The Self-Important Trump Is No Martyr, Here Are Some Real Martyrs
Trump likes to bloviate that he is a martyr, ready to rescue America regardless of the personal cost. Trump is no more a martyr than Adolf Hitler was when in 1924, the future dictator spent nine months in Landsberg Prison for treason related to a failed coup, known as the Munich Putsch.
For true martyrs, look at those whose lives were taken during the turbulent struggle for freedom of the 1950s and 1960s. A partial list includes:
Rev. George Lee
In 1954, there were twice as many African Americans as whites living in the small delta town of Belzoni, Miss., located on the banks of the Yazoo River. Though they were in the great majority, blacks were not allowed to attend white schools, could not eat in white restaurants and would be arrested if they sat in bus seats reserved for whites. And they did not vote.
One African American resident of Belzoni was the Rev. George Lee, a minister who also ran a local grocery store and printing press. Lee knew that change would have to start at the ballot box. Lee and a friend, Gus Courts, started a local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). They printed leaflets and held meetings, urging blacks to pay the poll tax, a fee for voting that was later outlawed by the Voting Rights Act, and to register to vote.
In response, a local White Citizens Council was formed to keep African Americans from voting. The council created a list of African Americans who registered to vote and circulated the list to white businessmen who fired the new voters, denied them credit and raised their rents.
White Citizens Councils were a network of white supremacist, segregationist organizations that formed as a white backlash against the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which outlawed segregation in public schools. There were ultimately about 60,000 members throughout the south.
White officials offered to protect Lee only if he ended his voter registration efforts. Lee refused and on May 7, 1955, the pastor was driving toward home when he was hit by gunfire from a passing car. Local authorities ruled that Lee was killed in a traffic accident and that the lead pellets found in his face and neck were probably from dental fillings that had come loose. In 2000, FBI files were released that detailed the murder case against two suspects, Peck Ray and Joe David Watson Sr. Both had been members of the White Citizens Council, and both died in the 1970s. A local prosecutor refused to take the case to a grand jury.
Lamar Smith served in World War I and returned to Mississippi after the war. Smith became politically active and was one of the few registered African American voters in Lincoln County. He worked to educate the community on the political process, register voters, and ensure they were able to cast ballots.
In 1951, Smith, then 59, associated himself with the newly-formed Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), which focused on encouraging African Americans to vote and participate in the political process.
On Aug. 2, 1955, Smith worked to defeat the incumbent in the race for a position on the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors. The result was a runoff election that included a candidate supported by Smith. The runoff election was to take place on August 23, to give Smith time to register new voters.
On August 13, Smith was on the steps of the Lincoln County Courthouse, in Brookhaven, helping African American voters fill out absentee ballots for the runoff election. At about 10 a.m., three supporters of the incumbent loudly objected to Smith’s actions. A fight broke out and one of the supporters, Noah Smith, shot Lamar Smith on the steps of the courthouse in front of a crowd of around 30 to 40 people.
The three suspects fled the scene but Sheriff Robert E. Case saw one, Noah Smith, was covered in blood. Case detained the suspects but quickly released them and decided not to press any charges. A state grand jury composed of 20 white men heard the testimonies of 50 to 75 witnesses and none of them admitted to having seen the shooting, leading the grand jury to vote against an indictment.
Emmett Louis Till
Emmett Louis Till was a 14-year-old boy on vacation from Chicago who reportedly flirted with a white woman in a store. Three nights later, two men went to the home in Money, Miss. where Till was staying, took Till from his bed, beat him, shot him and dumped his body in the Tallahatchie River. An all-white jury found the men innocent of murder.
John Earl Reese
John Earl Reese, 16, and two cousins were dancing in a café in Mayflower, Texas, on Oct. 22, 1955, when two white men shot at the teens from a passing car. Reese was killed but his two cousins survived. The shootings were part of an attempt by whites to terrorize blacks into giving up plans for a new school. One of the whites, Perry Dean Ross, was convicted of murder and given a five-year suspended sentence. The other man, Joe Simpson, was found not guilty.
Willie Edwards Jr.
Willie Edwards Jr. was a 24-year-old husband and father, who was murdered on Jan. 22, 1957, in Montgomery, Ala., by members of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. That night the group of Klansmen were armed with pistols and a rifle when they hunted for Edwards, a newly hired driver for Winn-Dixie. The Klansmen thought Edwards was sleeping with a white woman. They abducted and beat Edwardds as they drove him around Montgomery. Stopping at the Tyler-Goodwin Bridge, along the Alabama River near Montgomery, the Klansmen pointed a gun at Edwards, and ordered him jump off the bridge. He fell 125 feet to his death. Three months later the body washed up on the shores of the river but officials said decomposition made it impossible to determine the cause of his death.
In 1976, the state reopened the case and four people were charged with the murder. Alabama Judge Frank Embry dismissed the charges because no cause of death was ever established. He concluded that “merely forcing a person to jump from a bridge does not naturally and probably lead to the death of such person.” In 1999, the case was again presented to a grand jury which affirmed that Edwards’ death was caused by the Klan members. The jury declined to indict anyone for the crime.
Mack Charles Parker
Mack Charles Parker was a 23-year-old African-American who was lynched after he had been accused of raping a pregnant white woman in northern Pearl River County, Miss. Three days before he was to stand trial, Parker was kidnapped on April 25, 1959, from jail by a mob who beat and shot him. His body was found in the Pearl River 10 days later. The FBI investigated and the men who killed Parker confessed but were never charged.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation looked into the case but the men who killed Parker were released. Despite confessions, no one was ever indicted for the killing.
Herbert Lee was a 49-year old charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Amite County. In 1961, Lee was working with another activist, Bob Moses, to persuade local African Americans to register. His activities were met with threats of reprisal by the white community and on Sept. 25, 1961, he was delivering cotton when he was murdered by Mississippi state Representative E. H. Hurst in broad daylight at a cotton gin. Hurst later claimed self-defense and said that in an argument over debts, Lee had attacked him with a tire iron, and his gun had fired.
Among those coerced to confirm Hurst’s story in a courtroom filled with armed white men was Louis Allen, who feared for his life if he did not cooperate. An all-white jury ruled that the killing was a justifiable homicide. In 1964, Allen was killed after informing federal investigators of his forced testimony.
Roman Ducksworth Jr.
Roman Ducksworth Jr. was a 28-year-old military police officer who was a few months short of finishing 10 years in the army. He was granted emergency leave by the Army after learning that his wife was having difficulties with the birth of their youngest daughter.
On April 9, 1962, Ducksworth was traveling to a hospital to visit his sick wife and newborn child. He was sleeping on the bus when a police officer forced him off because he was black and mistaking him as a freedom rider. A tussle broke out, and the officer shot and killed Duckworth in front of his sister-in-law and son.
During the trial, police said Ducksworth was drunk and the murder was ruled a justifiable homicide. After the trial, a cross was burned across from Odell’s home and his family was forced to relocate. Ducksworth received full military honors and a 16-gun salute while around 2,000 residents attended his funeral.
Paul L. Guihard
Paul L. Guihard was a 30-year-old French-British journalist for Agence France-Press when he was murdered on Sept. 30, 1962, during a riot at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. Guihard was covering the events surrounding James Meredith’s attempts to enroll at the all-white university. He is the only journalist known to have been killed in the Civil Rights Movement and his murder remains unsolved.
Guihard and his photographer were driving to Oxford, Miss., when they heard President John F. Kennedy’s speech indicating that federal agents had already escorted Meredith to campus. Assuming the story was over, they continued on to Oxford and came upon the rioting on the campus. Guihard was gathering news during the rioting when he was fatally shot in an unlit area between 8 and 9 p.m. The FBI investigated but never identified a suspect.
William Lewis Moore
William Lewis Moore, a postman from Baltimore, Md., was shot and killed during a one-man march against segregation on April 23, 1963. Moore had planned to walk from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss. to deliver a letter urging Gov. Ross Barnett to accept integration. Just south of Collbran, Ala., a white storeowner named Floyd Simpson had questioned Moore on his views.
As Moore was resting by the road in Keener that evening, he was killed by bullets fired at close range from a .22-caliber rifle. Ballistics tests later proved the rifle belonged to Simpson, but no one was ever indicted for the murder. Within a month, 29 young people were arrested in Alabama for trying to finish the walk begun by Moore. They were carrying signs that read “Mississippi or Bust.”
Medgar Wiley Evers was the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi. The 38-year-old decorated Army combat veteran who fought in World War II, was assassinated on June 12, 1963, by Byron De La Beckwith.
At the time, Evers was engaged in efforts to end segregation at the University of Mississippi, end the segregation of public facilities, and expand opportunities for African Americans including the enforcement of voting rights.
Evers was murdered at his home in Jackson, Miss., by De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council in Jackson. All white juries failed to reach verdicts in Beckwith’s first two trials in the 1960s, but he was convicted in 1994 based on new evidence.
Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley
Four young girls were killed on Sept. 15, 1963, after members of the Ku Klux Klan exploded 19 sticks of dynamite at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Killed were Addie Mae Collins, 14, Carol Denise McNair, 11, Carole Rosamond Robertson, 14, and Cynthia Dionne Wesley, 14. Between 14 and 22 others were injured in the bombing.
Two years later, the FBI concluded that the bombing had been committed by four KKK members and segregationists: Thomas Edwin Blanton Jr., Herman Frank Cash, Robert Edward Chambliss, and Bobby Frank Cherry. There wer no prosecutions until 1977, when Robert Chambliss was tried by Attorney General of Alabama Bill Baxley and convicted of the first-degree murder of Carol Denise McNair.
As part of a revival effort by states and the federal government to prosecute cold cases from the civil rights era,in 2001, the state tried Blanton Jr. and Cherry on trial, who were each convicted of four counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment . Cash was never charged with his alleged involvement in the bombing, and died in1994.
Virgil Lamar Ware,
Virgil Lamar Ware was a 14-year-old in the eighth grade when he was shot to death on Sept.15, 1963, in the aftermath of the Birmingham church bombing.
On Sept. 15, 1963, Larry Joe Sims and Michael Lee Farley, both 16, had planned to attend a white supremacist rally and motorcade from the Midfield to downtown Birmingham. The event was canceled after the church bombing and the teens instead rode on Farley’s motor scooter to the headquarters of the neo-fascist National States’ Rights Party. They bought a Confederate battle flag, which they attached to the scooter, before riding toward a Black neighborhood. That was when they saw Ware and his brother James, riding together on a single bicycle, when Farley fatally shot Ware.
An all-white jury convicted the teens of second-degree manslaughter and they were each sentenced to seven months of jail. The judge later suspended the sentences and commited them each to two years’ probation .
Louis Allen, 45, worked as a logger in Liberty, Miss., when he was shot and killed after he tried to register to vote and had allegedly talked to federal officials after witnessing the 1961 murder of Herbert Lee, an NAACP member, by E. H. Hurst, a white state legislator.
Allen was harassed and jailed repeatedly by Amite County Sheriff Daniel Bryant Jones. The day before Allen planned to move out of state, he was shot and killed. No charges were filed but the FBI reopened the case in 2007 as part of its review of civil rights-era cold cases. In 2011 the CBS program 60 Minutes ran a special on his murder and suggested that Jones had killed Allen. No one has been prosecuted for the murder.
Johnnie Mae Chappell
Johnnie Mae Chappell, a 35-year-old mother of 10 who worked as a cleaner, was killed by a gunshot from a passing car on March 23, 1964, during race riots in Jacksonville, Fla. Evidence and documents went missing and her killer was convicted of manslaughter and served just three years in prison. Other passengers in the car were never charged.
As word of the killing spread, riots escalated in the city. The case went unsolved for months until two sheriff detectives interrogated a young local man, Wayne Chessman about the murder. Chessman confessed to being in the car with three other men and that a passenger, J.W. Rich, fired the gun. The four men went to trial, but the gun used in the shooting went missing and the detectives were not asked to testify about the confessions. As a result, the jury convicted Rich of manslaughter and the charges were dropped against the other men. Rich served three years of a 10-year sentence.
Rev. Bruce Klunder
The Rev. Bruce W. Klunder was a 27-year-old Presbyterian minister and civil rights activist from Colorado, when he died on April 7, 1964, after he was run over by a bulldozer while protesting the construction of a segregated school in Cleveland, Ohio.
The father of two young children led a group in an attempt to stop construction of Stephen E. Howe Elementary School. On the afternoon of April 6, 1964, about 100 demonstrators threw themselves at the wheels and treads of bulldozers, power shovels, trucks and mobile concrete mixers to prevent the school from being built. Police officers dispersed the demonstrators, and 21 were arrested while two were injured.
The next day, Klunder and a larger group of demonstrators returned to the site of the school. Klunder, two women, and another man dashed across the school lot toward a bulldozer. Three of them flung themselves into the path of the steel treads. Klunder lay down behind the machine. The driver, John White, 33, stopped when he saw the three but did not see Klunder who died in the accident.
Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore
Members of the Ku Klux Klan murdered two 19-year-old men, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, in Meadville in southwest Mississippi on May 2, 1964. A 2007 documentary about the cold case killings led to the arrest of James Ford Seale for kidnapping and murder. He was sentenced to three life terms.
The killings came in the midst of rumors circulating among Klan members that black Muslims were preparing for “insurrection” by bringing guns into Franklin County. On May 2, Moore, a college student, and Dee, a millworker, were hitchhiking when they were picked up by KKK members in Meadville. Klan members, James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards, beat the two men with beanpoles. Moore and Dee were unconscious but still breathing when the Klansmen dumped their bodies in the Mississippi River.
The two Klansmen were arrested but the case was dropped by local authorities. In 2000 federal authorities re-opened the investigation and discovered documents to help in the conviction of Edwards and Seale.
James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner
Three civil rights workers, James Chaney of Meridian, Miss. and Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, both of New York City, were abducted and murdered on June 21, 1964.
They had been working with the Freedom Summer campaign by attempting to register African Americans in Mississippi to vote. Chaney was African-American, and Goodman and Schwerner were both white and Jewish. The three men were arrested for speeding and held for several hours in the local jail. As the three left town, they were followed by law enforcement and others. Before leaving Neshoba County, their car was pulled over again and the three were abducted, driven to another location, and shot at close range. The bodies were buried in an earthen dam.
Their bodies were discovered seven weeks later, after it was determined that members of the local White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Neshoba County Sheriff’s Office, and the Philadelphia, Mississippi Police Department were involved in the incident.
In 1967, after the state government refused to prosecute, the federal government charged 18 individuals with civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and another pleaded guilty. They received relatively minor sentences for their actions.
Forty-one years after the murders, Edgar Ray Killen was charged by the state for his part in the crimes. In 2005 he was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and was given a 60-year sentence. Killen died in prison in January 2018.
Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn
Lemuel Augustus Penn was the Assistant Superintendent of Washington, D.C. public schools, a decorated veteran of World War II and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserve. He was murdered on July 11, 1964, by members of the Ku Klux Klan, nine days after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The father of two daughters and one son was 48 when he was killed.
Penn was driving home to Washington, D.C., with two other black Reserve officers. Their Chevrolet Biscayne was spotted by three white members of the United Klans of America — James Lackey, Cecil Myers and Joseph Howard Sims — who noted its D.C. license plates.
The Klansmen’s Chevy II pulled alongside Penn’s Biscayne when Cecil Myers raised a shotgun and fired. Howard Sims, in the back seat, also fired and Penn was killed instantly.
Authorities quickly identified Myers, Sims, and Lackey as those responsible. Sims and Myers were tried in state superior court but found not guilty by an all-white jury. Federal prosecutors eventually charged both for violating Penn’s civil rights under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Myers and Sims were found guilty of conspiracy but four co-defendants were found not guilty. Sims and Myers were each sentenced to 10 years in prison, and both served about six years.
Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a 27-year-old civil rights activist in Marion, Ala., and a deacon in the Baptist church. On Feb. 18, 1965, Jackson was participating in a peaceful voting rights march in Marion when he was beaten and shot by an Alabama State Trooper. Jackson died eight days later in the hospital. His death helped inspire the Selma to Montgomery marches in March 1965 that helped gain congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In 2005, former Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler admitted that he had shot Jackson in what he said was self-defense after street lights had gone out and a melee had broken out. Fowler was indicted in 2007 in Jackson’s death. In 2010 he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in prison.
Samuel Leamon Younge Jr.
Younge, 22, served two years in the Navy before he medically discharged. He was active with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was a leader of the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League.
Younge was shot by Marvin Segrest, a 68-year-old white gas station attendant at a Standard Oil station in Tuskegee. Younge and Segrest had been involved in a verbal altercation when Younge allegedly attempted to use a “whites-only” bathroom. Younge had retrieved a golf club from a vehicle and was holding it in self-defense when he was shot.
Segrest was indicted for murder in the second degree. The trial was moved from Macon County, where blacks outnumbered whites by a 2–1 margin, to Lee County. He was found not guilty by an all-white jury the next day.
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer Sr.
Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer Sr. was president of the Forrest County chapter of the NAACP in Hattiesburg, Miss., when he was murdered on Jan. 10, 1966, by the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan for his work on recruiting Black Americans to vote.
In 1949, Dahmer was in the process of filling out his new registration card when Luther Cox denied his attempts to re-register. Cox was in charge of registered voters in Forrest County and was a white segregationist. Cox would only authorize a registration of a black person if they could answer the question “How many bubbles are in a bar of soap?”
In 1950, 15 leaders of Forrest County’s black community, including Dahmer, filed a lawsuit against Cox for his administration of the voting laws. Twelve years later Dahmer’s testimony against Cox helped demonstrate the pattern of discrimination in the county.
By the 1960s, the Dahmers had been sleeping in shifts because they had been receiving numerous death threats throughout the year. On Jan. 10, 1966, the Dahmers woke to the sound of a shotgun blast and the sound of gas jugs being thrown through the windows. Dahmer was able to escape the burning home, but he was seriously burned, as was his wife. Dahmer was taken to the hospital where he died of smoke inhalation.
Authorities indicted 14 men and most had Ku Klux Klan connections. Four were convicted of arson and murder. Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, who was believed to have ordered the murder, was tried four times and each time he invoked the Fifth Amendment. Each trial ended in a mistrial.
Twenty-five years after the murder the case was reopened by the state of Mississippi. The case ended in 1968 with the conviction and life sentence for Bowers.
Ben Chester White
Ben Chester White was a caretaker who was not involved in the civil rights movement, when he was shot and killed by Klansmen on June 10, 1966. The shooting of the 67-year-old White was likely an attempt to move focus away from James Meredith’s March Against Fear or to lure the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in an assassination attempt.
White, the father of two children, was murdered by James L. Jones, Claud Fuller and Ernest Avants of the KKK. After buying White a soda, the three men took him to the Homochitto National Forest, ostensibly to help find a lost dog, where he was shot 18 times and dumped into Pretty Creek. Jones confessed to the crime but he and Fuller were indicted but never tried. Avants was acquitted but was found guilty of murder in a federal trial in 2000 and sentenced to life in prison.
Clarence Triggs was a 24-year-old married bricklayer and veteran who was murdered on July 30, 1966, in Bogalusa, La., about a month after participating in a civil rights march for voting. Two white men were arrested and indicted in the case. One was acquitted and the other never tried.
Triggs was found shot in the head near a wrecked car registered to the wife of Homer R. “Kingfish” Seale, 36, who was later arrested for the murder. Police insisted the Triggs killing was not racially inspired.
Seale and John W. Copling, Jr., 36, were arrested on the charge of murdering Triggs. Seale was never tried although both he and Copling were indicted. Copling was tried first; the jury deliberated for less than an hour and acquitted him.
The murder has remained unsolved.
At the time, Jackson was treasurer of the Natchez, Miss., branch of the NAACP. He was killed instantly by a bomb placed on the frame of his truck, under the driver-side seat. The bomb was detonated when Jackson switched on his turn signal on his way home.
The FBI suspected the involvement of the Silver Dollar Group, an offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan that was active in Mississippi and Louisiana. The group is believed to have had only around 20 members. It formed in 1964 by Raleigh Jackson “Red” Glover, because of dissatisfaction over what members thought was the Klan’s lack of forceful action.
Jackson was a Korean War veteran and father of five children. He worked at the Armstrong Rubber and Tire Company which had several white employees who were affiliated with the Klan. Under pressure from civil rights activists, the company had offered more positions to African Americans and it also promoted Jackson to a more advanced explosives-mixing position, a position that had previously only been held by whites. Two years earlier, an African American who preceded Jackson in the post was severely injured when his car was destroyed by a bomb.
Benjamin Brown was a student at Jackson State University where he was active in the civil rights movement. Brown, 22, was killed on campus during a standoff between law enforcement and students on May 12, 1967.
Brown had come upon the standoff and had picked up a sandwich from a café for his wife when he was hit by two stray shotgun blasts from law enforcement officers.
No arrests were ever made. In 2001, a Hinds County grand jury reviewed the case and blamed two deceased officers, Jackson Officer Buddy Kane and Mississippi Highway Patrolman Lloyd Jones.
Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith
Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith were shot and killed by police who fired on student demonstrators at the South Carolina State College campus on Feb. 8, 1968.
The incident, known as the Orangeburg Massacre, involved nine highway patrol officers and one city police officer who opened fire on a crowd of African American students, killing three and injuring 28. The shootings came at the culmination of a series of protests against racial segregation at a local bowling alley, marking the first instance of police killing student protestors at an American university.
Two days before the shootings, student activists had been arrested for a sit-in at the segregated All-Star Bowling Lane. When a crowd of several hundred students gathered outside the bowling alley to protest the arrests, police dispersed the crowd with Billy clubs.
As tensions mounted over the next few days, Gov. Robert McNair ordered hundreds of National Guardsmen and Highway Patrol officers to the college. On the night of Feb. 8, students from the college and Wilkinson High School started a bonfire at the front of State College’s campus. When police moved to put out the fire, students threw debris at them, including a piece of a wooden banister that injured an officer. Several minutes later, the officers opened fire on the students. Dozens of fleeing students were wounded; Sam Hammond, Henry Smith, and Delano Middleton were later pronounced dead at the Orangeburg Regional Hospital.
In the aftermath of the killings, the bowling alley and most remaining whites-only establishments in Orangeburg were desegregated.
Federal prosecutors charged nine patrolmen with deprivation of rights under color of law by firing on the demonstrators. They were all acquitted after a trial. The state of South Carolina charged one protester, Cleveland Sellers, with several riot charges. He was convicted on charges relating events two days before the massacre. Sellers received a full pardon in 1993.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, as he prepared to lead a demonstration in Memphis, Tenn.