Posted by Wes Brooks on Apr 09, 2019
Our thanks to MS Center for Investigative Journalism Executive Director Jerry Mitchell for providing our program last Tuesday.
President-Elect Mark Killingsworth filled in for President Steven Utroska and presided over today’s meeting. Garland Sullivan gave today’s invocation. Joe Meador led us in the Pledge of Allegiance. Thanks to Mallory Donald and Katie Anthony who served as our greeters today.
Brandon Hodges thanked those who helped with today’s meeting and introduced our guests. Bill McLeod has Matthew Rigel as his guest. Ben Donald has Carol Lucas as his guest.
Erin Granberry then introduced today’s guest speaker, Jerry Mitchell, an investigative reporter and co-founder of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. As an American investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, he convinced authorities to reopen cold murder cases from the Civil Rights Era.
According to Jerry, Medgar Evers served our country in World War II. He fought the Nazi’s in Normandy. He returned home to Jackson where he took up the fight against Jim Crow. On June 12, 1963, he was gunned down in his driveway. His killer was tried twice but each time the trial ended in a hung jury. As an investigative reporter, Jerry acquired the files of the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission which had been sealed by the Mississippi Legislature. He wrote a story that convinced authorities to re-open the Evers case. Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of that murder on February 5, 1994.
Right here in Hattiesburg, Vernon Dahmer was fighting for voting rights when in 1966 the Jones County KKK set his home on fire. Dahmer opened fire on his attackers so his family could escape out a backroom window. Dahmer’s lungs were seared by the fire and he died two days after the attack. About a week after his death his voter registration card was found in his mail. Sam Bowers was charged with orchestrating the attack that led to Dahmer’s death in 1968 but was not convicted. Billy Roy Pitts was convicted in that crime and sentenced to life in prison in Mississippi and received a federal sentence additionally. He served three and one-half years of the federal sentence but never served a day in Mississippi. Jerry investigated and wrote about this “cold case” and on August 21, 1998, Sam Bowers was convicted.
Jerry says he experiences “Living fearless – which is beyond fear.” He has participated in twenty-four convictions of civil rights murders. Jerry is a founding member of the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. Formed in 2018, the Center is a nonprofit news organization that seeks to empower citizens in their communities by holding public officials accountable. The Center reports on such issues as education, the criminal justice system, prisons, and public corruption. Through this work, the Center empowers Mississippians helping them ensure that our public meetings and records stay public and that our democracy works as intended.
You can contact Jerry by email at or you can call him at 601-937-1970.
Steven thanked our speaker and then adjourned the meeting with our motto, Service Above Self.