Milam, John William “J. W.” (1919–1980) was one of the accused murderers of Emmett Till. He was born in Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, to William Leslie and Eula Morgan Milam. He married Juanita Thompson on December 11, 1949 in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and they had two sons. He possessed only a ninth grade education and fought in Europe during World War II. While in the military he won a purple heart, a silver star, and other medals. Soon after the trial and acquittal, he and Roy Bryant sold their story confessing to the murder of Emmett Till to reporter William Bradford Huie for $3,150, and it was published in Look magazine. By 1956, Milam found he was unable to rent land and was refused a loan due to his notoriety in the case. The Milam’s moved to Texas for several years, and later returned to Mississippi. They moved to Greenville, Washington County, Mississippi in 1965. She and J. W were said to have later divorced, but he is listed as married to Juanita in his obituary, and there is no divorce record for them in Greenville or Washington County. He had worked as a heavy equipment operator in Greenville, and was retired at the time of his death from cancer.
Milam, Mary Juanita Thompson (1927–2014) married John W. Milam on December 11, 1949 in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. She was at the back of the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market, in the apartment, when the incident between Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant occurred, and was a witness for the defense at the trial. She and J. W. Milam were the parents of two sons and the family moved to east Texas in 1962. They later returned to Mississippi around 1965 and lived in Greenville, Washington County. She and J. W were said to have later divorced, but she is listed as his wife in his obituary, and there is no divorce record for them in Greenville or Washington County. She moved to Ocean Springs, Mississippi around 1994 and died there at age 87.
Milam, Leslie F. (1925–1974) was born in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi to William Leslie and Eula Morgan Milam. He was the brother of J. W. Milam and half brother to Roy Bryant, accused murderers of Emmett Till. He married Francis Moody Waldrup in 1949. According to witnesses, Emmett Till was beaten and shot in a tool shed at the Shurden plantation that Leslie Milam managed, and that they saw Milam present. According to the 2004-2006 FBI investigation, Milam confessed to a local minister shortly before his death that he had been involved in Till’s murder and that he had been troubled by that involvement.
Miller, Chester A. (1903–1986) managed the Century Burial Association in Greenwood, Mississippi, which received Emmett Till’s body after its discovery in the Tallahatchie River. He made initial preparations of the body by placing it in a casket, while law officials planned a burial in Money, Mississippi. He testified at the murder trial on behalf of the prosecution, testifying to the condition of the body as it was pulled from the river and placed in a boat. He had been called to the scene of discovery by Sheriff H. C. Strider.
Mims, Benjamin “B. L.” (1925–2001) was in the boat with Garland Melton when Emmett Till’s body was pulled from the Tallahatchie River on August 31, 1955. He married Carol Dyanne Gregg in 1950 and lived in Philipp, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He served as a witness for the prosecution and testified to the condition of Emmett’s body.
Minor, Wilson Floyd "Bill" (1922–2017 ) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He studied journalism at Tulane University, graduating in 1943. In 1947 he began a career as the Times-Picayune's Mississippi correspondent, a position he held until 1976, when the Jackson bureau closed. He managed the Capital Reporter from 1976-81, and taught journalism at the University of Mississippi from 1983-84. He continued to write a weekly column in Mississippi until just before his death. He lived in Jackson, Mississippi, and was the author of the compilation of his columns, Eyes on Mississippi: A Fifty-Year Chronicle of Change, published in 2001.
Minyard, Ralph W. (1912–1976) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Mobley, Gennie (1923–2000) married Mamie Till Bradley two years after Emmett Till’s death, and had several children from a previous marriage. He was a barber in Chicago when he met Mamie, and during their courtship grew close to Emmett. He accompanied Mamie Bradley to the A. A. Rayner funeral home where she examined the body for identification purposes. Gene aided in this effort as he recognized the haircut that he had given Emmett two weeks prior. He later became a well-respected Cadillac salesman in Chicago. He traveled the country with his wife whenever she spoke on her son’s case and remained her greatest supporter until his death.
Moore, Amzie (1912–1982) was a NAACP official in Mississippi who attended the Milam-Bryant murder trial and helped find witnesses for the prosecution. He worked for the U. S. Post Office in Cleveland, Mississippi from 1935 until his retirement in 1968. In 1940 he organized a rally of 10,000 blacks in Cleveland while helping to organize the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. He took a leave from his post office duties and served for three and a half years in the military during World War II. While in the military, he joined the NAACP. After his release from the military, he opened up a gas station, beauty shop, and grocery store. During his years as a civil rights activist in Mississippi, he worked hard for the rights of African Americans to vote, and his house became a “safe house” for activists during the voter registration drives of the 1960s.
Mooty, Rayfield (1907–1990) was a cousin by marriage to Mamie Till-Mobley. He traveled to Mississippi with Mamie and her father, Nash “John” Carthan, for the Milam-Bryant murder trial. Through his contacts with labor organizations, he helped arrange speaking engagements for Mamie, before and after the trial.
Mullen, Claude (1907–1990) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Murdock, Clotye (1928–2009) reported on the Milam-Bryant murder trial for Ebony magazine. Soon after the trial, she moved to Sweden and remained there until visiting Mississippi upon the 30th anniversary of the Emmett Till slaying. She published two articles in Ebony related to the Emmett Till case, “Land of the Till Murder,” in 1956, and “Land of the Till Murder Revisited,” in 1986. Just before the trial, while interviewing Mose Wright at his home, with Ebony and Jet photographer David Jackson, she witnessed a truck carrying six armed white men slow past the house. She has lived in Sweden for several years. Her husband, Lars Larsson died in 1988 and she remained in Sweden until the time of her death.
Murff, Randall E. (1919– ) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955. He later moved to Memphis, Tennessee. He married Blanche Brown in 1942, who died in 2014. They moved to Sylva, North Carolina, in 2008 to be closer to family.
Nelson, Chester F. “Chick” (1903–1978) was the mayor of Tutwiler, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, whose funeral home embalmed and prepared Emmett Till’s body for shipment back to Chicago. He served as a witness for the defense at the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He earlier had served locally as a tax collector and was a former college football player.
Newson, Moses J. (1927– ) is a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He accompanied Ruby Hurley onto plantations where potential witnesses were working, in order to warn them and bring them to T.R.M. Howard’s house in Mound Bayou. To avoid discovery, Moses, like Hurley, dressed as a sharecropper. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Lincoln University School of Journalism, and also attended Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Throughout his career as a journalist, he has covered most of the major events of the Civil Rights Movement. He was one of only two journalists aboard the CORE Freedom Ride bus that was bombed on May 14, 1961. He is co-author of the book Fighting for Fairness: The Life Story of Hall of Fame Sportswriter Sam Lacy. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Newton, A. C. (1914–1998) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Newton, William Davis (1917–1984) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He married Ida Pauline Cox in 1940, and taught math before taking over the family farm. At the time of the trial, he was a farmer living in Enid, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, and continued to farm until his death.
Otken, Luther “L. B.” (1889–1969) was a physician living in Greenwood, Leflore County, Mississippi who testified at the Milam-Bryant murder trial on behalf of the defense. Although he only viewed the body briefly, he never physically examined it. His testimony as to the condition of the body aided the defense in their argument that the body had been in the river longer than Emmett Till had been missing. He also testified at the grand jury hearing that handed down the murder indictment against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. He began practicing medicine in Greenwood in 1915.
Parker, Thelton “Pete” (c.1938– ) was one of the local youths who was with Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi the evening of the incident between Emmett Till and Carolyn Bryant at Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market. He currently lives in Michigan.
Parker, Wheeler (1939– ) was a cousin of Emmett Till who accompanied him to Mississippi from Chicago to visit relatives. He was with Emmett at the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market the night that Emmett whistled at Carolyn Bryant. He was in the home of Moses and Elizabeth Wright the night that Emmett was abducted. He was born in Mississippi and moved with his parents and two siblings to Argo, Illinois in 1947. He operated a barber shop in Argo until 2007. He also became a minister in 1977. In 1993, he became pastor of the Argo Temple Church of God in Christ, the church Alma Spearman, Emmett’s grandmother, helped to found.
Pennington, James Green (1918–1994) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was a farmer living in Webb, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. He married Marinee Thomas in 1949.
Popham, John (1910–1999) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the New York Times, where he was its first southern correspondent. He worked for that paper for twenty-five years, leaving in 1958. In 1956, under his direction, the Times published a 50,000 word, eight-page report on the implications of racial integration in the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. After leaving the New York Times, he later edited the Chattanooga Times for twenty years. After his retirement, he commuted hundreds of miles each week, from Chattanooga to Atlanta, to attend the John Marshall Law School. He earned his law degree at age 72.
Porteous, Clark (1910–1997) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, where he worked for forty-seven years. He also fought in World War II. From 1981 to 1988 he edited the Collierville Herald, and afterward became associate editor.
Price, Lee L. (1888–1985) served on the jury in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was married to Katherine Oldham and was an insurance salesman living in Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Primm, Howard Thomas (1904–1995) was bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Louisiana at the time of the Emmett Till murder. After the body was found, he asked that September 8 and 9, 1955 be declared days of mourning, and called on all Mississippians to take part by wearing a black strip of ribbon, three inches long.
Ramsey, Augustus “Gus” (1907–1962) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was a farmer living in Enid, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Ratcliffe, Robert M. (?–?) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Pittsburgh Courier, and was a white reporter in the confidence of Dr. T.R.M Howard.
Rayner, Ahmed A., Sr. (1893–1989) was the funeral director who received Emmett Till’s body after its arrival in Chicago on September 2, 1955. He defied orders from Mississippi to keep the casket sealed and allowed Mamie Bradley to examine the remains of her son.
Reed, Add (1879–1977) was one of the surprise witnesses at the Milam-Bryant murder trial, who testified that the morning after Emmett was abducted, he walked past the barn at the Shurden plantation and saw Leslie Milam and another white man. He was the grandfather of Willie Reed, who also testified.
Reed, Willie (1937–2013) was one of the surprise witnesses at the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He lived next door to the Shurden plantation managed by Leslie Milam and testified that he heard beating and yelling coming from a tool shed near the barn on the plantation. He also saw J. W. Milam leave the shed and get a drink of water. After the acquittal, he moved to Chicago, where, upon his arrival, he suffered a nervous breakdown due to the stress built up over the trial. He worked as a surgical orderly for forty-eight years at Jackson Park Hospital in Chicago. It was there that he met his wife, Juliet Mendenhall, who was then a nurse's aid, now a registered nurse. They married in 1976. After years of declining health, he died of gastronomical bleeding at age seventy-six.
Roberts, Isaiah (1912–1989) was the pastor of the Robert’s Temple Church of God in Argo, Illinois, and the host pastor for Emmett Till’s funeral.
Robinson, Whitfield M. (1915–1990) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Sanders, James (c. 1911–?) lived in Money, Leflore County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for Roy Bryant in the Milam-Bryant murder trial.
Sanders, Stanny (1919–1971) of Indianola, Leflore County, was a district prosecutor who worked on the kidnapping case against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. He later served on the defense team during the 1964 murder trials of Byron De La Beckwith, accused killer of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. The library at Mississippi Delta Community College is named after him.
Selby, Ben (1911–1985) was a deputy sheriff in Tallahatchie County who aided in the courthouse at the time of the Emmett Till murder trial. He is seen in many photographs performing a weapons search on spectators and journalists who entered the courtroom.
Shanks, Walter. A. (1904–1991) was part of the Leflore County, Mississippi sheriff’s office and helped to investigate the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till.
Shaw, James “J. A.”, Jr. (1924–1979) served on the jury in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He was a farmer living in Webb, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Shoemaker, W.C. “Dub” (1931– ) helped cover the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Jackson, Mississippi Daily News and helped the prosecution locate witnesses in Sunflower County. He later purchased the Kosciusko, Mississippi Star-Herald which he owned for several years before retiring in 2005. He still lives in Kosciusko and addresses journalism classes and workshops.
Singleton, Ronald (1923–2016) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the London Express. While in Sumner he walked into the wrong boarding house and was chased by some local toughs. He was so afraid after that, that he did not leave his hotel room for the rest of the trial. He later became the Daily Mail's correspondent in Rome. His career in journalism lasted over sixty years.
Smith, Crosby (1908–1993) was an uncle to Mamie Till Bradley and brother of her mother, Alma Spearman. Through his efforts, Emmett Till’s body was released from the state of Mississippi after attempts were made to bury it in Money. He accompanied it on the train back to Chicago. He remained a resident of Sumner after the trial, and until his death.
Smith, Franklin (?–?) lived in Money, Leflore County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for Roy Bryant in the Milam-Bryant murder trial.
Smith, George Wilson (1902–1975) was sheriff of Leflore County at the time of the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He arrested and booked Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam on kidnapping charges and was the one who received the initial confession of Bryant that he had kidnapped Emmett Till. He testified at the trial and later at the grand jury hearing seeking an indictment of Milam and Bryant on kidnapping charges. He had served as a police officer from 1935-1948, and from 1948-1952 as deputy sheriff of Leflore County. His term as sheriff lasted from 1952-1956. He ran for state representative in 1955 but lost. He served a second term as Leflore County sheriff from 1964-1968. He was an avid hunter and after his retirement spent his remaining years engaged in farming.
Smith, Robert Bruce, III (1914–1967) served on the prosecution team in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He attended law school at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi. He served four years in the FBI before enlisting in the marines in 1944. He practiced law in Ripley, Mississippi with his uncle after his discharge. Unfortunately, he later battled alcoholism and, tragically, on a December afternoon, after attending to his usual court duties, he came home and shot himself.
Somerville, William G. (1905–1976) served on the Leflore County grand jury that considered kidnap charges against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant. Although the jury did not return a true bill, Somerville’s family say he voted for an indictment. Grand juries do not need unanimity.
Spearman, Alma Smith Carthan Gaines (1902–1981) was the mother of Mamie Bradley and grandmother of Emmett Till. She helped her daughter in the days after Emmett was kidnapped and murdered, and it was at her home that Chicago reporters first congregated. She was born in Mississippi and married Wiley Nash Carthan in 1919. She lived in Mississippi until moving to Argo, Illinois with her husband and daughter in 1924, where she was a founder of the Argo Temple Church of God in Christ. In the early 1930s she and Nash separated and divorced, after which she married Tom Gaines. He died in 1944 and she married Henry Spearman in 1947. After his death in 1967, she moved in with Mamie and Gene Mobley, where she lived until her death.
Stratten, William G. (1914–2001) was the governor of Illinois at the time of the Emmett Till murder. He called upon his attorney general, Latham Castle, to urge Mississippi authorities to make a thorough investigation of the murder. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a major in political science in 1934, and later served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1941-43, and 1947-49. His election to the House made him the youngest person ever to serve as a U.S. Representative. He was also Illinois State Treasurer from 1943-45 and again from 1951-53. He served as the governor of Illinois from 1953-1961, the youngest person to serve in that office in the 20th century. In 1964 he was indicted on income tax charges but was tried and acquitted the following year.
Strickland, Charles Alvin “C. A.” (1904–1994) was an identification officer who worked for the Greenwood, Mississippi, police department, and served as a witness for the prosecution in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He photographed Emmett Till’s body as part of the inquest while it lie in Greenwood at the Century Burial Association. He was married to Catherine Alberta Shelton.
Strider, Henry Clarence “H. C.” (1904–1970) was sheriff of Tallahatchie County from 1951-1955 and was married to Wilma Burt. He was a witness for the defense at the Milam-Bryant murder trial, and his actions behind the scenes bore out his support for them. He was prominent in the press during the Till affair and made no friends among the black press during the trial. He owned a large plantation, and after the trial, five black families moved off of his land because of his actions at the trial. In 1957, he was seated in his car at a general store in Cowart, Mississippi, when a bullet was fired into the vehicle. He narrowly missed being hit in the head. In 1959, he decided to run for the sheriff’s office again, but withdrew at the urging of his wife, who feared for his safety. He declined to run again in 1963 for the same reasons. From 1964 until his death, he served as a state senator for Grenada and Tallahatchie counties. In this role, he served as vice chairman and chairman of the Game and Fish Committee, member of the Public Property, Transportation, and Water and Irrigation committees, and chairman of the Penitentiaries Committee. He died of a heart attack while at a dear camp in Issaquena County, Mississippi. Two years after his death, a portion of Mississippi Highway 32 was designated “Henry Clarence Strider Memorial Highway.”
Swango, Curtis M. (1908–1968) presided as judge at the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He graduated from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and from the University of Mississippi law school. He was appointed to the Circuit Court bench in 1950 by then Governor Fielding Wright and was a judge of the Seventeenth Judicial District. He was praised by black and white journalists for the even-handed way he conducted the trial.
Taylor, Euclid Louis (1905–1970) was general council to the black newspaper the Chicago Defender and secured an interview with Levy “Too Tight” Collins, a possible accomplice in the murder of Emmett Till, once he was located after the trial. The interview, conducted over a two-day period, was published in the Defender on October 8, 1955.
Terry, Harold E. (1923–2013) lived in Money, Leflore County, Mississippi, and was one of the character witnesses for Roy Bryant in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He served in Africa and Italy during World War II. He married Frances Ryals in 1947, then rejoined the army, where he helped train Korean War soldiers in Columbus, Georgia. He spent many years farming, but also worked in law enforcement, the insurance industry, and was an antique dealer. Shortly before his death, he moved from his home in Money, where he had lived for sixty-five years, and moved to Luka, Mississippi.
Thomas, Travis W. (1907–1991) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He married Lillie Mae Sullivan in 1928 and was a farmer living in Murfreesboro, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Toole, James A., Jr. (1911–1979) served as a juror in the Milam-Bryant murder trial. He married Janie Lee McCullar in Charleston, Tallahatchie County in 1932, and was a farmer living in Enid, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.
Tribble, Ray (1926–1998) served as a juror in the Emmett Till murder trail. He was a farmer living in Payne, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. His son, Harry, now owns the building that once housed the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market, where Emmett Till had his confrontation with Carolyn Bryant. The younger Tribble hopes to see the store restored and turned into a civil rights museum.
Trout, Nathan Z. (1901–1976) was the chief of police of Charleston, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi in 1955 and was deputized by County Sheriff H. C. Strider to assist with the trial. During the trial, a bomb was placed under a window at his home, but was removed after the bomber noticed he was being watched. His stepson is Stephen Whitaker, author of the important 1962 thesis on the Till case.
Turner, Arnold (1916– ) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Turner, Nannie Mitchell (1888–1975) was a journalist who covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial. She was married to William Mitchell, one of the founders of the St. Louis Argus, a black newspaper and now the oldest continuous black business in St. Louis. When William died in 1945, she became business manager and later president-treasurer of Argus Publishing Co. She was also a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and was named First Lady of the Black Press by the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
Wakefield, Dan (1932– ) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for The Nation. He graduated from Columbia College in 1955, and in addition to his years with The Nation, he was a contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly, G.Q., and Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. He has received many awards, including a Neiman Fellowship in Journalism, Bernard DeVoto Fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers, and one from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has taught writing programs at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Emerson College, and the Iowa Writers Workshop. He is currently a Writer in Residence at Florida International University in Miami, and has written several novels and screenplays. He is the creator of the NBC television series James at 15
Washington, Johnny B. (1928–1980) was a black male who worked for Roy Bryant and, according to the 2004–2006 FBI investigation, was alleged to have assisted in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till. He may have been the “third man” who appeared on Moses Wright’s porch and remained outside when Milam and Bryant entered Wright’s home and abducted Till.
Weber, Ed (?–?) was a deputy sheriff in Tallahatchie County at the time of the Emmett Till murder and assisted when Till’s body was discovered in the river. He and Leflore County deputy sheriff John Ed Cothran went to Moses Wright’s home and brought Wright to the river to identify the body.
White, Hugh Lawson (1881–1965) was governor of Mississippi at the time of the Emmett Till murder. He held the office for two non-consecutive terms, 1936-1940 and 1951-1955. He was a large man and one of the wealthiest to ever hold the office in Mississippi. He was elected mayor of Columbia, Mississippi in 1926 and held that office until elected to his first term as governor. Between his two terms, he served from 1944-1948 in the Mississippi legislature. He was near the end of his second term as governor at the time Emmett Till was killed. He publicly spoke out against the killing, but was quick to contradict NAACP claims that the murder was a racist lynching, calling it “flat out murder.” He authorized district attorney Gerald Chatham to appoint additional attorneys to help in the prosecution of the accused killers, and also appointed two Highway Patrol inspectors to help in the murder investigation.
Whitten, John W. (1919–2003) was one of five defense attorneys representing Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam in their murder trial. He was born in Tallahatchie County and began practicing law in Sumner in 1940. He served as Tallahatchie County chairman of the Democratic Party, and attorney for the board of supervisors. He was the first cousin of Jamie Whitten of the U. S. House of Representatives.
Wilkins, Roy (1901–1981) was elected executive director of the NAACP in 1955 and spoke out publicly against Mississippi and the Emmett Till slaying, polarizing many residents and officials in that state. He graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1923 and joined the staff of the weekly Kansas City Call. He became managing editor before joining the staff of the NAACP. From 1934-1949, he edited the Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP. Over the years, he testified at many congressional hearings, and conferred with Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter. In 1977 he retired from the NAACP and penned his autobiography, Standing Fast: The Autobiography of Roy Wilkins, which was published after his death.
Wilson, L. Alex (1908–1960) covered the Milam-Bryant murder trial for the Tri-State Defender. He earned a bachelor's degree at Florida A&M, and did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin and Roosevelt College in Wisconsin. He also served as a marine in World War II. He taught and served as a principal in Florida High Schools and later turned to writing. He worked for several newspapers, including the Norfolk Journal and Guide in Virginia. He won the prestigious Wendell Wilkie Award for his coverage of the Korean War. After later working at the Tri State Defender in Memphis, he moved to Chicago to take over the editorship of the Chicago Defender. Unfortunately, he developed what appears to have been Parkinson’s Disease and died a year later.
Winters, Fransis B. (1913–1999) was a member of the 18-man Tallahatchie County grand jury that handed down indictments of murder and kidnapping against J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant on September 6, 1955.
Withers, Ernest C. (1922–2007) was the photographer who defied Judge Swango’s orders and captured a photograph while court was in session during the Milam-Bryant murder trial. The photo was that of Moses Wright standing at the witness stand, pointing out J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant as the men who kidnapped Emmett Till from his home. He got his start as a military photographer while serving in the South Pacific during World War II, and became a photographer by profession upon his return to Memphis after the war. He published a photo pamphlet of the Emmett Till murder case, and also photographed important events such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the strike of Memphis sanitation workers. At the funeral of Medgar Evers, he was beaten and arrested by a police officer. During his 60 year career, he accumulated over five million photographs. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Jet, Ebony, Newsweek, and Life. He won the National News Association’s Best Photograph of the Year in 1968. In 1988 he was elected to the Black Press Hall of Fame and received an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts College of Art. He continued to operate his photography studio on Beal Street in Memphis, Tennessee until near the time of his death.
Wright, Elizabeth Smith (1900–1970) was the wife of Moses Wright, sister of Alma Spearman, and great aunt of Emmett Till. She was present the night Emmett was abducted from her home, and offered J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant money if they would leave Till alone. She left her home the night of the abduction and never returned. She moved to Chicago and remained there during the murder trial while her husband and sons stayed behind to pick cotton and for Moses to testify at the trial.
Wright, Maurice (1939–1991) was one of several youths who accompanied Emmett Till to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market on August 25, 1955 and witnessed the incident between Emmett and Carolyn Bryant. He was a son of Moses and Elizabeth Smith Wright. It was believed by some that he may have been the one who told Roy Bryant about the incident, setting off the events that led to Emmett’s murder, although this is denied by his family. After a troubled life, he lost contact with his family and died an alcoholic and homeless.
Wright, Moses (1892–1977) was the great-uncle of Emmett Till, who visited Chicago in August 1955 and brought Emmett and Wheeler Parker to Mississippi. He was born in Mississippi and married Lucinda Larry on December 16, 1911. After her death, he married Elizabeth Smith around 1925. Until 1949 he preached at a black church in Money, Mississippi, and also worked as a sharecropper, and since 1946, worked on a plantation in Money owned by Frederick Grover. He identified J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in court as the men who came to his home the morning of August 28, 1955 and kidnapped Emmett Till. After the trial, he moved to Argo, Illinois, with his family and did some speaking engagements on the Emmett Till case that were sponsored by the NAACP. Due to his notoriety in the case, he was offered a lifetime job in a nursery in Albany, New York. However, he chose to move to Argo, where he lived quietly after the case died down and his speaking engagements ended, working as a janitor in a night club in Chicago and at a restaurant in Argo. He died in the White Oak Nursing Home in Indian Head Park, Illinois. Recall that J. W. Milam asked him how old he was on the night of the kidnapping of Emmett Till, and he said “sixty-four.” Milam’s response was that if Wright knew anyone there that night, he would never live to be sixty-five. Wright’s obituary in August 1977 says he was 85 years old at his death, and his death record in the Social Security Death Index, as well as the 1900 U. S. Census says he was born in April 1892. If these are all correct, then he was actually 63, not 64, when Emmett Till was kidnapped.
Wright, Robert (1940– ) is a son of Moses and Elizabeth Wright and was in the house, sleeping in the bed with Curtis Jones in a nearby room on the night Emmett Till was kidnapped.
Wright, Simeon Brown (1942–2017) is the son of Moses and Elizabeth Smith Wright. He lived with his family near Money Mississippi and was in the bed with Emmett Till at the time of Till’s abduction on August 28, 1955. He left Mississippi with his family after the murder trial and was raised in Argo, Illinois. He later moved to nearby Countryside, Illinois. For several years he worked as a pipe-fitter for Reynolds Metals, Co. During the 2004-2006 investigation, he spoke out publicly many times about the need for justice in the case. In 2010 he published his own memoir about the case, Simeon's Story: An Eyewitness Account of the Kidnapping of Emmett Till.
Young, Frank (c. 1920–?) was a field worker who volunteered names of accomplices of J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant in the kidnapping and murder of Emmett Till to Dr. T. R. M. Howard, as well as leads to possible witnesses. It was intended that he testify on behalf of the prosecution at the Milam-Bryant murder trial, but for whatever reason, he left the courthouse and did not testify.