Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Gilbert R. Mason, 'Civil Rights Doctor,' Dies

Gilbert R. Mason made a big splash in Mississippi's civil rights cause. Known as South Mississippi's "civil rights doctor," Mason was a leading cursader for racial equality. He died Friday, July 7, after a lengthy illness, the Associated Press reported. He was 77.

The Jackson native worked to integrate Biloxi's beaches and provide medical care for blacks during a time when those services were not available to blacks.

Mason had opened his medical practice in Biloxi in 1966, when black physicians were not allowed to work on hospital staffs and black were not allowed on maternity wards -- a practice he helped to reverse. He also fought for school integration during the 1950s and 1960s. Mason staged beach wade-ins into the Mississippi Sound to protest and was jailed for trespassing.

Of course, Mason was a frequent target of Sovereignty Commission reports. Here are several of the hundreds that still exist:

6-page memo on beach integration, May 4, 1960, by Zack J. Van Landingham

News articles -- "Negro Breaks Color Line at Biloxi"

News article -- whites attack blacks who try to swim at Biloxi Beach

News article -- Mississippi's Supreme Court a Gulf Coast beach strip to private landowners, "complicating" U. S. Integration

Follow-up memo, May 5, Zack J. Van Landingham

Lengthy memo from ZJVL on voter registration in Biloxi; involves Dr. Mason

Memo, June 28, 19969 -- Suspicion that Mason and another black are involved with two whites, known for the civil rights involvement

* * * * *

So much more ... all fascinating reading from the files. sk

* * * * *

Gilbert R. El masón hizo a chapoteo grande en la causa de las derechas civiles de Mississippi. Sabido pues doctor de las derechas civiles de Mississippi del sur el “,” masón era un cursader principal para la igualdad racial. Él murió el viernes 7 de julio, después de una enfermedad muy larga, la prensa asociada divulgada. Él era 77.

Researchers Note -- changes in file access

Benjamin Greenberg wrote:

Have you noted the change to the SC online website? A while back I noticed that the link to the site had changed. What I didn't realize until tonight is that the MDAH web site's method of forming links to the files has also changed. None of my bookmarks to individual files worked. Like you, I'm sure, I have hundreds and hundreds of files bookmarked. After some minutes of panicking, I compared one of my bookmarks with the url for a file I retrieved under the new system. I realized that with a small addition to the old versions of the urls you will get the file you are looking for.

In the old system, urls look like this:


In the new system they look like this:

http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/arlib/contents/er/sovcom/result.php ?image=/data/sov_commission/images/

The only difference is the part you see in bold, "sovcom/"

If you insert "sovecom/" after the "er/" in your bookmark urls, you should get the file you want. I'm relieved to know that it's still possible to access things I've bookmarked, but obviously, this is incredibly inconvenient. It's a terrible disservice to researchers who use the SC Online system.


Benjamin Greenberg

Here's the url for the Sovereignty Commission online archives:

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Emmett Till Investigation Moves Forward

Prosecutor pores over 8,000-page Till file for evidence

By Jerry Mitchell
The Clarion-Ledger
Jackson, Mississippi

"War and Peace has nothing on the FBI's new investigative file into the 1955 killing of Emmett Till.

"Leo Tolstoy's epic novel of 19th-century Russia surpasses 1,400 pages, but the file that state and federal prosecutors are poring over is more than five times thicker.

"It's probably well over 8,000 pages," said District Attorney Joyce Chiles, who has no time frame for her difficult job of deciding if enough evidence exists to go forward with the Till case."

Story Continued ...

Meanwhile, Emmett Till followers can find dozens of links in Sovereignty Commission files. Here are a few ...

This is a memo to the file regarding Dr. Aaron Henry, an "integration agitator." The entire memo is interesting to read and refers to the Till case. Dr. Henry played an important role in the initial investigation for the NAACP.

Here is a fascinating, hand-written letter by a minister, Rev. Hollis N. Turner of McComb, to the state's lieutenant governor, Carroll Gartin, explaining the importance of the NAACP, including information on the Till case, and telling why the organization is so important. It was a brave letter to write at the time. The letter's recipient turns it over to the Sovereignty Commission head, Ney Gore ...

"Emmett Till Hall" is controlled by a "motley" crew of "bare footed females" and "whiskered" young men ... writes an investigator in this Sovereignty Commission report.

The NAACP's reaction to a Mississippi industry tour press conference. Mississippi has had "no violence" against negroes and negroes "are satisfied" with the school equalization project since Brown, reporters were told.

Was Billy Wilson one of Emmett Till's murderers? This early story about school desegregation in West Point, Mississippi, suggests the possibility.

A black informant gives his report to the Sovereignty Commission ...

State report lists Till's 1955 murder (and others in 1955) in Tallahatchie County. What could have been the reason for this sudden report? Perhaps the federal government was pushing Mississippi after the Till publicity.

This county report lists Till's killers.

There's more on Emmett Till in the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission files -- but not very much, really. The Sovereignty Commission files were thinned out by those officials who knew the files would eventually be made available to the public.

So when is the state of Mississippi going to go to private homes of former commissioners and investigators, and others, whose families still have possession of important evidence in the Till case and in countless others?