Natchez civil rights activists foiled a plot to kill John Lewis in 1960s

Published 4:41 pm Wednesday, July 22, 2020

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A Natchez civil rights activist played an important role in helping the late John Lewis to survive a plot to take his life.

Lewis, a Democrat, was elected to Congress to serve the 5th Congressional District of Georgia in 1987 and served until his death on July 17 at age of 80.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said his father, Jonathan Grennell, as a young man was a member of a secret civil rights group known as the Black Dot Club.

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Grennell said his father and the other members of the secret club had a black dot tattooed on their chests.

“They were a secret civil rights organization composed of young men who would transport these Freedom Riders who came to Natchez,” he said.

According to Grennell, Lewis was in Natchez in the early 1960s as part of the Freedom Riders when word came down that members of the Natchez Ku Klux Klan planned to kill him here.

“My dad, who was a race car driver and who knew all of the back roads into and out of Natchez, was able to get John Lewis out of Natchez safely,” Grennell said. “Years later when I was in Washington and met John Lewis and told him who my dad was, he said, ‘Tell your father I said thank you for saving my life, for getting me out of there.’ ”

Grennell said only three members of the Black Dot Club are still living today.