Adams – People/Persons

Mackel, Audley Maurice

Audley Maurice Mackel was a prominent dentist from Natchez who resurrected the Natchez chapter of the NAACP in the spring of 1940, by collecting enough support and members to charter a new chapter. He eventually served as the branch secretary. In the 1950s he was active in the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, the organization headed by Dr. T.R.M. Howard. In a legendary incident, he drove Dr. Howard in a hearse past a number of gun-toting Klansman.

White, Ben Chester

Ben Chester White was the caretaker of the Carter family farm off Liberty Road in Natchez his entire life and was never involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Despite his elderly age of 67 and lack of involvement in the racial tumult of the 1960s, James L. Jones, Claude Fuller and Ernest Avants, all members of a murderous Klan offshoot calling themselves the Cottonmouth Moccasin Gang, murdered Mr. White on July 10, 1966. The three men picked up Mr. White on that June afternoon. After buying Mr. White a soda, the three took him to Homochitto National Forest and forced him out of the car. He was shot at least 18 times by Fuller and Avants. His body was then dumped into Pretty Creek and the car was burned in an attempt to destroy the evidence. Jones, overcome with remorse, went to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and confessed to his involvement in the crime.

Some speculate that Mr. White was killed to take the focus away from James Meredith’s March Against Fear, also taking place in July 1966. Others say that the Klan wanted to lure Martin Luther King, Jr. to Natchez for an assassination attempt.

All three men were charged by the State of Mississippi on first-degree murder charges. Fuller was never tried, and Jones’s trial ended in a hung jury. Avants was acquitted of the murder charge but lost a wrongful death suit to the White family, though the White family has yet to collect any damages.

However, when Federal prosecutors realized that Mr. White was murdered on federal land, specifically in Homochitto National Forest, they reopened the case. In 2003, Ernest Avants was convicted of aiding and abetting in the murder of Ben Chester White and sentenced to life in prison. U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. told Avants, who listened from a wheelchair, “Justice in this country can and sometimes has to wait. Times have changed since 1966. When Ernest Avants’ generation is finally dead, I hope most of the hatred will have died with it.”

Sources:

Bragg, Rick. “Former Klansmen is Found Guilty in 1966 Killing.”New York Times. 1 March 2003.

Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Metcalf, George and Jackson, Wharlest

George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson both worked at the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company and both were active members of the NAACP with Metcalf as president of the local chapter and Jackson as the treasurer. Jim Crow was well established at Armstrong, like many other industrial employers of the day. However, Metcalf and Jackson successfully pressured Armstrong to end the segregated conditions at the plant, and Armstrong soon began handing out promotions regardless of race.

After these diligent efforts, Wharlest Jackson was one of the recipients of the newly introduced conditions: he received a 17cent-an-hour raise. However, on the morning of February 27, 1967, near the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and Miner Street, his life was taken when a bomb exploded under the hood of his truck, killing him instantly. No one has ever been charged with his murder though it has been placed on the list of cases to possibly reopen.

George Metcalf, in addition to his work at Armstrong, had also been campaigning to end school segregation and submitted a petition to the school board on August 19, 1967, calling for such. He also included a request not to release the names of those who signed the petition, but the school board, even if it had chosen to honor the request, could not withhold the information from the press. The next day the names of the petitioners were published, and, on August 27, as Metcalf got into his car to head home from work, a bomb ripped his car apart. Miraculously, Metcalf survived despite extensive injuries. No one has ever been charged in his attempted murder.

Rather than intimidate the black community, the attacks on Metcalf and Jackson strengthened the resolve of the community, with attendance at meetings increasing many fold and many pledging armed resistance to further attacks.

Sources:

Dittmer, John. Local People: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Jackson, James

James Jackson was a local barber and leader of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a paramilitary group founded to protect the black community and activists. He was the first president of the group.

Sources:
Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.

Stokes, James

James Stokes was a founder and spokesman for the Deacons for Defense and Justice.

Sources:
Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.

Young, James

James Young was a founder and the first secretary of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. He developed bylaws and the organization’s charter.

Sources:

Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.