Murder of Louis Allen
|Born||Between 1910s or 1920s|
|Died||January 31, 1964
Amite County, Mississippi
|Cause of death||Murder|
Louis Allen (Between 1910s or 1920s - murdered January 31, 1964) was an African-American logger and civil rights activist, involved in voter registration in the small town of Liberty, Mississippi. He allegedly witnessed the murder of a fellow activist by a white state legislator, and was himself murdered when he approached federal authorities about the killing. Despite a consensus among investigators that Allen was killed by Amite County's sheriff, no one has been prosecuted for the murder.
 Early life
Allen's precise date of birth is unknown, although this date could be between 1910s or 1920s. He served in World War II.
 Murder of Herbert Lee
On September 25, 1961, as he was walking past a cotton gin, Allen witnessed the murder of Herbert Lee, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, by E.H. Hurst, a pro-segregation legislator in Mississippi's House of Representatives. When a coroner's inquest was conducted hours later, Allen and other witnesses were pressured into giving false testimony, claiming that Hurst had shot Lee in self-defense. The all-white jury deemed the death self defense and Hurst was not prosecuted.
However, Allen's conscience persuaded him to tell the truth to fellow activists. He discussed Lee's murder with Julian Bond, an SNCC organizer and the future NAACP president; Bond wanted Allen to tell his story to federal authorities, but in the racially charged atmosphere of Liberty, such an action was very dangerous. "He lied [at Hurst's trial] because he was in fear of his life", Bond later said. "If he had implicated a powerful white man in a murder of a black man, he was risking his life...I tried to encourage him to tell the truth, but you know, it was like saying, 'Why don't you volunteer to be killed?'"
Allen eventually approached the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Commission on Civil Rights to change his story. An FBI memo reported that Allen "expressed fear that he might be killed", but the Bureau did not provide him with any protection. Rumors of Allen's actions subsequently spread throughout Liberty's white population, which responded by blackballing him from the community. When Allen reported death threats, the FBI—which had limited jurisdiction over civil rights cases at the time—referred the matter to the Amite County sheriff's office. Another FBI memo, however, reported that "Allen was to be killed and the local sheriff was involved in the plot to kill him."
White hostility against Allen continued to intensify in Liberty. On one occasion, as Allen unsuccessfully attempted to register to vote at Amite County Courthouse, he was shot at by an unknown assailant. In another incident, a white businessman threatened Allen, saying, "Louis, the best thing you can do is leave. Your little family—they're innocent people—and your house could get burned down. All of you could get killed."
Allen allegedly became a target of harassment by Amite County's newly-elected sheriff, Daniel Jones. In a later interview, Allen's son, Hank, described Jones as "mean", recounting numerous incidents where he arrested his father on trumped-up charges. Hank Allen remembered a particular incident where he witnessed his father being beaten by Jones outside his home, which culminated in Jones breaking Louis Allen's jawbone with a flashlight. Allen was arrested and spent the night in the county jail, but lodged a complaint against Jones to the FBI. He summarily testified before a federal grand jury. His complaint, however, was dismissed.
The deteriorating atmosphere within Liberty reached such a point that Allen arranged to move in with relatives in Milwaukee. On the night of January 31, 1964—the night before his scheduled departure—Allen was ambushed at the cattle grid outside his property. He was killed by two shotgun blasts to the head. His body was eventually found by Hank Allen.
No further investigation into Allen's murder was conducted until 1994, when Plater Robinson, a history professor at Tulane University, began examining the case files. Robinson's research in the following years pointed to Daniel Jones as a likely suspect in the killing. In 1998, Robinson conducted a tape-recorded interview with an elderly black preacher named Alfred Knox, who claimed that Jones recruited his son-in-law, Archie Weatherspoon, to "kill Louis Allen". When Weatherspoon refused Jones' request to "pull the trigger", Jones allegedly killed Allen himself. Both Knox and Weatherspoon are since deceased.
Jones also emerged as the prime suspect when the FBI reopened Allen's case in 2007. Jones' father was a high-ranking "Exalted Cyclops" in Liberty's Ku Klux Klan, and contemporary FBI documentation claimed that Jones himself was a Klan member.
In April 2011, a report about the Allen case was broadcast on CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes. As a part of the report, correspondent Steve Kroft travelled to Liberty to interview local residents, but was largely met with silence. Kroft also interviewed an elderly Daniel Jones on his property, who denied killing Allen and invoked the Fifth Amendment when asked about his alleged Klan membership.