A bill to hunt and find racists who killed some of those involved in
the Civil Rights Movement and others before 1969 is now in the U.S.
Senate after passing the House 422-2 this summer. The two
representatives voting against the bill were presidential candidate
John Paul (R-TX) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). The chief Senate
sponsor is presidential candidate Christopher Dodd (D-CT). Only two
presidential candidates are cosponsoring the bill: Barack
Obama (D-IL) and Joseph Biden (D-DE).
The House version,
H.R. 923, authorizes $10 million annually for fiscal years 2008 - 2017
for the U.S. Justice Department to hire special investigators to work
on solving civil rights crimes dating back before 1969 including that
of Booker T. Mixon of Clarksdale, MS and Emmett Till of Chicago, IL.
In 1959, Mixon’s body was found lying on side on a road. Police
claimed it was a hit-and-run, though family members cited his naked
body and the extensive amount of flash torn from his body as evidence
of murder. Till’s body was found in the Mississippi River with a
cotton gin tied to his neck.
Alvin Sykes, of Kansas City, MO and president of the Emmett Till
Justice Campaign, is the primary force behind the cold case bill.
If the bill passes, "the bill will be the engine for the most
comprehensive criminal manhunt ever in this country," he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
While some of the most notorious crimes took place in a district now
represented by Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the chief sponsor of the House
bill was John Lewis (D-GA). “I’d like to thank my dear friend and
colleague, Mr. Lewis of Georgia for leading the effort,” said
Thompson. “The first step toward erasing the injustices
that have haunted the families of the victims is to, as a nation,
acknowledge the resolve these unsolved murders.”
Emmett Till alive and in casket.