Mississippi Turning

Killen is Wheeled to Court
Edgar Ray Killen is on trial for the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. (Kyle Carter -- Reuters)

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By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 16, 2005

This is a terrible town. The worst I've seen. There is a complete reign of terror here.

-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Philadelphia, Miss., July 24, 1964

PHILADELPHIA, Miss.

Preacher Killen.

Here he comes, pulling up to the courthouse and you know it's finally going to start now, 41 years after the killings.

Bald head. Wiry frame. Sour disposition. Eighty years old. Alive.

Then there are the dead. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner in June 1964. Mississippi never tried anyone for the murders until now.

Preacher Killen.

There he is on Monday, the first day of jury selection, easing out of his white Mercury Marquis, easing into his wheelchair -- he broke both legs in a tree-cutting accident recently -- and rolling past the magnolia tree on the Neshoba County courthouse lawn. He's greeted by the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from Georgia. Every day as he arrives he's flanked by police and photographers and followed by tight-lipped family.

"Good luck, preacher!" hollers one of the few spectators who have turned out.

Up the stairs, into the courtroom for jury selection.


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© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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