Voter Registration in Benton County

(1960s) Walter Reaves, a citizen of Benton, along with others, urged people to become registered voters during the Civil Rights Movement. Cleanna Tipler, Loyal W. Thompson, Sr., and Henry Reaves were some of the first to register to vote in Benton County. Many followed, though they were often unsuccessful and sometimes intentionally turned away. On numerous occasions blacks were given difficult tests consisting of questions from the constitution and other federal documents. Knowing that people did not often read the Constitution and that the blacks often had little education, officials were able to prevent blacks from registering.

J.B. Mathis, the voter registrar, blatantly set up roadblocks to keep people from becoming registered voters. On December 1, 1964, Mathis was ordered by the federal court in Oxford, Mississippi, to stop his discriminatory acts towards the blacks. Although ordered by the federal court, Mathis still turned away a significant number of potential black voters.

Sources:

My Mind Stayed on Freedom, a film by Aviva Futorian

Benton County