FBI Investigated George Lee’s Murder; Suspects Never Tried

As it turned out, the FBI did investigate the murder of the Rev. George Lee of Belzoni, and records show the agency built a circumstantial murder case against two men.

But a local prosecutor refused to take the case to a grand jury.

Peck Ray and Joe David Watson Sr., the suspects, were members of the small town’s white Citizens Council and both died in the 1970s.

Interviewed by Newsday years later in 2000, Ernest White, a close friend of Lee’s, said that he always suspected that Ray, a local handyman, and Watson, a gravel hauler, were involved in Lee’s murder. “We suspected them because of their reputation,” White told reporter Stephanie Saul.

Before Lee’s murder, Watson had been arrested, but not convicted, for randomly shooting into a black sharecropper’s home.

Some of Lee’s friends believed the murder was part of a larger conspiracy involving influential members of the community who wanted to silence Lee, who was encouraging blacks to register to vote.

“The big wheels paid them off,” said White, who became a city councilman years after Lee’s death.

The FBI released their investigation records to Newsday under the Freedom of Information Act. Many names in the records were marked out but reveal the FBI had named Watson and Ray:

“Witnesses saw two men leave a downtown street corner where they had been standing, enter Ray’s green two-toned Mercury convertible just before the shooting, drive away and return shortly afterward. Several witnesses saw a convertible fitting that description following Lee with only its parking lights on.

One witness said the fatal shots were fired from such a car. But no one could identify the shooters,” Saul reported.

The Newsday reporter also indicated that Ray had his convertible painted red following the shooting and that Watson’s pick-up had carried a sawed-off shotgun loaded with No. 3 buckshot – the same bullets used to kill Lee.

Further, Watson and Ray gave conflicting accounts of their activities that night,” Saul reported.

Ray’s wife told investigators that he had picked her up from the movie at about 11 p.m. and had gone home. But she could not remember the name of the movie.

Ray’s daughter, Doris Dalton, told Saul she did not believe her father could have committed such a crime and that it was her idea to paint the convertible because she was taking it to college.

Agents had turned over evidence to the local prosecutor, Stanny Sanders, but held Watson’s shotgun and shells for possible use in a trial. Sanders, who died in 1972, declined to prosecute.

An FBI memo in 1956 states that Sanders believed that while the investigation “conclusively demonstrates that criminal action was responsible for Lee’s death, he does not believe the identity of the subjects is sufficiently established by usable evidence to warrant presentation to the grand jury.”

Sanders told agents that a Humphreys County grand jury “probably would not bring an indictment, even if given positive evidence.”

Sanders suggested that Belzoni settled down after Lee’s murder, and he believed it would harm race relations to reopen the matter. The U. S. Justice Department did not file civil rights charges because it could not substantiate allegations that Lee was killed because of voting rights activities.

“The 20-gauge double-barrel shotgun was personally returned to Watson by an FBI agent, the file notes. Also delivered were the two No. 3 buckshot shells obtained … with the gun.”

That fall, political campaigns were negative, condemning voting initiatives and school desegregation efforts. The Citizens Council supported all five candidates for governor; and the state Democratic Party chair, Bidwell Adams, announced that blacks might be national Democrats, but they were not Mississippi Democrats.

“We don’t intend to have Negroes voting in this primary,” Adams said. Few blacks would have supported any of the gubernatorial candidates, anyway, black leader Aaron Henry of Clarksdale later observed.

Brown II follows Lee’s death

Shortly after Rev. Lee’s murder the Supreme Court handed down Brown II on May 31, 1955, ordering the South to proceed with integration “with all deliberate speed.” The wording seemed harsh to many, as Brown II spoke plainly in reaffirming the first decision.

This time anger was higher than before and chaos reigned in many communities throughout the South, including the Mississippi Delta.

Three weeks later, the NAACP in Vicksburg filed a petition signed by 140 parents calling for “immediate steps to reorganize the public schools on a non-segregated basis.”

The following week in Natchez, seventy-five parents filed a similar petition. Parents followed suit in Jackson and then within weeks, Delta parents in Clarksdale and Yazoo City joined the growing movement. It was a real act of courage for any parent to sign a petition, and NAACP leader Medgar Evers insisted that people know what they were signing and all possible consequences.

Evers, too, was later murdered and his widow, Myrlie Evers later wrote that parents were also assured they could remove their names if pressures became too great.

Black teachers were holding back in their support, afraid they would lose their jobs if identified with the movement. Myrlie Evers wrote.

Further, a problem existed for most black teachers because of their own inferior training. Few had advanced degrees or schooling outside of Mississippi. Some had no degree at all, and many black teachers soon lost their jobs.

Most school boards simply closed the matter, saying the petitions failed to meet certain requirements and presented them with nothing to take action upon. This advice, at least in Vicksburg, came from the state’s attorney general.

But white Citizens Councils did not see the situation as closed. New chapters quickly formed and in Yazoo City, the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of petitioners were listed in a paid advertisement in the Yazoo Herald as a “public service” of the Citizens Council of Yazoo City.

Myrlie Evers told how the toll of petitioners in Yazoo City quickly overcame any possibilities of change:

“Jasper Mims, treasurer of the local NAACP, had been a carpenter for thirty years. He had earned up to $150 a week. Months later he reported he had not had a call for work since the now-famous ad had appeared.

“The income of Hoover Harvey, a plumber whose customers were mostly white, was soon down to twenty dollars a week. Both Mims and Harvey removed their names from the petition, but there was no letup in the pressure.”

Fifty-one of the fifty-three signatures on the petition were removed; two people who left the county for good didn’t stop to have their names taken from the list, and this was the story in most towns where the petitions were filed.

Medgar Evers drove from city to city, speaking at meetings and asking petitioners to hold firm.

But this was not to be, and the Jackson NAACP soon became a distribution point for food and clothing as petitioners around the state suffered. People told the NAACP they received threatening telephone calls or were put off their plantations; and they were having police, money, voting, and even marital problems.

Others killed as violence grows

The growing violence was not limited to the Delta. Lamar Smith was killed on a Saturday morning, August 13, 1955, in Brookhaven.

The sixty-year-old farmer and World War II veteran was handing out voting literature to blacks on the Lincoln County Courthouse lawn, in the home county of Judge Brady, author of Black Monday, when he was shot by a white man in broad daylight who was never officially identified although dozens of people watched the killing. No one would admit they saw a white man shoot a black man.

Smith, who had voted in the primary election eleven days earlier, was explaining to blacks how to vote by absentee ballot to avoid violence at the polls. He may have also been campaigning against a county supervisor.

The NAACP later blamed Citizens Councils for the murder in a pamphlet entitled M is for Murder and Mississippi.

Even though the murder occurred on Saturday morning when the courthouse square was normally filled with people, investigators said there were no witnesses to be found.

Historian John Dittmer observes that, “Although the sheriff saw a white man leaving the scene ‘with blood all over him,’ no one admitted to having witnessed the shooting,” and “the killer went free.”

Later, a white farmer, Noah Smith, was charged with murder in a warrant filed by J. J. Breland, a “courageous attorney.”

Between the years of 1956 and 1959, Medgar Evers spent much of his time investigating racially motivated homicides. Officially, ten blacks were killed by whites in civil rights struggles in those years, and there were no convictions.

Evers’ job was to investigate, file complaints, issue angry statements, take reporters to crime scenes, issue press releases, and involve the federal government.

(Excerpt from Where Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited, by M. Susan Klopfer, copyright 2005 M. Susan Klopfer)

Pennsylvania Public Records – 2 Main Search Options

Pennsylvania public records is the archive that you should access if you want to get your own personal files like birth certificate, marriage certificate, and divorce certificate among many others; it also contain other pertinent documents like death certificates, court cases, criminal files, felony reports, and much more. Because of the importance of these documents, numerous individuals from all walks of life are searching for methods of access to this database due to various reasons.

Some people want to access this archive because they need to get copies of one of the documents as attachment to their loan and insurance applications, employment requirements, insurance claims, claims for health benefits, updating of social security files, and so on. Other individuals are also searching through Pennsylvania public records in order to perform background check on a person; or verify the credentials of loan and job applicants.

Whatever reasons you have in mind for wanting to access this database, you have two main options of search. One method necessitates you to make personal appearance at the respective local government agency in charge of maintaining the archive; while the other method offers the convenience of getting your desired data online without exerting much efforts from your end. Each of these methods has its own unique advantages; as well as disadvantages.

The first option is time consuming, costly in terms of transportation expenses, and requires a lot of efforts from you; however, this is the best way of getting the certified copies of these personal certificates which may cost you around $10 per copy. The second method offers the convenience of instant online access within just minutes of doing your search at any time you want, and at the comfort of your home without leaving your house; however, this is only good if you do not need to procure the certified papers.

For the option of getting the certified papers, you can either visit or mail your requests to the following:

For Birth Certificates and Death Records:
Division of Vital Records 101 South Mercer Street, Room 401 PO Box 1528 New Castle, PA 16101.

For Marriage Records & Divorce Records
Just visit the County courthouse where it was filed; some of them are located in the following Counties:

Adams
111-17 Baltimore St.
Gettysburg, PA 17325-2313

Allegheny
414 Grant St., 1st Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2403

Beaver
810 3rd St.
Beaver, PA 15009

Delaware
201 W. Front St.
Media, PA 19063-2708

Franklin
157 Lincoln Way E
Chambersburg, PA 17201

Westmoreland
301 Courthouse Square
Greensburg, PA 15601

Nevertheless, just check your local directory for the details of the address if they are not one among the aforementioned locations. The second method offers more convenience because all you have to do is input the name of the person and the place; the results will give you excellent details of the individual, including the aforesaid documents. Your choice on which option is best lies on the purpose of your search for Pennsylvania public records.

The Chicago Beer Riot

In the mid 1800s, America had many worries, not only were the southern states threatening secession but there were very severe strains between more recently arrived German and Irish immigrants an those whose parents and grandparents immigrated from Europe earlier. Those who most feared that the country was being taken over by so many immigrants gravitated towards to a group that called itself the “American Party”. In time they became known by the name “Know-nothings” because of the semi secret organization of the party. If a member was asked about their activities by an outsider they were supposed to reply with the phrase “I know nothing”.

By 1855 Chicago had become a hotbed of tension between the immigrant groups and the party. That year Levi Boone was elected Mayor running on an anti-immigrant platform. Mayor Boone was a moralist, if not technically a “know-nothing” and he was outraged by the pleasure that the Irish and Germans found in drinking beer and chose that drink to bring pressure on the immigrant communities. After Boone was elected, he first barred immigrants from any city job. Next, he increased the cost of a city issued liquor license by 2,400%, from $50 annually to $300 quarterly. Then he ordered that an old law be brought back, prohibiting sale of alcohol and beer on Sundays.

On the first Sunday that the newly reenacted law was in effect, the immigrants on Chicago’s north side went about their business as usual, gathering in their neighborhood taverns for the traditional Sunday afternoon beer. Suddenly, and without any warning, the Chicago police showed up, ordered all the taverns to be shut down and arrested more than two hundred people for drinking on Sunday. The magistrate on duty at the courthouse released those who had been arrested and set a hearing date for April 21, 1855.

When that day arrived, an unruly crowd of some 300 barkeepers marched towards Courthouse Square, shouting threats against the judge and being led by a traditional Yankee fife and drum. Chicago police stopped the crowd and moved them back to the north side and a clash was averted. But not for long! About three that afternoon the crowd returned. And again the police were prepared for their arrival. Their tactic this time was to allow about half the crowd to cross the Chicago River and then open the swing bridges which effectively cut the crowd in half as well as trapping some on the bridges themselves. This tactic, while effective, infuriated the protesters and very soon both sides were shooting at each other.

Immediately rumors began that some of the protesters had been killed but there is no historical evidence for this claim. The fact that the Mayor had ordered the cannon in the courthouse square be loaded in anticipation probably helped fuel the rumors. As night came on, tempers cooled off and the demonstration broke up, their point made. The next year, Levi Boone lost his bid for re-election and the prohibition against selling beer on Sundays was repealed.

And so ended the great “Lager Beer Riot”; the only time in U.S. history that drinkers have rioted in support of their favorite beverage.