Monday, June 15, 2015

Emmett Louis Till visits Money, Mississippi and loses his life because of a ‘wolf whistle’


"With his body water-soaked and defaced, most people would have kept the casket covered. [His mother] let the body be exposed. More than 100,000 people saw his body lying in that casket here in Chicago. That must have been at that time the largest single civil rights demonstration in American history."--- Jesse Jackson


Parents send their children to visit out-of-state family members all the time when school lets out for the summer. Summertime is supposed to be filled with fun activities unrelated to school. But sometimes an innocent summer can evolve into a dreadful tragedy that is  mind boggling and history making. Such is the case of an cocky kid from Chicago, who visited his family in Money, Mississippi, a state that was hotbed of racism and violence towards Blacks. 

At the time of his birth Emmett's mother had no way of knowing that he would one day become famous, his name and face secured in national history. Books would be written about him, documentaries produced. Countless newspaper and magazine articles would cover his story. She had no way of knowing that Emmett's name would slide off  the tongues of ordinary citzens and scholars studying and discussing his life. There would be public and private conversations about him, and how his life was savagely taken from him. 

Emmett Louis Till was born 74 years ago, July 25, 1941 in Chicago’s Cook County Public Hospital. He was raised by his mother and grandmother after his parents separated in 1942. Mamie Bradley and Louis Till married in 1940 when both were 18.  Fourteen-years-old Till grew up in a middle class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, where he attended desegregated schools.  He was a student at  James McCosh Elementary.

14-years-old Emmett Till
Till was described as a responsible, funny, high spirited kid. At five he was stricken by polio, from which he recovered, but was left with a slight stutter when he talked. His mother thought he would grow up to be an attorney or a politician because of his outgoing personality. His classmate and childhood pal, Richard Heard, recalled that Emmett was funny all the time. He liked telling jokes and listening to others tell jokes. His nickname was Bobo. Heard said Till was a “chubby kid”, the majority of his friends were skinny.  

Mamie Bradley Till was born in a small Delta town in Webb, Tallahatchie County, Mississippi.  Her family moved to Illinois when she was two-years-old during the Great Migration that lasted from 1900 to 1960. The migration was a time when Black folks were leaving the South in attempts to escape severe racism, a life of share-cropping and poverty. The migrants were in search of economic opportunities, educations and a better life.

Bradley thrived in Illinois. She was the fourth African American to graduate from Argo Community High School, where the majority of students were White. She was the first African American student to get on the A-Honor Roll. Emmett Till’s father, Louis Till, was a private in the U.S. Army. While stationed in Italy he raped two women, murdering a third. He was court martialed and executed by the U. S. Army July 2, 1945. His execution was verified by The American Battle Monuments Commission. He was buried in the Orsne-Aisne Cemetery in Fore-en-Tardenois, France. Louis Till was assigned to the 177th Port Company, 37th Port Battalion.

In 1955 Emmett's great uncle Mose Wright, traveled from Money, Mississippi to the big city of Chicago to visit relatives. When Wright was ready to leave, Wheeler Parker, a cousin to Till, was going back to Money with him. Till begged to go with them.  Mamie had a road trip planned to Nebraska, but she gave in, and let Emmett go to Money. The day before they left Mamie gave Emmett his late father’s signet ring inscribed with the initials “L. T.” She admonished her fun loving son that Mississippi was a world apart from Chicago. She warned him to behave himself around White people. The warning was necessary to save his life. Mose Wright, Till and Parker took a train to Money, Mississippi, August 19.

The Mississippi Delta was segregated in the 1950s. African Americans knew their place, and dared not stray from the rules. Jim Crow laws, Black Codes, Sundown Towns and the Klu Klux Klan made sure they knew who was large and in charge in the South. There were strict rules of etiquette Black folks knew to follow when talking to White folks. They were addressed as: “Mr., Miss, Mrs., Sir, Ma’am.” Blacks were expected to say “Yes, Sir, No, Sir, Yes, Ma’am and No, Ma’am". Blacks could not shake hands with Whites. Touching was not permitted. 

Although many Whites in Mississippi were unemployed and lived in poverty, African Americans were stuck at the bottom of the ladder. Poor is poor. Destitute is destitute but poor Whites in the deep South felt they were better off than poor African Americans. They did not speak to White folks unless they were spoken to. They used back doors to enter White folks’ houses. They talked to them with their eyes looking downward in a subservient posture.

Blacks in Money, Mississippi worked as tenant farmers, living on plantations or property owned by the Whites they worked for. They grocery shopped at one of the three stores in the area. Food items were limited in choices and supply. Blacks were not allowed to put money directly in the hands of White cashiers. Money was laid on the counter to avoid skin-on-skin contact. African Americans populated three Delta counties in 1955, but they owned nothing of value.  

The Kidnapping/Murder of Mamie Till's Son
Mamie Till

Mamie Till, 33, testified at the trial of the White males who kidnapped and murdered her only child. One defense attorney was disrespectful towards her when she took the witness stand. He implied that Till was only interested in collecting on the insurance policies that she had on her son. The attorney, one of four representing J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, pro bono, demanded to know if she had contacted the insurance company.
Q. To whom were those policies made payable? Who was the beneficiary in those policies?

A. I was the beneficiary on one and my Mother on the other.

Q. Were they both for four hundred dollars each?

A. Well, one was for a hundred and ninety-three dollars. I think, and one was a little bit more. It was approximately four hundred dollars on the two of them.

Q. And have you collected on those policies?

A. No, Sir.

Q. Have you tried to collect on those polices? (the question was asked again because the prosecution objected to the line of questioning)

A. I have been waiting to receive a death certificate.

The attorney showed Mamie photos of her son’s mutilated body, asking if it was her son, and how she knew it was him. He asked Till if she had warned her son about his behavior before coming to Money, Mississippi. Till said she had. She told the court what she said to her son before allowing him to come to Mississippi:

A. I will give you a liberal description of what I told him. I told him when he was coming down here that he would have to adapt himself to a new way of life. And I told him to be very careful about how he spoke and to whom he spoke. And to always remember to say “Yes, Sir” and No, Ma’am” at all times. And I told him that if ever an incident should arise where there would be any trouble of any kind with White people, then if it got to a point where he even had to get down on his knees before them, well, I told him not to hesitate to do so. Like, if he bumped into somebody on the street, well, and then they might get belligerent or something, well, I told him to go ahead and humble himself so as not to get into any trouble of any kind. And I told him I told him to be very careful how he walked in the streets at all times.

Q. And did you direct his attention as to how to act around White people, and how to conduct himself about a White man? The paper says that you cautioned him about his behavior before any White men. Did you call his attention to that?

A. Yes, Sir.

The attorney did not listen to Till’s answer. He referred to a news story in The Chicago Defender, a Black newspaper that interviewed Till about her son, whose life was snatched from him August 24, 1955, just days after he entered a local store to buy some bubble gum. The White cashier said Emmett grabbed her around her waist and made inappropriate advances towards her before leaving the store. She got angry when he whistled at her. A cousin confirmed that Emmett  “wolf whistled” at her outside the store.

On A Wednesday evening, August 24, Till, a few of his cousins and friends went to Bryant’s Grocery Store and Meat Market in Money. Mose Wright and his wife had gone to church, leaving the boys at home. Roy Bryant’s wife, Carolyn Donhan Bryant, was the store’s cashier. Bryant was not in the store when Till “flirted” with his wife. A couple of days later, Saturday, August 27, a Black teenager entered the store, and was immediately corned by Bryant, demanding to know if he was from Chicago. Bryant's wife told him that was not the “nigger” that came in the store and flirted with her. If all the Black men and boys in Money had to be stopped and interrogated by Bryant and his half-brother J. W. Milam, they were prepared to take on the task, and no one would stop them.

On Sunday, August 28 Bryant and Milam swat-teamed Mose Wright’s house around 2:30 a.m. Milam was armed with a pistol and flashlight. Wright, a self-ordained preacher testified that he heard knocking on his door, yelling: “Preacher! Preacher!” When he asked who was at the door, the voice said, “This is Mr. Bryant. I want to talk to you and that boy that did all the talking”.

Milam asked Wright is he had “two boys there from Chicago.” Wright responded, “Yes, Sir". Milan said, “I want that boy
Mose Wright hold pair of Till's pants
that done the talking down at Money". They found Till asleep, and  ordered him to get dressed.  Wright said Till took his time to get dressed, insisting on putting on his shoes and socks.


Milam, sounding angrier than Bryant, asked Wright if he recognized him or Bryant. Wright said, “No, Sir. I don’t know you. And then he said to me, ‘How old are you?’ And then I said, ‘Sixty four.’ And then he said, ‘Well, if you know any of us here tonight, then you will never live to get to be sixty five". He told Mose "If this is not the right boy, then we  gonna to bring him back and put him in the bed".

As Milam, Bryant and Till exited the house they walked through Wright’s bedroom, where his wife Elizabeth was standing. Milam said to her: “You get back in the bed, and I mean, I want to hear the springs".

Elizabeth Wright tried to bargain with the kidnappers. Elizabeth attempted to bargain with the pair.  "She said that we would pay them for whatever he might have done if they would just let him go", Mose testified. Milam and Bryant did not respond to his wife.  Approaching the car with Till in tow, Wright said, “They asked if this was the boy, and someone said, ‘Yes.’ When asked by the defense attorney if the voice was that of a man or a woman, Wright replied, “It seemed like it was a lighter voice than a man’s".

Wright said there was another man with Milam and Bryant, but it was too dark to recognize him. He  could not see the model of truck or car they were driving. Wright said the other man with them stood by “the screen door. He was standing kind of with his head down like this here (he demonstrates). He was trying to hide it looked like. He acted like a colored man".  Wright said they stood on his porch after the pair left with Till. Asked if he turned on the lights in his house, he said he did not. The only light was from Milam’s flashlight.

Three Days Later, Identifying A Corpse

Mose Wright testified that he did not see his nephew again until he was asked to identify a body that was found in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s decomposing remains were discovered by Robert Hodges, who was fishing when he spotted “two knees and feet” in the river about a mile from his house, “on the left side, going down river, in Tallahatchie County. The body was hung upon a snag of debris", he testified.

Hodges told his father about the body. His father reported the discovery to the land owner B. L. Mims about 6:30 or 7:00 A.M. Later that day Hodges, Deputy Sheriff Melton, B. L. Mims, Charlie Fred Mims and Hodges’ father went to the crime scene location in two boats. “Then they brought the rope back there, and then me and this other boy was in the boat, and Mr. Melton was there, and they had the rope around the boy’s legs and then they hung it on there, and they had it on this other boat, and then they carried it down the river and took it out on the other side there".

Emmett Till’s cousin, Simeon Wright, wrote in his 2010 book “Simeon’s Story: An Eyewitness Account to the Kidnapping of Emmett Till”, that the story of Till’s kidnapping and murder is not completely true as reported and written about in prior books and news articles. A case in point is that Milam and Bryant knew exactly who they were looking for when they came to Mose Wright’s house. Simeon said Milam and Bryant looked at Wheeler Parker and said, “This is the wrong boy. We looking for that fat boy from Chicago. I weighed 90 pounds and Emmett weighted about 140".

Gin fan attached to Emmett Till's neck
When Emmett Till’s body was evacuated from the river, a gin fan weighing over 70 pounds was attached to his body with barbed wire wrapped around his neck, holding the fan in place. Hodges testified that the body was “beaten pretty bad in the back and hips, and the head was also gashed in on the side".

Chester Miller, an African American mortician, was summoned to the scene. Hodges testified that he observed the undertaker place the body in a box, and put it in the coach (hearse). Hodges said he saw a silver ring on one of Till’s fingers. A police officer took photos of the deceased's body. Miller, preparing to bury Till in Money, took the body to a local cemetery, but there was a sudden plan change. The body was taken to Greenwood, Mississippi, after which Miller moved it again to a funeral home in Tutwiler, Mississippi.

Miller testified that Till was naked when he saw the body on a boat. He said the corpse looked “to be that of a colored person, and the flesh in the palm of the hand, well, it looked like it was the body of a young person". Miller described the condition of the body: “The crown of his head was just crushed out and in, you know, and a piece of the skull just fell out there in the boat; maybe three inches long or maybe two and a half inches wide, something like that. I saw a hole in the skull. Oh, about  . . . maybe a half inch square, something like that, located about three-quarters of an inch above the right ear. The other side of the head was crushed on the other side. You couldn’t tell too much it was crushed so. And it was all cut up and gashed across the top there".

Upon returning to the funeral home in Tutwiler, Mississippi, Miller was told by the undertaker that he had soaked the body in fluid to preserve it. Emmett Till’s remains was shipped to Chicago for burial at the request of Mamie Till. His remains were put in rubber pouches, placed in a casket,  the remains taken to Clarksdale to the train.

Because everyone who saw the disfigured, decomposed body described it in their own terms, the descriptions varied, but basically sounded the same in details. John Ed Cothran, deputy sheriff with the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department, witnessed the body being transferred from the boat to a box. Simon Garrett, an assistant to Chester Miller, removed a silver ring from Till’s finger, giving it to Mose Wright. He later handed it over to Cothran. It was one of the exhibits at the trial.

When Mose Wright arrived at the river he said he believed the disfigured, puffed body was Emmett Till. No medical examiner autopsied the body until it arrived in Chicago. The mortician at A. A. Rainer and Sons Funeral Home said he could not recognize the corpse because “the body had been in the water and when a body’s in the water, it becomes swelled, disfigured, you can hardly tell who the person is". Till’s body had been submerged in the Tallahatchie River for three days.

Mamie Tiller testified that the mother of Curtis Jones, Mrs. Willa Mae Jones, called her by phone, informing her that Emmett  had been killed.

The defense attorney cross examining Till asked how she knew that the decomposed body was that of her son. “I positively identified the
Emmet Till in death
body in the casket and later on when it was on the slab as being my son, Emmett Louis Till". He told Till to tell the jury “how you looked at the body and how you identified it". She  first observed body in a casket before it was placed on a slab at the Chicago funeral home. She described  how she identified her son.

A. I looked at the face very carefully. I looked at the ears, and the forehead, and the hairline, and also the hair; and I looked at the nose and the lips, and the chin. I just looked at it all over very thoroughly. And I was able to find out that it was my boy. And I knew definitely that it was my boy beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Emmett's Funeral Attended By Thousands

Emmett Till’s funeral/memorial was held in Chicago at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ. It was estimated that 10,000 or more people attended. Sidewalks and streets in front of the church were packed with people wanting to view Till’s body. Mamie Till insisted on an open casket. She wanted the world to see what the two White murderers in Money, Mississippi had done to her son for no reason. She did not allow the mortician to make the body presentable, a decision the mortician disagreed with. Till was dressed in a suit, the only change allowed. His casket was glass-topped because of  the decompositon. Jet, an African American magazine, was the first publication to post photographs of Till’s mutilated body as it appeared at the memorial service.

Simeon Wright says the glass-topped casket was made because, “Well, an open casket is a common thing in African American tradition. But the reason they didn’t want her to open the casket as because of the stench, because of the smell. They designed the casket with the glass over it and what not".

The casket was donated to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, where it was put on display despite its state of disrepair. It was discovered in a shed on the grounds of the Burr Oak Cemetery, “during a police search last month (July 2009) following the arrest of cemetery employees accused of digging up more than 300 graves and reselling the plots. Till’s plot was undisturbed". (Smithsonian’s Newsdesk)

Mamie Till leans over casket bearing her only child
Milam and Bryant Arrested for Kidnapping, Charges Dropped; Indicted for Murder and Then Acquitted

On Sunday, August 28 Roy Bryant was questioned by Leflore County Sheriff George Smith about the kidnapping. Bryant admitted to taking Emmett Till from Mose Wright’s house, but later dropped him off at Bryant’s grocery store in Money. He thought Till would find his way back home. Bryant was placed under arrest. On the 29th J. W. Milam went to talk Cothran. He admitted to taking Till from Wright’s house. They later took him back to Money, Mississippi where they let him go. Milam was also placed under arrest. The two killers repeated the same story.

J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant were indicted by a Grand Jury in Tallahatchie County on September 5, 1955 on counts of kidnapping and murder; however, the prosecution dropped the kidnapping charge. The murder trial was held in Sumner, Mississippi from September 19 through September 23. Neither Bryant, 24, nor Milam, 36, testified. They were acquitted of the murder charge. African Americans nationwide did not expect justice done in the case.

Carolyn Bryant, 21, testified that she did not want to tell her husband what happened at the store, fearing of what he might do. Word traveled quickly in the neighborhood. Bryant learned what occurred. When he asked her if the story was true she confessed that it was. When she testified the jury of 12 White males was dismissed. The judge barred them only during her testimony. It seems the court did not want them to hear the highly offensive language Till supposedly used in the presence of a White woman.

Q. Just tell the Court what happened there at that time, please, ma’am.
Carolyn Bryant

A. This nigger man came in the store and he stopped there at the candy case.

Q. When this Negro man came in the store, where you in the store?

A. I was farther back in the store, behind the counter.
Bryant said she did not remember what Till purchased, but did remember what he said. She said when she held out her right hand to collect money for Till’s purchase, he did not pay her. Instead he grabbed her hand, holding on with a “strong grip.”

Q. Just what did he say when he grabbed your hand?

A. He said, “How about a date, baby.”

Q. When you freed yourself, what happened then?

A. I turned around and started to the back of the store.

Q. You say he caught you?

A. Yes.

Q. How did he catch you?

A. well, he put his left hand on my waist, and he put his other hand on the other side.

Q.  Did he say anything to you then at the time he grabbed you there by the cash register?

A. He said, “What’s the matter, baby? Can’t you take it?

Carolyn Bryant testified that Till told her, “You needn’t be afraid off me". She said he used language that she did not use. The defense attorney asked her to tell the court what “that word begins with, what letter it begins with". Bryant did not answer the question verbally but “shook her head negatively". Asked if it was “an unprintable word” she said yes. She said Till told her that he had been with White women before. Breaking free of his grip him, Bryant said, “Then this other nigger came in the store and got him by the arm". She said Till was reluctant to leave. The “other negro” pulled him out of the door.

Bryant said about eight or nine “colored” people lingered outside, all of whom were with Till. A cousin with Till that evening said there were five of them at the store.  Bryant said when Till walked out the door he turned and said, “Good-by". After he left she told Milam’s wife to watch when she ran to the car to get a pistol under the driver’s seat. The gun and car belonged to J. W. Milam. His wife was watching the two couples’ four children in “the living quarters” connected to the store. She was not called on to testify. Bryant and his wife were too poor to own a car or TV despite owning a grocery store that catered to Black sharecroppers.

Sheriff H. C. Strider testified for the defense.  A headline in the Memphis Commercial Appeal, 4 September 1955: Charleston Sheriff Says Body in River Wasn’t Young Till:  “Sheriff H. C. Strider said yesterday he doesn’t believe the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River in Mississippi was that of a Negro Boy who was whisked from his uncle’s home accused of whistling at a white woman.

“The body we took from the river looked more like that of a grown man instead of a young boy", the Tallahatchie County Sheriff said in Charleston, Miss.  “It was also more decomposed than it should have been after that short stay in the water".  Strider believed Till was alive and hiding out in Chicago or some other state with relatives.

Strider was asked about the body’s smell. A. It was so bad that we couldn’t examine the body until the undertaker got there, and then he opened a deodorant bomb. And even then he couldn’t get too close, and he had to use a quart of some kind of liquid. I didn't ask him just what it was. And he covered the entire body with that then, and then we were able to get up to where we could tell something about the body.

Simeon Wright, turned preacher since growing up and leaving Mississippi, refuted Carolyn Bryant’s testimony. During an interview with CNB News (1/21/2012) Wright said, “Emmett and I, we had walked out. We were in the store together; we had walked of the store. Mrs. Bryant came out behind us and she walking towards her car and Emmett whistled at her and it scared us to death". Wright said Till begged them not to tell his Uncle Mose, because he would have sent him back to Chicago before their vacation ended. “A Black boy whistled at a White woman? In Mississippi? No".

Wright recalled, “You know, we were almost in shock. We couldn’t get out of there fast enough, because we have never heard of anything like that before". He wrote that Till was trying to make them laugh, given he was always joking around. Wright described Till’s loud wolf whistle as a “a big city” whistle that caught them by surprise. He said his cousin was “risky, but not frisky". Frisky meaning Till would not have done all the things Bryant said.

“The whistle at Carolyn Bryant, Roy Bryant's wife, was a joke to the 14-year-old from Chicago. Emmett was always trying to make his cousins laugh. But he also did not understand the unspoken rules of the segregated south during the Jim Crow era. Color didn't mean anything to him," Wright explained. "You are a human being. We are all the same. So he grew up like that".
 

Wright, the son of Mose Wright, estimated how long it would have taken for Till to do all the things Bryant testified to: “And none of the things she would later allege, he insists, could have happened in the short time --- less than a minute --- that Till was alone with her before Wright walked into the store. It couldn’t have happened, Wright said, without Till jumping over a counter that was separating him and her, then jumping back before Wright came inside the store". (Chicago Tribune)

More misinformation written about Till was also cleared up by Wright: a) Till’s wallet did not contain a photo of a White girl; b) he never spoke to out of line to Carolyn Bryant; c) Emmett was not castrated, e) he was not tortured with s drill bit.

Mose Wight Points at J.W. Milam in Court

In what was called an unprecedented move in the south, Mose Wright testified in court against two White men. He was not expected to appear, let alone testify. Wright knew it was not safe, so did his family, so did every Black person living in Mississippi and surrounding counties.  Elizabeth begged
Mose Wright points at J. W. Milam
him not to testify, but he felt compelled to tell what he knew. Wright shocked everyone in the segregated courtroom when he stood up, pointed at Milam, and said: “There he is"!

During cross examination one of the murderers’ attorneys attempted to confuse Wright about the true identity of Till.

Q. Isn’t it true that you said because the body didn’t have any whiskers and was smooth faced, and because Emmett was missing, then you identified that body there in the boat as being Emmett Till was because he was missing? Isn’t that correct?

A. I didn’t mention no missing.

Q. Mose, do you deny that you made this statement to Mr. Breland, Mr. Henderson,  Mr. Kellum and me that the only reason you could identify that body in the boat as being Emmett Till was because he was clean faced or smooth faced, and because Emmett Till was missing,

A. I did not say it.

Q. You did not make that statement?

A. No, Sir, I did not make it.

J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant were acquitted of the murder charge. It was another slap in the faces of Black folks in Mississippi. It took the jury 67 minutes to return with the not guilty verdict. One of the jurors joked that had they not stopped to drink bottles of soda the verdict would have come in sooner. In 1955 African Americans were not allowed to vote, rendering them ineligible to sit on a jury or grand jury in the South.
  
After testifying Mose Wright moved his wife and sons to Chicago out of fear for his life. Willie Reed, an 18-years-old sharecropper, testified to what he saw. He also left Mississippi. None of them ever returned. According to court transcripts, Reed testified that he saw a “1955 Chevrolet truck passed him. Reed testified he saw four White men in the cab of the truck, and three Black men on the sides of the truck and a Black boy sitting down in the bed of the truck. Reed identified Till as the boy in back of the truck from a photograph he saw in the newspaper and which he was shown at trial".

18-years-old sharecropper Willie Reed
Reed later saw the truck parked at a barn where he heard “hollering and it sounded like someone was whipping someone in the barn. After passing the barn, Reed went to Mandy Bradley’s house and told her what he had heard".

In addition to Sheriff Strider, the four attorneys representing Milam and Bryant, pro bono, all of them suggested that the body pulled from the Tallahatchie River was not that of 14-years-old Emmett Louis Till. No positive identification had been made in Mississippi, except for the one made by Mose Wright and Mamie Till. 

FBI Reopens Till Case

The Justice Department reopened the Emmett Till murder case in 2004 to determine if someone other than Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were involved in the kidnapping and murder of Till. Investigators needed to put several issues to rest, including claims about who was actually buried; who was murdered in Mississippi. Exhuming Till’s remains, and performing a DNA test would debunk the myth that someone else had been buried in Till's coffin.

Till’s body, buried at Burr Oak Cemetery, was exhumed June 1, 2005. The remains were transported to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. A “Anatomic Diagnosis” concluded Till suffered a (1) gunshot wound of the head, (2) multiple comminuted skull fractures, (3) multiple lead fragments recovered from the head and skill, (4) fractures of the right and left wrist bones, (5) fractures of the distal left femur, (6) embalmed body with numerous venting incisions in the skin and floor of the mouth, and (7) missing left upper central incisor with open socket. The medical examiner concluded that Emmett Louis Till died of a gunshot wound to the head, deeming his death a homicide.

The case was turned over to the local prosecutor. The FBI suggested they take another look at Carolyn Bryant, then 73. A Mississippi Grand Jury that included a majority of African Americans, concluded there was not sufficient evidence to indict her. The book on the case was permanently closed.

In a 1965 interview with Look magazine, Milam and Bryant, unafraid of double jeopardy, told the reporter a story that did not jibe with courts transcripts. They admitted to going to Mose Wright’s house to kidnap Till. Milam, supposedly the most “articulate” of the duo, said they only wanted to “whip him and scare some sense into him". He said they got angry because they could not scare the defiant 14-year-old, who repeated that he had been White women before. That sent them into a tizzy. No Black male has ever talked to them in such a tone, admitting that he had been with a White woman. Till, his life hanging on a thread, broke all the rules he was supposed to follow.

Killers Confess to Murdering Till In Magazine Interview

Roy Bryant (left) and J. W. Milam
In the Look magazine interview conducted by William Bradford Huie, 1956, J. W. Milam said: “Well, what else could we do? He was hopeless. I'm no bully; I never hurt a nigger in my life. I like niggers -- in their place -- I know how to work 'em. But I just decided it was time a few people got put on notice. As long as I live and can do anything about it, niggers are gonna stay in their place. Niggers ain't gonna vote where I live. If they did, they'd control the government.

“They ain't gonna go to school with my kids. And when a nigger gets close to mentioning sex with a white woman, he's tired o' livin'. I'm likely to kill him. Me and my folks fought for this country, and we got some rights. I stood there in that shed and listened to that nigger throw that poison at me, and I just made up my mind. 'Chicago boy,' I said, 'I'm tired of 'em sending your kind down here to stir up trouble. Goddam you, I'm going to make an example of you -- just so everybody can know how me and my folks stand".

Milam and Bryant pistol whipped Till. They took him back the truck, and went looking an object heavy enough to weigh down his body. They found a trashed gin fan that they attached to his neck. Till was ordered to strip naked, which he did slowly. And then the taunting begin, with Milam taking charge, as usual.

Milam: “Are you still as good as I am.”
Bobo: Yeah.”
Milam: “You still ‘had’ White women?”
Bobo: “Yeah.”

Emmett Till
Huie wrote: “That big .45 jumped in Big Milam's hand. The youth turned to catch that big, expanding bullet at his right ear. He dropped. They barb-wired the gin fan to his neck, rolled him into 20 feet of water. For three hours that morning, there was a fire in Big Milam's back yard: Bobo's crepe soled shoes were hard to burn. Seventy-two hours later -- eight miles downstream -- boys were fishing. They saw feet sticking out of the water. Bobo". The murderers were paid to do the interview.

Simeon Wright said he disagreed with the Mississippi Grand Jury decision not indict Carolyn Bryant, “What I saw, I think they had evidence to indict. Every last person up to now has gotten away with murder". (USA Today, 3/30/2007)

“If there were others involved, as Willie Reed and Moses Wright had testified under oath, Milam and Bryant did not name them. Mamie Till went to Washington to press the Federal Government to re-open the case. Despite thousands of letters protesting Mississippi's handling of the murder, President Dwight Eisenhower and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ruled out a federal investigation. Eisenhower didn't even answer Mamie Till's telegram.

“No one ever did time for the killing of the 14 year-old black boy from Chicago. But his murder, and the trial and acquittal of his killers, sent a powerful message: If change was going to come, people would have to put themselves on the line. Contributors to civil rights groups soared. And one hundred days after the death of Emmett Till, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person, and the Montgomery bus boycott began". (The American Experience, PBS)

Mamie Till-Mobley died of cardia arrest in a Chicago hospital June 6, 2003. She was 81. J.W. Milam died of bone cancer in 1981. He was 61. Roy Bryant, suffering back problems and legally blind, died of cancer in 1994. He was 63.