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Born in Washington, Pa., 24 May 1877, Samuel Wood Bryant graduated from- the Academy in 1900. During World War I he won the Navy Cross as commanding officer of Allen (DD-66) on convoy duty. He became Chief of Staff to Commander, Scouting Force, U. S. Fleet in 1931. Rear Admiral Bryant retired 1 March 1937 ana died at Asheville, N. C., 4 November 1938.
(DD-665: dp. 2050; 1. 376'5"; b. 39'7"; dr. 17'9"; s. 35.2
k.; cpl. 329; a. 5 5", 10 21" TT.; cl. Pletcher)
Bryant (DD-665) was launched 29 May 1943 by Charleston Navy Yard; sponsored by Mrs. Samuel W. Bryant, widow of Rear Admiral Bryant; and commissioned 4 December 1943, Commander P. L. High in command.
On 28 March 1944 Bryant arrived in the Pacific and during the next 14 months took part in the seizure of Saipan and Tinian (15 June-2 August 1944) ; Battle of the Philippine Sea (19-20 June) ; capture of the southern Palaus and Ulithi (6-29 September) ; support of minesweeping operations and amphibious assault on Dinagat and Leyte Islands (14 October 1944-2 January 1945), during which she suffered slight material damage and one man wounded when, on 22 December, a Japanese suicide plane crashed about 25 yards off her port side; Battle of Surigao Strait (24-25 October), during which Bryant, in company with Robinson (DD-562) and Halford (DD-480), executed a well coordinated torpedo attack; Lingayen Gulf landings (2-21 January 1945) ; Iwo Jima invasion (14 February-9 March) ; and the Okinawa operation (21 March-28 April). On 13 April 1945, while patrolling on radar picket station, Bryant was attacked by six enemy planes, one of which succeeded in crashing into the port side of the bridge. The plane was carrying a bomb which exploded upon impact, causing extreme damage to the bridge structure. Twenty-eight men were killed, eight men were missing, and 33 were wounded.
The ship returned to the United States in June and underwent repair at United Engineering Co., Ltd., Alameda, Calif., until September 1945. Arriving at San Diego 27 September, she was inactivated and placed in reserve commission 9 July 1946. She was placed out of commission in reserve 15 January 1947.
Bryant received the Navy Unit Commendation and seven battle stars during her World War II career.
How USS Laffey Survived a Vicious Kamikaze Attack off Okinawa
Commander Frederick Julian Becton, captain of the destroyer USS Laffey (DD 724), took the radio message his communications officer handed him on April 12, 1945, but the concerned look on the young officer’s face made Becton suspect that it was not good news. Laffey, an Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer, had been screening the heavy fleet units that were bombarding Okinawa in close support of the ground forces ashore. It was the second U.S. destroyer to bear the name Laffey the first ship had been lost off Guadalcanal in 1942.
The message told Commander Becton to detach his ship from the screening force and proceed at once to the huge naval anchorage at Kerama Retto, where he was to go alongside the destroyer Cassin Young and take aboard its fighter-director team. That could mean only one thing: Laffey had drawn duty on the radar picket line—the most dangerous, deadly and unwanted assignment in the Okinawa campaign as far as Navy personnel were concerned.
Shortly after dawn on April 13, Becton brought his ship into the crowded harbor at Kerama Retto. Many of the ships anchored there had been battered by kamikazes while on radar picket duty. Although Laffey‘s crew had encountered suicide bombers at Leyte, Mindoro, Luzon and Iwo Jima, they had never before seen so many damaged ships in one place. The crewmen began to imagine what might happen to them when they went out to their assigned picket station. Morale was low, and it only got worse when they received news that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died the day before.
As soon as Laffey tied up alongside Cassin Young, the fighter-director team of two officers and three enlisted men reported aboard, carrying with them special electronic gear. Three hundred rounds of 5-inch ammunition were also loaded aboard so that Laffey would sail with full magazines of all calibers. As Laffey prepared to depart, the skipper of Cassin Young offered some advice to Becton: “Keep moving and keep shooting. Steam as fast as you can and shoot as fast as you can.”
A gun captain from the destroyer Purdy, which was anchored nearby, also offered his thoughts about picket duty. Purdy had been struck by a kamikaze on April 12, killing 13 and wounding 270. He told the Laffey crewmen: “You guys have a fighting chance, but they’ll keep on coming till they get you. You’ll knock a lot of them down, and you’ll think you’re doing fine. But in the end, there’ll be this one bastard with your name on his ticket.” After all the horrific stories, the crew had heard while in the anchorage, they were almost relieved when Laffey steamed north toward its assigned area, radar picket station No. 1.
On April 14, Laffey, accompanied by LCS 51 (landing craft, support) and LCS 116, arrived on station 51 miles north of Point Bolo on south-central Okinawa, which was used as a reference point in aligning the 16 picket sectors. Laffey relieved the destroyer-minelayer J. William Ditter (DM 31), whose skipper informed Becton by radio that during his time on station no kamikazes had entered the area, nor had any been detected by radar.
Becton hoped his ship would be as lucky, but at the same time, he felt he should speak to his crew about the battle that was bound to come. He pressed the microphone button, and throughout the ship boomed the familiar words, “This is the captain speaking.” Becton warned his crew not to expect the same kind of luck Ditter had had. He told them that he expected to see plenty of Japanese but that he had confidence in the crew’s ability. They had tangled with the enemy before and won. They were now going to make the Japanese wish they had never heard of USS Laffey. In conclusion, Becton said: “We’re going to outmaneuver and outshoot them. They are going to go down, but we aren’t.”
A short while later three bogeys appeared on the radar scope, but Laffey had no Combat Air Patrol (CAP) planes to assist it. Fifty miles to the east, however, there was a group of CAP planes with the destroyer Bryant (DD 665) on picket station No. 3. Becton requested their assistance, and the fighter-director team sent them toward the Japanese. All enemy planes were shot down. Not long after that, the radar operator reported eight more enemy aircraft approaching, and again Becton requested Bryant‘s CAP planes. The fighter-director team vectored them in, and they destroyed all the aircraft. By the end of Laffey‘s first day on picket duty, 11 planes had been shot down, but Laffey‘s gunners had not yet fired a shot.
No enemy action occurred the next day, Sunday, April 15. The crew’s routine was broken only when Laffey was ordered to steam a few miles east to investigate a patrol plane’s report that a downed Japanese aircraft was in the water. The plane was found with its dead pilot still strapped in the cockpit. Laffey‘s crew recovered an aircraft code-book and other miscellaneous items that they would turn over to the intelligence section ashore, then sank the plane.
Monday morning began quietly on radar picket station No. 1. The whole crew was able to eat breakfast without any interruptions from the enemy. Then, at 8:25 a.m., the radar operator reported a solid cluster of pips too numerous to count approaching at 17,000 yards. It was a group of 165 kamikazes and 150 other enemy aircraft coming in fast from the north. The fighter-director team’s two officers requested more help from CAP. They were informed that fighters would be sent to intercept the huge onrushing formation, but it would take time for the CAP planes to arrive in the area. Meanwhile, Laffey and its two-support craft would have to deal with the enemy on their own.
At 8:30, four Aichi D3A “Val” dive-bombers broke off from the oncoming group and headed for Laffey, which was steaming along at flank speed. Two came in from the bow and two from the stern in a coordinated attack. Becton ordered hard left rudder, bringing the destroyer broadside to the planes, and the two forward 5-inch guns downed two of the Vals at about 3,000 yards. The stern 5-inch gun hot down the third kamikaze, and the 20mm and 40mm mounts downed the fourth with an assist from the gunners on LCS 51.
There was no time to rejoice over that success, however, because two more attackers, Yokosuka D4Y “Judy” dive bombers, were coming in fast—one from the starboard beam and one from the port beam. When the Judy on the starboard side got within range of the 20mm and 40mm guns, it was torn apart by converging fire and crashed into the sea. The gunners’ attention then shifted to port to assist with the second Judy, as it came in bobbing and weaving. The Japanese pilot strafed the ship, peppering the superstructure and wounding several men. The 20mm and 40mm guns finally downed the plane about 50 yards out, but just before hitting the water, the pilot released a bomb that sent shrapnel flying everywhere, wounding several more men and knocking others off their feet. The explosion also knocked out the SG radar, which was needed to detect low-flying aircraft.
The next attacker, another Val, came streaking in on the port beam. All three 5-inch guns opened fire, and as the plane came closer, the 20mm and 40mm mounts joined in. It looked as if the pilot was aiming to slam into the aft 5-inch gun, but he came in just a bit high and only grazed the top of it before smashing into the sea off the starboard side, killing one man in the gun crew. The eighth attacker, another Judy, came skimming in low over the water on the starboard beam. The 20mm and 40mm guns were hitting the plane, and finally, after a hit in the gas tank, the Judy burst into a fireball and crashed into the sea. Laffey‘s crewmen felt as if they had been battling the enemy for hours, but it was only 8:42, just 12 minutes since the attacks had started.
There was a respite of about three minutes before the next attacker, another Val, came boring in off the port bow. The portside guns raked the plane, which shuddered and twisted but kept coming, even as gasoline poured from one wing tank. The pilot cleared the portside 20mm and 40mm mounts and crashed into the 20mm mounts amidships, killing three gunners before sliding into the sea. Flaming gasoline was everywhere, and black smoke engulfed the area. Two 40mm mounts were wrecked and out of operation, as were two 20mm mounts.
The ammunition racks around the gun tubs were filled with clips of shells, which were in danger of exploding due to the heat. Damage-control crewmen began to heave the clips over the side of the ship. Some of them were so hot that the men had to protect their hands with rags. As some of the ammunition exploded and blew holes in the deck, flaming gasoline poured into a magazine below. Fortunately, the ammo was packed in metal cans that resisted the heat until a damage-control party arrived and hosed down the containers, thereby avoiding disaster.
Communications were knocked out in the forward engine room, but that did not present a problem for the moment. The engineers decided to adjust the ship’s speed according to the sound of the gunfire they heard. If it was loud and fast, they would increase the speed. A more immediate problem was the smoke and fumes being sucked into the engine rooms by the ventilators. Machinist’s Mate John Michel, in the aft engine room, shut down the supply fans. The temperature soon reached 130 degrees and kept climbing as Michel worked his way through the dense smoke, located the controls for the exhaust fans and turned them on. The smoke began to clear and the temperature began to fall. Knowing that the smoke would undoubtedly attract more kamikazes, Becton reduced the ship’s speed to avoid fanning the flames.
Just as the crew was beginning to get the situation under control, two more kamikazes, both Vals, struck. One came in from astern low and fast, just a few feet above the water. The gunners of the three after 20mm mounts hit him with accurate fire, and parts of the plane broke off, but the pilot kept boring in. He plowed through the three mounts, killing the gun crews, and rammed into a 5-inch gun. The bomb he was carrying exploded, causing the plane to disintegrate and throwing gun captain Larry Delewski clear of danger. Fortunately, he was unhurt. Another man was blown overboard, but he was picked up by LCS 51, along with another crewman who had gone overboard earlier.
Flaming gasoline covered Laffey‘s fantail and aft gun mount, sending more black smoke billowing into the air. The fires threatened a magazine below the mount, so firefighters flooded it, preventing an explosion that could have torn the ship apart. The situation was about to get worse, however, because the 11th kamikaze came crashing aboard at almost the same spot. That plane’s bomb wiped out the mount’s gun crew and wounded several others. The damage-control parties had no time to take a breather.
About two minutes later, another Val came gliding in from astern, probably because the guns were out of commission there. The pilot dropped his bomb and sped away. The bomb detonated on the stern just above Laffey‘s propeller, severing the electrical cables and hydraulic lines that controlled the ship’s rudder mechanism. The rudder jammed at 26 degrees left, and the ship began to steam in a circle, still able to maintain speed but without control. Although crewmen began to work on it at once, their efforts were fruitless. The rudder was jammed tight and could not be moved.
The smoke and flames must have indicated to the attackers that Laffey was nearly done for, but they did not ease off. Two more planes came roaring in from the port quarter, and every gun that could be brought to bear on the attackers poured out a steady stream of flak, but to no avail. The first plane slammed into the aft deckhouse, exploding in a ball of fire. Seconds later, the other plane crashed into the ship in almost the same spot. Gasoline from both planes produced roaring fires that covered the whole aft part of the ship.
Laffey’s guns were severely damaged by multiple bombs and kamikaze attacks by Japanese fighters. (U.S. Navy)
Machinist’s Mates George Logan and Stephen Waite, who had been battling fires in the aft living spaces, became trapped when the escape hatches buckled. They went to the emergency diesel generator room and secured the watertight door behind them. There was no light or ventilation and no way out, but there was a telephone that still worked, and they got through to the aft engine room. John Michel went to work again, this time with some help from Machinist’s Mate Buford Thompson. They chiseled a hole through the bulkhead and passed an air hose to the trapped men. Meanwhile, Machinist’s Mates Art Hogan and Elton Peeler used cutting torches to make a hole in the deck and then pulled Logan and Waite to safety.
At the same time, a Nakajima Ki-43 “Oscar” was streaking in from the port bow with a CAP Vought F4U Corsair on its tail. The port side 20mm and 40mm mounts were sending up a steady barrage while trying not to hit the Corsair. This Japanese pilot did not drop down and ram the bridge but zoomed up and over it, shearing off the port yardarm on Laffey‘s mast, which came crashing down to the deck, taking the American flag with it. As the Corsair zoomed by, it hit the air-search radar antenna and knocked it to the deck below. After he cleared Laffey, the Japanese pilot lost altitude quickly and crashed into the sea, while the Corsair pilot managed to pull up and bail out before his plane hit the water farther away. Signalman Tom McCarthy saw Laffey‘s colors fall to the deck and wasted no time in remedying the situation. He grabbed a new flag from the flag locker, shinnied up the mast and attached the new colors with a piece of line.
As he watched the Corsair chase the last attacker, Becton realized that his CAP planes, which had been spread thinly and even lured out of position at times, were now beginning to furnish some close support. That did not mean that Laffey was out of trouble, however. As if to prove the point, another Judy came in fast on the port beam, with a Corsair hot on its tail. The portside 20mm and 40mm mounts and the Corsair were hitting the Judy, which splashed into the water about 50 yards away from Laffey. Shrapnel from the Judy’s bomb severed all communications to Laffey‘s two remaining 5-inch guns, as well as wounded the crews who were still working the hot 20mm and 40mm guns. Three gunner’s mates were also wounded.
Ensign Jim Townsley quickly jury-rigged a substitute system for communicating with the gun mounts. With a microphone strapped around his neck and plugged into the ship’s loudspeaker system, he climbed atop the pilothouse, from where he could see the onrushing attackers, and directed the gunfire from there. The 17th attacker was eliminated as he bore in from the starboard side. The plane took a direct hit from a manually trained 5-inch gun, with an assist from the 20mm and 40mm mounts.
Two more kamikazes, both Oscars, came streaking in, one from the starboard beam and one from the starboard bow. The attacker on the starboard beam was hit with a 5-inch round head-on in the propeller and engine and blew apart. Mount captain Warren Walker shouted: “We got the SOB! What a beautiful sight!” Meanwhile, another gun had the other attacker in its sights as the plane came diving in. Even though the electrical controls were out and the gun was being operated manually, it took only two rounds to finish off the attacker. As the plane exploded, the gun’s trainer, Andy Stash, yelled excitedly: “We got him! We got him! Did you see that bastard explode?”
In the brief lull that followed, assistant communications officer Lieutenant Frank Manson arrived on the bridge to report to the skipper. When Mason finished talking, he hesitated a bit and then added: “Captain, we’re in pretty bad shape aft. Do you think we’ll have to abandon ship?” Becton quickly replied: “Hell no, Frank. We still have guns that can shoot. I’ll never abandon ship as long as a gun will fire.” Relieved, the lieutenant went back to his duties.
The battle was not over yet. The 20th attacker, another Val, came gliding in from dead astern. Both the sun and the thick smoke helped to conceal the plane from the gunners. The pilot dropped his bomb, blasting an 8-by-10-foot hole in the already battered fantail. As he passed low over the length of the ship, he clipped off the starboard yardarm. He didn’t get far a Corsair seemed to come out of nowhere to shoot him down several hundred yards off the starboard bow. Shrapnel from the bomb hit the emergency sick bay that the ship’s medical officer, Lieutenant Matt Darnell, had set up topside. Fragments severed the tips of two of the doctor’s fingers. Bandaging the bloody stumps, he calmly asked the astonished pharmacist’s mate who was assisting him, “Who’s next?”
The 21st attacker, another Val, strafed the ship as it came in off the starboard bow, aiming straight for the bridge. Seaman Feline Salcido, the bridge lookout, did not think that the captain saw the plane coming. He put his hand on the back of Becton’s neck and shouted, ‘Down, captain, down!’ As they both crouched low, a violent explosion rocked the bridge. The plane had dropped a bomb, killing one 20mm gun crew and wounding members of another nearby crew. That Val did not get away either a Corsair pounced on him and finished him off.
The last plane was a Judy, which strafed Laffey as it came in from the port side. Although the port 20mm and 40mm guns put out a steady stream of fire, the attacker kept getting closer. Just when it seemed that the gunners were goners, a Corsair came roaring in with all guns blazing and blew up the Judy in midair.
By the end of the 22nd attack, the situation aboard Laffey was critical. The fires still raged, the stern was down due to flooded aft compartments, many guns no longer functioned and the rudder was still jammed at 26 degrees. Amid all the confusion and noise, Becton heard what sounded like many planes diving at once. Laffey could not absorb any more punishment. Sonarman Charlie Bell, Becton’s telephone talker, provided him with the encouraging news he so desperately needed. “Captain, look what’s up there,” he said, pointing skyward. The weary skipper looked up to see 24 CAP Marine Corsairs and Navy Grumman F6F Hellcats just arriving to lend a hand to the few planes already on station. The Japanese had had enough and were hightailing it out of the area with the CAP planes in hot pursuit.
Laffey‘s crewmen could not contain their jubilation. Shouts of “Get the bastards! Rip ’em up! Nail ’em!” rose above the din of the receding battle. It was finally over, and the grim toll was staggering: 80 minutes of continuous air attack, 22 separate attacks, six kamikazes crashed into the ship and four bomb hits. But Laffey‘s gunners had shot down nine attackers. The ship’s casualties totaled 32 dead and 71 wounded. Amazingly, eight guns were still able to fire. LCS 51 came alongside to help fight the fires, but the little vessel had also been hit and could only offer limited help.
The destroyer-minesweeper Macomb took Laffey in tow and headed for the Kerama Retto anchorage shortly after noon. The tugs Pakana (ATF 108) and Tawakoni (ATF 114) were dispatched to bring in Laffey. Using pumps, they got the flooding under control aboard the badly damaged ship. The jammed rudder caused towing problems, but it was still possible to maintain a forward speed of four knots.
At 6:14 the following morning, April 17, Laffey entered the harbor at Kerama Retto. Men gazed in amazement at the battered newcomer. It just did not seem possible that a ship could have taken so much punishment and survived one kamikaze hit was often enough to sink a ship. Laffey‘s escorts on radar picket station No. 1 had also suffered during the agonizing ordeal. LCS 51 had a 7-foot hole in her port side amidships, and three of her sailors had been wounded. LCS 116 had suffered topside damage, along with 17 dead and 12 wounded.
Shortly after sunrise, when Laffey was safely at anchor, the crew went aboard the tug Tawakoni for breakfast, their first real meal in almost 24 hours. Later that morning, a chaplain came aboard to conduct services for those killed or missing in action.
By April 22, six days after her ordeal on the picket line, Laffey had undergone enough repairs to depart for Saipan. At Saipan, more repair work was performed, especially on the battered fantail. Laffey‘s next stop was Pearl Harbor, where the crew was warmly welcomed and entertained while the ship underwent further patching to ensure its safe passage back to the West Coast.
On Friday, May 25, 1945, Laffey moored at Pier 48 in Seattle, Washington, 39 days after its fight for survival on radar picket station No. 1. Before additional repairs were begun, the battered ship was thrown open for viewing by the public.
Some naval officials believed that defense workers had been easing off in their production efforts since V-E Day on May 8, and they had been searching for a way to remind everyone that the war was far from over. After seeing Laffey‘s condition, everyone got the message loud and clear.
For its outstanding performance on the picket line, Laffey was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Eighteen members of her crew received Bronze Stars, six received Silver Stars, two received Navy Crosses and one received the Navy Commendation Medal.
This article was written by Dale P. Harper and originally appeared in the March 1998 issue of World War II magazine. For more great articles subscribe to World War II magazine today!
Bryant DD- 665 - History
This page provides the hull numbers of all U.S. Navy destroyers numbered in the DD series from 600 through 799, with links to those ships with photos available in the Online Library.
See the list below to locate photographs of individual destroyers.
If the destroyer you want does not have an active link on this page, contact the Photographic Section concerning other research options.
Left Column --
DD-600 through DD-709:
- DD-600 : Boyle (1942-1973)
- DD-601 : Champlin (1942-1972)
- DD-602 : Meade (1942-1973)
- DD-603 : Murphy (1942-1972)
- DD-604 : Parker (1942-1973)
- DD-605 : Caldwell (1942-1966)
- DD-606 : Coghlan (1942-1974)
- DD-607 : Frazier (1942-1972)
- DD-608 : Gansevoort (1942-1972)
- DD-609 : Gillespie (1942-1973)
Right Column --
DD-710 through DD-799:
- DD-710 : Gearing (1945-1974)
- DD-711 : Eugene A. Greene (1945-1972), later DDR-711 & DD-711
- DD-712 : Gyatt (1945-1970), later DDG-1 & DD-712
- DD-713 : Kenneth D. Bailey (1945-1975), later DDR-713 & DD-713
- DD-714 : William R. Rush (1945-1978), later DDR-714 & DD-714
- DD-715 : William M. Wood (1945-1983), later DDR-715 & DD-715
- DD-716 : Wiltsie (1946-1977)
- DD-717 : Theodore E. Chandler (1946-1975)
- DD-718 : Hamner (1946-1980)
- DD-719 : Epperson (1949-1977). Completed as DDE-719, later DD-719
- DD-720 : Castle (scrapped incomplete, 1955)
- DD-721 : Woodrow R. Thompson (scrapped incomplete, 1955)
Bryant DD- 665 - History
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What happened to the key figures in the Emmett Till case?
Devery Anderson is the author of "Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement." He shares five enduring myths about the Till case.
Emmett Till is seen with his mother, Mamie Till Mobley. (Photo: File photo/AP)
Although the Emmett Till case is considered by many as the catalyst for the civil rights movement, after Look magazine published the account of the kidnapping and murder as given by J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant, the case fell from the news and the players in the saga all fell out of the spotlight. What happened to the key figures in the case in the years after they were momentarily thrust into the spotlight in the summer of 1955?
The only one to emerge publicly at the national level was Mamie Bradley, but it did not happen for 30 years. Things began settling down for her a few months after the murder trial when her speaking engagements ended, yet she never returned to the job he held at the Air Force office in Chicago. Instead, she enrolled at Chicago Teachers College in the fall of 1956 and graduated cum laude three and a half years later. She earned her degree in January 1960 and began teaching, first at Carter Elementary and later at Scanlon School. She retired in 1983 after a total of 23 years with Chicago’s public schools.
On June 24, 1957, after dating three years, 35-year-old Mamie Bradley married Gene Mobley, a union that lasted 43 years, ending only with Gene’s death in 2000. Bradley, who became known as Mamie Till-Mobley, never bore another child but helped nurture Gene’s two daughters after their mother moved from Chicago.
In the mid-1960s, Mobley’s mother, Alma Spearman, formed the Emmett Till Foundation, the goals of which were to build Christian character and a sense of citizenship in young people. It held its first annual banquet in Chicago in July 1966. The nonprofit organization eventually began a long tradition of awarding scholarships to deserving youth annually on July 25 — Emmett’s birthday.
Till-Mobley created an additional way of keeping her son’s memory alive by establishing a performing group in 1973, the Emmett Till Players, made up of children who memorized and recited the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Over the years they performed at schools and churches, and a decade after its founding, Till-Mobley estimated that over 200 children had been part of the troupe. In 1984, the Emmett Till Players even performed in Mississippi.
In 1975 Till-Mobley earned a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Loyola University, with an additional 45 credits toward a doctorate.
She began speaking nationally about her son after 1985. Although widowed in 2000, Mamie’s life remained eventful for the next three years as she continued her activities with the Emmett Till Foundation. She also traveled and spoke, despite the heart and kidney problems she had long battled. In fact, it was on January 6, 2003, the eve of a planned departure for a speaking event in Atlanta, that she suffered a heart attack. She died that afternoon at Jackson Park Hospital. She was 81 years old. Her memoir, Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America, was published posthumously later that year.
Moses Wright was the uncle Emmett Till came from Chicago to visit in the summer of 1955. Wright testified in the murder trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam that they were the two men who took till from Wright's home in the early hours of Aug. 28, 1955. (Photo: AP Photo)
Moses Wright, the star witness of the trial, moved to Argo Summit, Illinois, just days after the trial, too afraid to continue life in the Mississippi Delta. For most of the 22 years that followed, he lived quietly, outside of the public eye, although he traveled the West for the NAACP speaking during the month of November 1955. A year after the trial he reported that he was working odd jobs and had even gained 13 pounds since moving to the North. “I used to think I couldn’t live without seeing cotton stalks. Man, I ain’t seen cotton in a year, and I’m still living,” he told a reporter. The former preacher had already come to see the impact of the Till case for the fledgling Civil Rights Movement, and stated, almost prophetically, “What happened down there last year is going to help us all.”
Wright eventually found work as a custodian at a nightclub and later as a dishwasher at a local restaurant, working alongside a grandson. Adjusting to the big city after spending a lifetime in the rural Mississippi Delta was not easy. Wright, who left his car behind in Mississippi, never drove again after his move to Argo, but with the proximity of stores and schools, and the availability of public transportation, he didn’t need to. He gave up fishing after leaving the South, but the railroad let him use a little patch of land on which to grow a garden, which he kept up until he was 79. “That was his joy,” recalled his son, Simeon.
In 1970, Moses’s wife, Elizabeth, died, and over the next seven years, his health declined. He eventually had prostate surgery which affected the strength in his legs. Living alone, he did the best he could but in time his eyesight began to wane, and other health problems made it difficult for him to keep up his one-bedroom apartment. One time while home alone he lost his balance and fell. He remained on the floor for a day until his grandson, who had a key to the door, came to check on him. His family eventually placed him in the White Oak Nursing Home in Indian Head Park. He died on Aug. 3, 1977. The photo of Wright standing and pointing at two accused killers in Sumner remains a testament to bravery in a Mississippi courtroom.
Prosecution witness Willie Reed, whose testimony placed the murder in Sunflower County and was the source that other men besides J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant were involved in the murder, knew Emmett Till only in death but remained haunted for decades by the beating sounds he heard emanating from a plantation shed on an August morning. “That’s something you never put out of your mind. I remember it like it happened yesterday,” he said in 2007.
After speaking at a few rallies following his late-night move to Chicago on the day the jury issued its verdict, Reed dropped out of sight. He had no contact with any of the other witnesses or Till family members for decades, despite living in Chicago and remaining in close proximity to many of them. He reemerged for interviews in 1999.
In Chicago, Reed obtained a new identity, or more accurately, reclaimed his old one. From the time he was 7 months old until he left Mississippi, he lived with his grandfather, Add Reed, and assumed Add’s surname. In Chicago, when Willie obtained a copy of his birth certificate in order to secure a Social Security number, he discovered that his last name was actually Louis, after his father, Joseph Louis. He went by his legal name of Willie Louis from then on, further obscuring his association with the Till case. In fact, most of his friends only learned of his role as a witness after seeing him on television in 2003. After the trial he was offered a $1,000 scholarship from the Elks Club should he have chosen to attend college, but he never took advantage of that. “I just didn’t want to do it,” he later said with regret.
Around 1959, he began working as a surgical orderly at Chicago’s Jackson Park Hospital and remained there for 47 years before retiring in 2006. While working in the intensive care unit in 1971, he met Juliet Mendenhall, then a nurse’s aide. They married in 1976 and made their home in the Englewood area. Willie, who suffered from nightmares for several years into their marriage, did not even tell his wife about his role in the Till case until 1983. His 2001 interview for the documentary, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till, reunited him with Mamie Till-Mobley, whom he had not seen in 46 years. After several years of declining health, Willie Louis died of gastronomical bleeding in July 2013 at age 76.
Levi “Too Tight” Collins, one of the black field hands forced to participate in the kidnapping and murder, never got his life back on track after the case faded from the news. Following the trial, he worked odd jobs in Jackson and Memphis but disappeared again in 1957. Some said he feared revenge from local whites who worried that he might talk or by blacks angry because he hadn’t. “I’m plumb worried about the boy,” his 46-year-old father, Walter Collins, said at the time. “We used to be close. He’d come over to my place almost daily and we’d chat. Now I haven’t seen him but once in three years.”
In November 1957, Collin’s wife Treola and their four children arrived in Seattle at the invitation of Treola’s sister, who borrowed $246 from her minister and sent train tickets by way of the Memphis railroad station. “We had to slip off the plantation to catch the train, but we didn’t give our right names,” Treola explained. “We only had the clothing on our backs. I used an old bed spread for diapers on my 6-months-old baby. We had one loaf of bread and one can of peaches to eat.”
Levi surfaced long enough for the couple to divorce, because Treola eventually remarried in 1960. Levi never resumed a relationship with his children, all of whom Treola’s second husband adopted. Treola managed to create a new life for herself in Seattle, where she bore five more children. Levi was not so lucky. Family members heard enough to know that the case completely destroyed him. He became an alcoholic and schizophrenic, hearing voices and hallucinating. He died in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1992.
Henry Lee Loggins was another black man whose name has been tied to the case as an unwilling accomplice. After spending six months in jail in 1956 for theft of some iron belonging to J.W. Milam, he left Mississippi. At first, he moved to St. Louis, where he had lived a few years earlier, but then moved to Dayton, Ohio, in 1957. He did not surface publicly until July 2001 when historians David and Linda Beito found him and interviewed him over the telephone. For years he made a living in Dayton as a junkman. He later appeared in Untold Story and on a 60 Minutes segment about the case, where he denied any knowledge of, or involvement in, the Till murder. In 2005, Loggins became incapacitated after suffering a stroke but spent time in a nursing home and later at his daughter’s home recovering. He died in Dayton in October 2009. Since 1982, his stepson Johnny B. Thomas has been mayor of the village of Glendora, Mississippi, former home to both Loggins and J. W. Milam.
District Attorney Gerald Chatham, whose impassioned closing arguments in the case captivated everyone present, passed away only one year after his attempt to convict the two half-brothers. Because of notoriety in the Till case, the death of this otherwise unknown country lawyer was noted in the New York Times. Ill health had forced his retirement in January 1956. He suffered not only from high blood pressure but from nose bleeds so severe that he was often admitted to the hospital, where doctors had to pack his head in ice to stop them.
Chatham returned to private practice in Hernando, Mississippi, but on Oct. 9, 1956, he came home after speaking at an event, took a nap, and later that evening died of a massive heart attack.
Hamilton Caldwell, the elected attorney for Tallahatchie County who served on the prosecution team, lived for seven years after the trial. He was out of office and serving as vice president of the Bank of Charleston when he drowned in Enid Lake on Sept. 3, 1962. He had been fishing alone in his boat and for reasons unknown, fell overboard as he headed back to shore. He was 64.
Robert Smith, the special prosecutor sent by the governor’s office to aid Chatham in the state’s case against Milam and Bryant, went back to his law practice in Ripley after the trial. He rarely talked about the case. “I’ve come to understand that not a lot of people in those days would have taken that case,” said son Fred in 2003. “I know now it took a lot of courage.” Bobby Elliot, a former law partner of Smith’s, remembered how surprised people were that Smith agreed to do it. “That wasn’t the popular thing to do back then.”
On Dec. 4, 1967, he was at work in Chancery Court and appeared fine. Yet privately, he was masking unbearable pain and went home later that morning and shot himself. Although he did not allude to his father’s suicide, Smith’s son, Bruce, explained in 2005 that his father had been battling alcoholism. “He had a sad life in a way, in his later years.” Smith’s obituary noted that he had helped with “important criminal cases” in his career, but it failed to mention the Till trial in particular.
The five defense attorneys who represented Milam and Bryant remained in Sumner. Sidney Carlton, former president of the Mississippi State Bar Association, died first in 1966 at age 50 after suffering a heart attack. Eighty-year-old Jesse J. Breland, the oldest member of the team, died one year later at Washington County General Hospital in Greenville after a long illness.
J.W. Kellum was one of three members of the defense team who lived for at least four decades after the trial and witnessed Mississippi’s transformation to an integrated society. In 1979, he sat for an interview, alongside civil rights activist Amzie Moore, for the PBS series, Eyes on the Prize. “As far as a fair trial is concerned,” Kellum said, there was no proof that his clients “were the criminal agent.” Had there been a conviction, he believed the Supreme Court would have overturned it. Kellum said this during a new era, however, and he noted with pride that blacks then served on juries, and that more were practicing law. “I would say that Mississippi now is part of the New South.”
Kellum, a self-taught lawyer who never attended college, passed the state bar exam in 1939 and practiced law until his death in July 1996. The year before he died, Kellum insisted that for him, the Till affair was “just another case over the desk.” He said that he asked Milam and Bryant early on if they were guilty of the murder, and both denied that they were. “I believed them,” he insisted, “just like I would if I was interrogating a client now. I would have no reason to think he’s lying to me.” Forty years after representing them, he claimed he still believed in their innocence. “I would have to see something . But they told me they did not [commit the murder]. They told the other lawyers that they did not.”
After his wife Ruth died in 1992, Kellum remarried. He died four years later.
John Whitten also practiced law until the end of his life. Betty Pearson, a Sumner resident angered by the acquittal, refused to speak to Whitten for over six months after the trial. Yet in 2006, she remembered him as “a wonderful man,” one whom she remained close to for the rest of his life.
At Breland’s request, Whitten maintained the firm’s name as Breland and Whitten after his partner’s death. The firm continues to this day, still housed in the same office where Milam and Bryant talked to reporter William Bradford Huie.
Toward the end of his life, Whitten worked in his law office occasionally, but by then his son John Whitten III did the bulk of the firm’s legal work. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since the late 1980s and died in February 2003.
The last surviving member of the defense team was Harvey Henderson, who continued to practice law, albeit part time, up until his death in October 2007. He was active in his local community, was a lifelong member of the Sumner Rotary Club and had also served as its president. The West Tallahatchie School District retained him as its attorney for over 50 years, and he also served as the legal counsel for Mississippi’s first chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which was formed in Tallahatchie County. He refused all requests for interviews about the Till case.
Judge Curtis Swango, who impressed spectators with his fairness during the trial, remained on the bench of Mississippi’s 17th judicial district for the next 13 years. In 1968, a respiratory condition sent him to the hospital, followed by several months of treatment for tuberculosis at the Mississippi State Sanatorium in Simpson County. He died there in December 1968. Divorced and without children, at his death, he was survived only by his mother and a brother. “He was widely praised for his conduct of the Emmett Till murder case in Tallahatchie County,” noted his obituary, “and was recognized as one of the foremost trial judges in the state.”
The two sheriffs in the case remained active in the years after the kidnapping and murder, although each was completing his term at the time. Former Leflore County Sheriff George Smith, who arrested Milam and Bryant on kidnapping charges, wanted to forget all about his role by the time a reporter asked him about it two years later. “I hate to even mention the case, it was the only thing to mar my four years in office,” he said. “Don’t quote me on anything. I don’t want my name ever printed again in connection with the people involved in this case.”
Smith later served a second term as sheriff from 1964 until 1968. This time, he succeeded his former deputy, John Ed Cothran, who had helped with the kidnapping investigation and served as a witness for the prosecution.
Smith, an avid outdoorsman, was a member of the Parker-Gary Hunting Club and was planning a busy season when he died unexpectedly in 1975 at the age of 72.
Former Tallahatchie sheriff Henry Clarence Strider, who aided the defense at the trial and claimed the body retrieved from the river was not that of Emmett Till, planned to run for the office again in 1959 after sitting out the required minimum of one term, but he changed his mind at the urging of his wife after he barely escaped an assassination attempt in 1957. While he sat in his car outside of a store in the town of Cowart, someone fired a shot at his head, missing him, but striking the metal piece between the window and windshield. Strider claimed that the shooter had been sent down from Chicago by the NAACP for the express purpose of killing him, and that the would-be assassin was known to black workers living on Strider’s plantation. Strider also maintained that the governor of Illinois refused to extradite the mysterious gunman back to Mississippi for trial, thus the entire matter was dropped. Still fearing for his life in 1963, Strider declined to run for his former job yet again.
By 1962, Strider was chairman of the State Game and Fish Commission. In February of that year, state officials tried to keep black student James Meredith from registering at Old Miss, and the defiance of the governor, Ross Barnett, made national news. Strider, ever the segregationist, announced during the conflict that 250 supervisors and game wardens were ready to aid Ole Miss in preserving its white-only student body should they be needed.
In February 1965, Strider won a special election to the state Senate, where he represented Grenada, Yalobusha and Tallahatchie counties for the next five years. In addition to his role with the Game and Fish Commission, he was a member of the Public Property, Transportation, and Water and Irrigation committees, and chairman of the Penitentiaries Committee.
In July 1968, Strider admitted on the floor of the state Senate that he had paid for votes during his 1951 campaign for Tallahatchie County sheriff. He disclosed this as the Senate debated a bill that provided for absentee voting for teachers and students. “In those days you didn’t win elections, you bought them,” he told his colleagues. He said that he paid out a total of $30,000 for blank absentee ballots reserved for people who had indicated they would not be present on Election Day.
Although he is remembered for regularly insulting the black press in the hot, crowded courtroom in Sumner, his election to the Senate after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 forced him to deal with a black constituency who finally had the power of the ballot. Yet Strider would have been happy to rid the Delta of its black citizens. In February 1966, he co-sponsored a bill to relocate Mississippi blacks to other states, as a new farm bill was making it harder for laborers to earn a living. A proposed relocation commission would seek federal funds for the removal of those who wanted to go. “If they (Negro farm workers) feel like they are put upon or have to live in tents and opportunities are brighter somewhere else, we’ll be glad to get them there,” said Strider’s co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Crook of Ruleville. Nothing ever came of the proposal, however.
Like Sheriff Smith, Strider was a hunter. On Dec. 27, 1970, Strider died of a heart attack while on a deer hunt in Issaquena County his body was shortly discovered by others. Gov. John Bell Williams flew to Clarksdale to attend the funeral. In 1981, a portion of Mississippi 32 was designated as the Henry Clarence Strider Memorial Highway.
Roy Bryant and his wife, Carolyn, Juanita and J.W. Milam celebrate the jury's acquittal for the 1955 killing of Emmett Till. Months later, they confessed their guilt to Look magazine. (Photo: Special Collections, University of Memphis Libraries)
A year after the murder trial, co-defendant J.W. Milam was living on a farm between Ruleville and Cleveland. Several months after that, William Bradford Huie interviewed the brothers for a follow-up article to his “confession” piece from a year before. It, too, appeared in Look magazine. In the accompanying photographs, both men appear happy, but it was obvious that the smiles were only a façade. Huie described them as having “been disappointed,” explaining further that, “They have suffered disillusionment, ingratitude, resentment, misfortune,” but as yet, no guilt. Few had pity on them, even those who had earlier been supportive. Milam owned no land and could not get his former backers to rent to him. He was finally able to rent 217 acres in Sunflower County with the help of his brother-in-law and secured a $4,000 furnish (the funds to plant a cotton crop) from a Tallahatchie County bank where one of his defense attorneys, John Whitten, sat on the loan committee. Blacks would no longer work for Milam, and he was forced to pay higher wages to whites for the same work.
For three years after the trial, Milam held several menial plantation jobs. In 1958 he was living in a tenant house on a plantation owned by a Citizen’s Council member. On Valentine’s Day, the New York Post reported that Milam had been seen standing in a bread line waiting to receive rations from the Welfare Department. The black Pittsburgh Courier picked up on the story, also. The director of the Washington County welfare department would not confirm or deny the Post report, but Milam adamantly declared it false. Despite admitting to hard times a year earlier when talking to Huie, Milam bluntly told an inquiring reporter for Jet magazine, “Quote me as saying the New York Post is a g----d liar. I’m standing here with’a ass-pocket full of money.”
The Milams later moved to Orange, Texas, but returned to Greenville after only a few years. They would make their home at 615 Purcell St., where J.W. would live out the rest of his life. The house was a converted into African American Methodist Church in Greenville’s black section.
Milam would have a few run-ins with the law while living in Greenville. In 1969 he was convicted in City Court for writing a bad check and fined $55. Three years later the same court fined him $300 and sentenced him to 60 days in jail for using a stolen credit card. Four months after that, he was convicted of assault and battery, fined $30, and sentenced to 10 days in jail.
By the time the Milams returned to Mississippi a decade after the Till trial, the outrage over the murder had subsided, and they were able to live quietly, for the most part. Milam eventually found work as a heavy equipment operator but that ended due to declining health. After a very long and painful illness, he succumbed to cancer on New Year’s Eve, 1980 at age 61. He and his wife Juanita were rumored to have divorced at some point, but this was not true.
Because J.W. never held a permanent job, Juanita began working as a hairdresser at the Greenville Beauty Salon in the 1960s, where she remained until owner Thelma Wood retired and closed the shop around 1990.
Although she enjoyed a long and steady career, Juanita’s life was never the same after the murder of Emmett Till, and she appeared genuinely sad most of the time. Her depression had not been a part of her life prior to the notorious lynching that thrust her family into the spotlight. Despite her personal suffering, she was generous with her family and friends and managed to maintain many of her life-long interests. She was an avid reader and football fan. An active Methodist, she bought a keyboard and learned to play a few hymns to help her congregation enjoy the benefit of music.
Juanita never remarried after J.W.’s death, nor did she allow herself any further romance. She later sold her home on Purcell Street and eventually moved to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. After J.W.’s death, Juanita became estranged from Roy and Carolyn Bryant, and they never spoke again. Juanita and Carolyn saw each other, but did not speak, at the funeral of Milam and Bryant sibling Dan Milam, who died in 1999. Juanita stormed out of the service after Milam and Bryant family members became involved in a confrontation over blame in Emmett Till’s death.
Juanita, who was politically liberal, maintained interracial friendships, and her best friend for many years was a black neighbor woman. Juanita suffered a stroke in 2008, and in October of that year, her oldest son, Horace “Bill” Milam, died at age 57. After several years of declining health, Juanita died in Ocean Springs on Jan. 14, 2014, at age 86.
Roy Bryant’s life, like that of his brother J.W.’s, was filled with hardship. After a black boycott forced the closure of his store three weeks after his release from jail, the family moved to Indianola, in Sunflower County. There, Roy reportedly found work as a mechanic. After laboring at odd jobs for 75 cents a day, he attended welding school nine miles away in Inverness, at the Bell Machine Shop. In 1985 Bryant reported to the Clarion Ledger that his welding made him legally blind. He suffered from optic nerve degeneration in both eyes, and his left eye was further damaged after a small piece of steel became lodged in it.
Bryant had other ambitions before settling on welding school. In May 1956, the Delta Democrat-Times, responding to rumors that Bryant had become an Indianola policeman, learned that he had sought a job with the local force, but was turned away. “He applied with us,” confirmed Indianola police chief, Will Love, “but he does not work here.”
J.W. Milam, left, and Roy Bryant, right, sit with their wives in a courtroom in 1955. Milam and Bryant were acquitted in the murder of Emmett Till. FILE - In this Sept. 23, 1955, file photo. J.W. Milam, left, and Roy Bryant, right, sit with their wives in a courtroom in Sumner, Mo. Milam and Bryant were acquitted of murder in the slaying of Emmett Till. Wheeler Parker and Deborah Watts, cousins of Till, said authorities should take a fresh look at the killing of Till since Carolyn Donham, then wife of Roy Bryant, who was at the center of the case, is now quoted as saying she lied in a new book. (Photo: AP)
Six months later on Nov. 19, Roy and Carolyn Bryant were riding as passengers in a car driven by Carolyn’s 18-year-old brother, James Holloway, in Greenville, when they were involved in a head-on collision at about 1:45 a.m. The second vehicle was driven by a black airman who was stationed at the Greenville Air Force Base. All three were treated for minor injuries at Greenville’s General Hospital and released. The four-paragraph article in the Delta Democrat–Times reporting the accident mentioned nothing of the Bryants’ notoriety in the Till case, although the Chicago Defender shortly learned of the story and reported that fact. That same day, perhaps for reasons brought on by the accident, Carolyn gave birth to her third son, Frankie Lee.
By the fall of 1957, Roy was working as a welder in Morgan City, Louisiana. The Bryants shortly moved to Orange, Texas, where a daughter was born two years later. Because Carolyn had been sick with the measles during her pregnancy, her daughter was born deaf. Sometime later, the family relocated to Vinton, Louisiana, just thirteen miles away, where Roy continued to weld for a steel company. They bought a home there and lived in Vinton until returning to Mississippi in 1973.
When Roy, Carolyn, and the two youngest children left Louisiana in 1973 and returned to Mississippi, they relocated to Ruleville, in Sunflower County. Roy went back into the grocery business by taking over a small store that had been run by family members.
At some point, Roy and Carolyn Bryant’s marriage developed serious problems, and it became unbearable for Carolyn. Even her mother-in-law, Eula Bryant, saw it. Eula, whom Carolyn described as tough and outspoken, asked Carolyn in front of Roy many times why she stayed married to him. Eula died in August 1974. A year later on Aug. 15, Carolyn left Roy and two months after that, filed for divorce. Their divorce papers describe Roy as having been guilty of “habitual cruel and inhuman treatment of her and of habitual drunkenness.” Perhaps Roy’s demons had concerned his mother because she had once endured similar abuses from her second husband, Henry Bryant. Carolyn asked for sole custody of their daughter, the complaint read, because “said child needs the care and guidance which only a devoted mother can give.” Roy failed to dispute any of the allegations. When the divorce was finalized two months later on Oct. 28, 1975, sole custody went to Carolyn. Roy was granted visitation and ordered to pay $75 per month in child support beginning Nov. 1. A lump sum of $6,300 for alimony was due by Dec. 1.
After their return to Mississippi, the Bryants managed to continue a low-profile existence, despite living in close proximity to the land of the Till murder. In fact, in 1977, both Roy and his brother, James Bryant, were listed as two of five challengers to Ruleville’s incumbent aldermen. In the end, the brothers lost, each receiving the least number of votes of all the candidates. James garnered 53 while Roy received only 45. The winners received between 270 and 530 votes. Roy married Vera Jo Orman, an accountant at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, in May 1980. They remained in Ruleville.
In 1978, Roy Bryant lost his permit to handle food stamps for one year because he was allowing customers to purchase non-food items with their coupons. In 1982, the Inspector General’s office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture learned that Bryant had been purchasing food stamps at a discount for cash and then selling them back to the government at full value. In October 1983, Bryant was indicted on five counts of food stamp fraud, pleaded not guilty and was scheduled for a December trial. On Dec. 7, however, Bryant changed his plea to guilty on two counts in exchange for the government dropping the rest. Bryant returned to court for sentencing two months later, and through the pleadings of his attorney, he was given only three years probation and ordered to pay a $750 fine. Bryant had retained state senator Robert L. Crook of Ruleville as his counsel. Crook told the court that 53-year-old Bryant “is a good citizen of Ruleville, who is disabled and has been in very poor health a number of years, who has attempted to work despite that circumstance, and to be gainfully employed in the course of running his own store.” He was caring for both his wife and disabled sister and was an honorably discharged veteran of the Army. As to the charges against him, however, “He knows he has made a mistake.”
Bryant promised to obey the law respecting food stamp regulations going forward but found himself unable to resist the temptation to repeat the same violations only a few years later. In February 1987, he was again caught purchasing food stamps at a cash discount, and this time, his sister, Mary Louise Campbell, who worked as a cashier at the store, was indicted along with him the following September as a co-conspirator on six counts of food stamp fraud. Bail was set for Bryant at $10,000, and for Campbell at $5,000. Campbell pleaded guilty to count four on Nov. 23, and Bryant pleaded guilty on counts five and six. Campbell did not receive any prison time, but Bryant, having been convicted four years earlier for the same crime, received a two-year prison sentence and was ordered to turn himself in to the attorney general on April 4, 1988. Before leaving office in 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned Campbell. Bryant served eight months of his term.
Bryant attended the first town meeting of the administration of Shirley Edwards, the town’s first black mayor, and complained of burglaries at his fireworks store and poor performance by police in stopping it. Reminiscent of his actions in his most famous dirty deed, Bryant had no trouble taking the law into his own hands and threatened to do so. “If I catch one out there this big [raising his hands two and a half feet off the floor], I’m going to twist his damn head off.” Edwards did not hesitate in telling a reporter that “Bryant is a vicious man … If my people did not deal or trade with him, he couldn’t stay here.”
Bryant began battling cancer and diabetes. Beginning around September 1993, he underwent radiation treatments for the next year and lost 35 pounds. Two months before his death, he spoke for two hours to a reporter for the Palm Beach Post but refused to say much about the Till case. He again denied that he had anything to do with the murder and matter-of-factly said, “I have no idea” who killed the Chicago youth when the reporter asked. Bryant believed that his acquittal in the Till case meant that people should leave that past alone. The case that brought him worldwide notoriety in 1955 was to him, “just something in the past. You have to leave it alone, live your life. You can’t just sit around and cry over spilt milk.” His frustration was caused in part by the occasional threats he received by crank callers. “They say: ‘We don’t like what you did a few years ago. We’re comin’ over to get you.’ I say, ‘Well, bring your g----d ass on over—what’s taking you so long?”
Bryant died of cancer on Sept. 1, 1994, at the Baptist Hospital in Jackson. When Vera Jo Bryant died in May 2012, her obituary mentioned nothing about her marriage to Roy, and only listed her parents and a brother as family members who had preceded her in death. She was, however, buried next to her infamous husband whom she was married to for 14 years.
Within a few months of the murder, another brother, Leslie Milam, who ran the plantation on which Emmett Till was murdered, was “requested” to leave because many of the black laborers working there were leaving the farm out of fear. He shortly found a new job on a plantation in the nearby town of Cleveland. Fifteen years later in February 1971, he was arrested, and four months after that, convicted of illegally possessing over 500 methamphetamine pills, popularly known as speed. He was sentenced to one year at Parchman state prison. His defense attorney was J.W. Kellum.
Although never charged or tried, the biggest burden he carried throughout his life was his involvement in the Emmett Till murder. On Thursday, Aug.t 29, 1974, local minister Macklyn Hubble received a call from Leslie’s wife, Frances. Hubble, who had been pastor of the First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Mississippi, since 1962, knew the family, and Frances asked him to come to the Milam home at Leslie’s request. When he arrived he was ushered into a room where he saw Leslie laying on a couch, near death. Frances left the room and Hubble pulled up a chair. Leslie, so weak that he could barely whisper, was nevertheless anxious to talk and immediately told Hubble that he wanted to get something off his chest. He proceeded to confess that he had been involved in the murder of Emmett Till, which had occurred 19 years and one day earlier. Leslie provided no details of the crime, but Hubble could see that he was remorseful. Leslie Milam died the following morning. Hubble officiated at the funeral a few days later.
Carolyn Bryant was the wife of Roy Bryant, one of Emmett Till's killers. (Photo: AP)
Carolyn Bryant is perhaps frozen in memory as the 21-year-old local beauty working behind a counter in a country store where Emmett Till fatefully crossed her path in 1955. She turned 84 years old in July 2018 and has, for decades, been a devoted mother and grandmother and enjoys a close relationship with her family. Carolyn, for her part, has wanted only to live quietly, out of the spotlight.
She learned American Sign Language and became very proficient at it so that she could communicate with her daughter. On one occasion, her skills allowed her to come to the rescue of a deaf woman who had been in a car accident, comforting her until paramedics arrived. She also was quite talented at making jewelry, which she sold at arts and craft shows until the early 2000s.
Like Mamie Till-Mobley, Carolyn experienced the pain of losing a child, or in her case, two. In September 1995, her firstborn, Roy Bryant Jr., passed away of cystic fibrosis. In April 2010, Frank, her youngest son, died of heart failure. Her faith in God sustained her through these two losses, and she believes her sons are now together. She says she places God first and her children second in her life.
Two months after Frank’s death, Carolyn put her home in Greenville up for sale and moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, to live with her surviving son. She brought along her dog, a 16-year-old Shih Tzu, but by July 2012, the dog had died, but her son surprised Carolyn with another of the same breed.
Lasting romantic love eluded Carolyn, however. After her divorce from Roy Bryant in 1975, she remarried at least twice. In 1984 she wed Greenville resident Griffin Chandler, an employee at U.S. Gypsum. The marriage ended three and a half years later with Chandler’s death. The widowed Carolyn soon married again, this time to former Leland police officer David Donham. In 1988, Carolyn began attending Mississippi Delta Junior College in Moorhead and took classes as a part-time student until 1990. The Donhams eventually divorced. With the help of her brother, Thomas Holloway, Carolyn moved to Brookhaven into a small home after her divorce, where she lived until Thomas died in 2000. After that, she returned to Greenville to be near Frank.
In June 2010, Carolyn joined Facebook, establishing a profile with a username that kept her actual identity hidden. Five months later, she both posed and answered the question as to what constitutes the real qualities in a man. Her answer was that they must be ethical and stand up for a good cause. If this seemed to hint of her first husband’s attempt to preserve the sanctity of her white womanhood, which propelled both her and him into the public eye, she was quick to add that a real man will respect others and refrain from bullying.
With the encouragement of her daughter-in-law, Marsha Bryant, Carolyn agreed to write her memoir. However, Frank Bryant’s death took a toll on her and the project stalled. When the FBI investigated the case from 2004–5, Carolyn became a focus. In February 2007, Joyce Chiles, district attorney for Sunflower County where the murder occurred, called a grand jury to hear evidence against Carolyn for possible manslaughter charges. In the end, the racially mixed jury refused to indict, citing a lack of evidence. “I feel like the district attorney used us as scapegoats,” said black jury member Otis Johnson. “To me, it seems like they just wanted to put on a show and go through the process to make people happy.”
Carolyn Bryant Donham, 84, seen in this image from video taken in 2004 by a "60 Minutes" video crew, is quoted in a 2017 book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” as saying she lied about Till accosting her in 1955. (Photo: AP)
A year later, Marsha Bryant arranged for Carolyn to meet with historian Tim Tyson, and, for the only time besides speaking to the FBI a few years earlier, Carolyn granted two recorded interviews. It was during these sessions that she allegedly recanted her courtroom testimony that Emmett Till grabbed her by the waist and propositioned her. “Honestly, I just don’t remember. It was fifty years ago,” Tyson says she told him before he set up his recorder. “You tell these stories for so long that they seem true, but that part is not true.” Marsha Bryant, however, says she was present for the interviews and that Carolyn never said these words or otherwise recanted. Carolyn suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, is losing her eyesight, and mostly relies on a wheelchair. She has said privately that the Emmett Till case has kept her a prisoner.
Devery S. Anderson is the author of Emmett Till: The Murder That Shocked the World and Propelled the Civil Rights Movement. This article is a condensed and updated version of Chapter 10 of the book.
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Fury as nursery sends girl home with 'Special's Day' card for Father's Day
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Who Was Emmett Till?
Till grew up in a working-class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, and though he had attended a segregated elementary school, he was not prepared for the level of segregation he encountered in Mississippi. His mother warned him to take care because of his race, but Emmett enjoyed pulling pranks.
On August 24, while standing with his cousins and some friends outside a country store in Money, Emmett bragged that his girlfriend back home was white. Emmett’s African American companions, disbelieving him, dared Emmett to ask the white woman sitting behind the store counter for a date.
He went in, bought some candy, and on the way out was heard saying, 𠇋ye, baby” to the woman. There were no witnesses in the store, but Carolyn Bryant—the woman behind the counter—later claimed that he grabbed her, made lewd advances and wolf-whistled at her as he sauntered out.
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Michael Jordan, in full Michael Jeffrey Jordan, byname Air Jordan, (born February 17, 1963, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.), American collegiate and professional basketball player widely considered to be one of the greatest all-around players in the history of the game. He led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association (NBA) championships (1991–93, 1996–98).
What was Michael Jordan famous for?
American basketball player Michael Jordan led the Chicago Bulls to six National Basketball Association (NBA) championships (1991–93, 1996–98). He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) five times (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998) and was also named Defensive Player of the Year in 1988.
How many times was Michael Jordan in the Olympics?
Michael Jordan led the U.S. basketball team to Olympic gold medals in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain.
How tall is Michael Jordan?
During his playing career, Michael Jordan stood at 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 meters) tall.
Does Michael Jordan own a basketball team?
In 2006, Michael Jordan became minority owner and general manager of the American basketball team the Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets).
What was Michael Jordan's nickname?
During his playing career, Michael Jordan, a guard, was an exceptionally talented shooter and passer and a tenacious defender. He earned the nickname “Air Jordan” because of his extraordinary leaping ability and acrobatic maneuvers, and his popularity reached heights few athletes have known.
Jordan grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981. As a freshman, he made the winning basket against Georgetown in the 1982 national championship game. Jordan was named College Player of the Year in both his sophomore and junior years, leaving North Carolina after his junior year. He led the U.S. basketball team to Olympic gold medals in 1984 in Los Angeles and in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain.
In 1984 Jordan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls. In his first season (1984–85) as a professional, he led the league in scoring and was named Rookie of the Year after missing most of the following season with a broken foot, he returned to lead the NBA in scoring for seven consecutive seasons, averaging about 33 points per game. He was only the second player (after Wilt Chamberlain) to score 3,000 points in a single season (1986–87). Jordan was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) five times (1988, 1991, 1992, 1996, 1998) and was also named Defensive Player of the Year in 1988. In October 1993, after leading the Bulls to their third consecutive championship, Jordan retired briefly and pursued a career in professional baseball. He returned to basketball in March 1995. In the 1995–96 season Jordan led the Bulls to a 72–10 regular season record, the best in the history of the NBA (broken in 2015–16 by the Golden State Warriors). From 1996 to 1998 the Jordan-led Bulls again won three championships in a row, and each time Jordan was named MVP of the NBA finals. After the 1997–98 season Jordan retired again.
Jordan remained close to the sport, buying a share of the Washington Wizards in January 2000. He was also appointed president of basketball operations for the club. However, managing rosters and salary caps was not enough for Jordan, and in September 2001 he renounced his ownership and management positions with the Wizards in order to be a player on the team. His second return to the NBA was greeted with enthusiasm by the league, which had suffered declining attendance and television ratings since his 1998 retirement. After the 2002–03 season, Jordan announced his final retirement. He ended his career with 32,292 total points and a 30.12-points-per-game average, which was the best in league history, as well as 2,514 steals, the second most ever. In 2006 Jordan became minority owner and general manager of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats (now known as the Charlotte Hornets). He bought a controlling interest in the team in 2010 and became the first former NBA player to become a majority owner of one of the league’s franchises.
During his playing career, Jordan, a guard, standing 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 metres) tall, was an exceptionally talented shooter and passer and a tenacious defender. He earned the nickname “Air Jordan” because of his extraordinary leaping ability and acrobatic maneuvers, and his popularity reached heights few athletes (or celebrities of any sort) have known. He accumulated millions of dollars from endorsements, most notably for his Air Jordan basketball shoes. He also made a successful film, Space Jam (1996), in which he starred with animated characters Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. In 1996 the NBA named him one of the 50 greatest players of all time, and in 2009 he was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.