News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


'Preacher' Killen used his influence for evil purpose

Edgar Ray Killen ran a sawmill and preached in Neshoba County at a time when white men of his social and economic status greatly feared losing their monopoly on blue collar Mississippi.

He was 38 when Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney disappeared in a plot to end their interloping in local civil rights violations.

Mr. Killen, now 80 and in poor health, escaped his role in the three men's disappearance and murders until Tuesday, 41 years to the day after they died.

A bi-racial jury found him guilty of manslaughter and not murder only because, as one juror said, the state didn't present enough evidence. The jury apparently wanted to return a murder verdict.

All Southerners should feel good that the verdict finally officially confirms Mr. Killen as having recruited Klansmen for and organized the slayings.

Seeing the part-time minister siting in a wheelchair and taking oxygen through his nose makes him an even more pathetic figure for his wasted life. For more than half his life, this man has lived with knowing he orchestrated the massacre. Hopefully, he felt remorse and guilt. Most likely, he will die with his hatred.

Like so many others, he squandered his leadership status from which he could have helped lead white Mississippians toward a peaceful dismantling of the South's dual society.

The hurts, the resentments, the setbacks — the physical and mental scars — haven't gone away over the decades. We all feel them; we live with them every day.

Time will take generations to erase those marks. Finding this man guilty is part of that process.

Contrition on the part of preacher Killen would help, also.

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