Lamar Smith (activist)

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This article is about the civil rights activist. For other uses, see Lamar Smith.
Lamar Smith

Lamar Smith (1892 – August 13, 1955) was a U.S. civil rights figure, black farmer, World War I veteran and an organizer of black voter registration. He was shot to death in broad daylight around 10 a.m. at close range on the lawn of the Lincoln County courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

Details[edit]

Lamar Smith, a 63-year-old farmer and World War I veteran was a voting rights activist and a member of the Regional Counsel of Negro Leadership (RCNL). On August 2, he had voted in the primary and helped get others out to vote. There was a run-off primary scheduled for August 23. On August 13, Smith was at the courthouse helping other black voters to fill out absentee ballots so they could vote in the runoff without exposing themselves to violence at the polls.[1] He was shot to death in the front of the courthouse in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, at around 10 a.m.

Contemporary reports say there were "dozens of" white witnesses, including the local sheriff, who saw a white man covered with blood leaving the scene.[2] No witnesses would come forward and the three men who had been arrested went free. Smith apparently had attended meetings of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), probably the largest civil rights organization in the state. He was also a personal friend of RCNL president T. R. M. Howard of Mound Bayou.[3]

Background[edit]

Smith's murder was one of several racially motivated attacks in Mississippi in 1955. The other incidents included the murder of George W. Lee, a civil rights leader in Belzoni (May), the killing of Emmett Till, a black teenager visiting from Chicago (August), and the shooting of Gus Courts (December), a civil rights associate of Lee in Belzoni. The Smith case was cited in the NAACP's pamphlet M is for Mississippi and Murder.[4]

Legal status[edit]

Three men were arrested in connection with Smith's murder. On September 13, 1955, an all-white Brookhaven grand jury failed to return any indictments. The District Attorney reported that the Sheriff, Carnie E. Smith, refused to make an immediate arrest “although he knew everything I know”. The District Attorney further reported that the sheriff told him he saw Noah Smith, one of the accused, “leave the scene with blood all over him. It was his duty to take that man into custody regardless of who he was, but he did not do it.”

References[edit]

  1. ^ Payne, Charles M. (1996). I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. University of California Press. p. 39. ISBN 9780520207066. 
  2. ^ Orr-Klopfer, M. Susan; Barry Klopfer; Fred Klopfer (2005). Where Rebels Roost... Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited. p. 246. ISBN 978-1411641020. 
  3. ^ Beito, David and Linda (2009). Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03420-6. 
  4. ^ M is for Mississippi and Murder. NAACP. November 1955.