Franklin County citizen calls for reconciliation

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

ROXIE — Franklin County has been in the national news for some frankly unflattering things in the past, but John Briggs said he believes it’s time to move on.

That’s why he has presented a proposal for the promotion of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation to the county board of supervisors.

A civil suit against the county by the family of Thomas Moore is pending, and Briggs said that some of the victims of Civil Rights crimes still live in Franklin County, and would actually be penalized themselves if the plaintiffs win the lawsuit.

Moore was a black teenager who was kidnapped, beaten, tied up and thrown into the Mississippi River to drown in 1964. His friend, Henry Hezekiah Dee, was also killed in the same incident.

One man, the then 71-year-old James Ford Seale, was convicted on kidnapping charges related to the deaths in 2007.

“There are those of us in the county who were victims of what was going on back then, and the proposal is a way to kind of acknowledge what happened,” Briggs said.

The Briggs family was victimized when the Rev. Clyde Ben Briggs — John Briggs’ father — was poisoned for working to register black voters and otherwise energize the black community to positive political action during the volatile Civil Rights era, John Briggs said.

The proposal, which was submitted to the supervisors and to the attorney for Thomas Moore’s family, asks for the county, the state of Mississippi and the United States to all participate in the process.

On the county end, Briggs has proposed that Seale Road be renamed Dee-Moore Road, Schillinghill Road be renamed Clyde Briggs Road and that the county museum and library erect a display about the incidents.

Schillinghill Road is the road on which the Briggs family estate is located, Briggs said.

“The proposal is basically to say let’s reconcile and move on, and still acknowledge what has happened,” he said.

“There may be people who are (in Franklin County) who are still racists, but I would say 80 to 90 percent of people who are there couldn’t care about race.”

The proposal for the state is to designate three portions of U.S. 84 as memorial highways for Dee, Moore and Clyde Briggs, and to — in cooperation with the U.S. government — erect a monument in Roxie’s town square to commemorate the victims, and list all of the victims of Civil Rights crimes in Mississippi.

The proposal for the U.S. government is to rename Clear Springs Recreation Park, where Dee and Moore were reportedly taken to be beaten, as the Henry Dee-Charles Moore Freedom Park.

The final provision in the proposal asks for the county, state and federal governments to pass and publish a statement of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

While the other parties have not responded to the proposal, Briggs said he has heard from the county’s attorney, who expressed interest.

“He said that the display is something they wouldn’t mind working with, because he feels that the concept of reconciliation and moving on — and acknowledging what we are today — was a good proposal,” Briggs said.