Mack Charles Parker
Mack Charles Parker (1936 – April 24, 1959) was an African-American victim of lynching in the United States. He was accused of raping a pregnant white woman in northern Pearl River County, Mississippi. Three days before he was to stand trial, he was kidnapped from his jail cell in the Pearl River County Courthouse by a mob, beaten and shot. His body was found in the Pearl River, 20 miles west of Poplarville, 10 days later. Despite evidence compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and indictment by a federal grand jury, the men who killed him were released.
Parker was arrested for the February 23, 1959 rape and kidnapping of a pregnant white woman, in Pearl River County, Mississippi. The victim reported that the crime occurred on a dirt logging road called Black Creek Ford Road, off U. S. Route 11, approximately seven miles south of Lumberton, where she and her child were waiting alone in a car while her husband sought help for repairs. Parker vehemently denied having raped anyone, and statements from his supporters after his death suggested that the rape accusations may have been fabricated by the alleged victim as a means of concealing an ongoing consensual affair with a local white man. These accusations were never proven and widely believed to be unfounded. Accounts provided by local [white] police and published by local [white] newspapers differed greatly from the accounts of the local [black] community and Northern [black] newspapers.
According to reports published in the New Orleans Times Picayune and the Jackson Clarion Ledger, Parker and four friends, Norman Malachy, David Alfred, Curt Underwood and Tommy Grant were returning to Lumberton from Poplarville. The five men had been to Slim’s, an illegal bar which was operated under the protection of the Poplarville City Police. It was located in the black section of Poplarville, and was known for selling white lightning moonshine. As the five neared Lumberton, Parker and his four companions spotted a Dodge sedan broken down on the side of the road. Assuming the car was abandoned, they stopped. Parker got out and shone a flashlight into the car. Upon recognizing a white woman in the car, Parker returned to his Chevy sedan and left. As they left the scene, Parker allegedly turned to his friends and said, “Why don’t we stop and get some o’ that white stuff?” Telling him he was crazy, the four men told Parker to take them home. According to local law enforcement officials, before the woman’s husband could return to the disabled car, Parker allegedly returned, kidnapped the woman and her four year-old daughter at gunpoint and took them to Black Creek Ford Road, where he raped the woman.
The woman did not identify her alleged attacker by name or detailed description beyond sex, race and approximate age. After an intensive manhunt, Lumberton police were informed by David Alfred’s father, a local Baptist minister, that Parker was the perpetrator. Parker was arrested at approximately 10 a.m. on February 24 at his Lumberton home by Lumberton City Marshal Ham Slade. Parker was beaten by Slade and his deputies, to the horror of his mother, Mrs. Eliza Parker. Parker’s screams could be heard several houses away.
Parker vehemently denied having raped anyone. In a line-up at the Lumberton City Jail, the victim identified Parker. A check of the tire tracks left by the perpetrator’s car indicated they were similar to those of Parker’s Chevrolet, but a positive identification could not be made. A check of fingerprints failed to implicate Parker. Soon after his arrest, and for his own protection, Lumberton Police had the Mississippi Highway Patrol transfer Parker to the Hinds County Jail in Jackson. While in the Hinds County Jail, Parker was subjected to several lie detector tests. All of the lie detector tests given Parker proved to be inconclusive. In addition, no handgun was ever found by police, nor was one ever connected to Mack Charles Parker.
On April 13, Parker was indicted by a Pearl River County grand jury, on one count of rape and two counts of kidnapping. Two days later, Parker was returned to Pearl River County to appear before Judge Sebe Dale, Sr., on April 17. Being represented by attorney and civil rights activist, R. Jess Brown of Vicksburg, Parker pled not guilty to each charge. Judge Dale set the trial date for April 27, and Parker was returned to his cell at the Pearl River County Courthouse.
According to the FBI report on the case, sometime around 12:15 a.m. on April 25, a vigilante mob of eight to ten hooded and masked men, wearing gloves, entered the courthouse.
Supposedly, they were let into the locked jail area by a deputy sheriff, Jewell Alford, who was with them. As Alford unlocked the door, four men from the mob entered Parker’s cell. Parker began pleading for help from the other prisoners and tried to escape. A life and death struggle soon ensued. Parker was beaten with clubs by the mob. As the mob dragged Parker out of the courthouse, he was bleeding profusely. Blood spurted from his wounds, leaving bloody hand prints and pools of blood along the route out of the courthouse.
The mob had two cars waiting outside for their escape. Parker was stuffed into the back seat of one and the two cars sped off west toward Bogalusa, Louisiana on Mississippi Highway 26. The car with Parker inside continued west on Mississippi Highway 26 until it reached the Mississippi-Louisiana border at the Pearl River Bridge, approximately 20 miles west of Poplarville.
According to the FBI, the mob with Parker in the car drove into Louisiana, where they waited to make sure the road was traffic-free. Once they were assured they were in the clear, Parker was driven to the center of the bridge. He was then pulled from the car and shot twice in the chest from a range of approximately six inches. Parker died within seconds.
The original plan had been to castrate Parker and hang him from the superstructure of the Pearl River Bridge; however, with Parker now dead, the mob decided to abandon its plan in fear of being discovered. They proceeded to weight his body down with logging chains which were produced from the trunk of one of the cars. Once the chains were secured around Parker’s body, it was tossed over the concrete railings of the bridge into the rain-swollen waters of the Pearl River below.
Upon learning of the events in the early morning hours of April 25, Pearl River County Sheriff, Osborn Moody, informed the Mississippi Highway Patrol, who then urged him to contact the FBI. That same morning, Moody obtained a "John Doe" warrant for the kidnapping of Mack Charles Parker.
On May 4, Parker's bloated and decomposing body was found floating in the waters of the Pearl River two and one-half miles south of the Pearl River Bridge at Bogalusa.
Almost immediately, 60 agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation descended upon the town of Poplarville. In the two weeks following Parker’s death, the FBI questioned hundreds of potential witnesses and suspects. Several local Poplarville men, Jewel Alford, Christopher Columbus "Crip" Reyer, L. C. Davis, Preacher, J. Floren Lee, his son J. F. "Jeff" Lee, Herman Schultz, Arthur Smith and J.P. Walker, a former Pearl River County Sheriff’s deputy, who would be elected sheriff of Pearl River County in November 1963, quickly became the focus of the FBI’s intensive probe into the abduction and death of Mack Charles Parker.
In a three hour interrogation session FBI agents browbeat Crip Reyer. Reyer finally admitted that his red and white 1956 Oldsmobile 88 had been used by the mob, but denied having anything to do with the abduction or killing of Parker.
On May 13, under intense pressure from FBI agents, Arthur Smith confirmed the role of each of the participants and supplied the names of Walker, Preacher Lee, L.C. Davis and the names of others who were in the two cars. Smith told agents that Lee, Reyer, Davis, and Walker were in the lead car that carried Parker from the jail.
A May 11 article in the Chicago Defender, a popular black newspaper circulated throughout the South, recounted an interview with an anonymous white male from Poplarville, claiming to have personal knowledge that the charges against Parker were fabricated. The alleged witness claimed that the alleged victim was in fact having an affair with a local white man, and she went with him while her husband was gone to get help to fix the car. When her absence was discovered before she returned, she concocted a rape and kidnapping story to shield her infidelity. The witness also indicated that the alleged victim fainted upon learning of Parker's kidnapping from the jail, and stated that he deserved a trial.
Despite an extensive investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the presentation of evidence before both county and federal grand juries, no indictment or conviction was ever obtained against any of the men who murdered Mack Charles Parker. Today the main suspects identified by the FBI have all died due to advancing age.
On May 9, 2009, the FBI announced they were re-opening the Mack Charles Parker case.
- "Chicagoans Doubt Claims of Rape," Chicago Defender, May 11, 1959
- "Chicagoans Doubt Claims of Rape," Chicago Defender, May 11, 1959
- Patricia Older, "FBI re-opens Mack Charles Parker lynching", Picayune Item, Picayune, Pearl River County, MS (May 9 2009)
- Howard Smead, Blood Justice: The Lynching of Mack Charles Parker, New York, Oxford University Press, 1986; Reprint (1988) Questia on line. ISBN 0-19-505429-6