Remembrance service is vital for healing

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 10, 2016

Five decades ago today, men with hate-filled hearts lured a quiet, simple and kind man to his death.

Ben Chester White, a laborer on a plantation in Adams County, was merely bait, bait that had to be killed to lure in the race-haters’ ultimate prey — a national civil rights leader.

White wasn’t involved in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In fact, he reportedly wasn’t even registered to vote.

Email newsletter signup

But his kind nature made him an easy target.

The goal was simple: Kill a black man so heinously that the mourning of the victim’s death would cause the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to come to Natchez. From there, King would become the target of their hate.

Three members of the Ku Klux Klan pulled up to where White was working and asked him to help them find their lost dog. He got into the car with them and was never seen alive again.

His bullet-riddled body was found dumped on federal land. The three men accused initially in the killing were never convicted in the 1960s, but one — the only one surviving at the time — was brought to justice in 2003. He was tried, convicted and ultimately died a year later in jail. Justice was served, though it was years after White’s murder.

Today, Natchez will pause to commemorate White’s death at 2 p.m. at Windy Hill Baptist Church No. 1. White’s death still serves to remind us just how recently, our community was divided deeply by race. Perhaps over time our community will come together in healing those old wounds. Today’s ceremony is a good step in the right direction.