Friday, September 2, 2011

Lamar Smith
Civil Rights Activist in the Family

Photograph Courtesy of Wikipedia

On August 13, 1955, civil rights activist Lamar Smith was murdered on the crowded lawn of the Lincoln County courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi, at close range. Lamar Smith campaigned against one of two candidates for the county Board of Supervisors. He encouraged African Americans to vote by absentee ballot. Lamar was warned several weeks before that he was too political. He was told to quit or be killed. He was shot by a .38 caliber pistol under his right arm, died instantly.

When District Attorney E. C. Barlow reached the scene of the murder, he first spoke with Sheriff Robert E. Case who told him that he saw Noah Smith leave the scene of the murder with blood all over him. Noah Smith and two other men, Charles Falvey and Mack Smith, were arrested. The men were each released on a $20,000 bond.

Not one witness appeared before the grand jury. The case was dropped and the three men went free. District Attorney Barlow called the lack of cooperation "a gross miscarriage of justice."

Lamar "Ditney" Smith was born March 1893 to Levi Smith and Harriet Humphrey in Lincoln County, MS. He served in World War I and was a local farmer in rural Lincoln County. He was the husband of Annie Clark, father of Earline Smith Thomas.
Lamar Smith's sister Susie Mae Smith married Walter Scott, my mother's first cousin once removed.

See a picture of youthful Lamar and wife here, see a picture of older couple here
Sources:
1900 Federal Census - Lincoln County, MS - Searched for Levy Smith
Brookhaven Leader-Times Newspaper - August 17-19, 1955 - Mississippi Department of Archives and History - Microfilm Number: 31241
Jet Magazine - August 25, 1955 - Jet Magazine - Oct 6, 1955 - Google Books


25 comments:

  1. I give deep respect to Lamar Smith for blazing the trails so that people of color would have the right to vote, and the right to protest. Mr. Smith is one of our unsung heroes.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always tell my children that you don't have to be famous to impact the World. I am sharing this post with them. Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. i am doing a report on lamar smith and at first it was just a name and now it's reality and yeah im only 12 yrs old and you're never to young or old to make a difference

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you will share your report with us.

      Delete
  4. We can all make a difference when we stand for or support what we believe to be the right thing. I wish you well with your report.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LindaRe,
      My name is Linda and I think I'm related to you. John Archie Smith was my grandfather and Jacob Smith was his father. My families property is in Copish County near Hwy. 28. Would love to contact you for more family history. You may email me at ljp_ctls@yahoo.com.

      Delete
    2. How can an entire town keep the secret of who killed this brave man? It's been 58 years, shouldn't someone be alive who knows something? I have heard this story many times and it still haunts me.

      Delete
    3. All the men believed to have participated in the murder of Lamar Smith are deceased. Someone likely knows something that would bring closure, healing to Lamar's family.

      Delete
    4. My great grandfather was Jacob Smith and Lamar Smith was his younger brother. I recently spoke to my Uncle David Smith about the murder of Uncle Ditney Smith and he related to me that Noah Smith was in fact the shooter/killer of Uncle Ditney. He also said that Noah Smith was out of his mind and tormented by the killing until the day he died.

      Delete
    5. Linda, I have been told a similar story concerning Noah Smith, and that the other men involved also had "hard" deaths.

      Delete
    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    7. My grandfather was Jacob Smith and I just learned of this story. I'm astonished that this happened but my dad said there was more things like this that happened.

      Delete
    8. My grandfather was Jacob Smith and I just learned of this story. I'm astonished that this happened but my dad said there was more things like this that happened.

      Delete
    9. My grandfather was Jacob Smith, I never heard this story until now.

      Delete
    10. Sybass, Thank you for visiting, glad you found information about your family. Voting was a right we had to fight for, which is one of the reasons we should participate and protect our right to vote. Your father is right, this type of murder happened more than we like to think.

      Delete
  5. Hi my aunt Debbie just told me this story from my grandmother's half sister (Lizzy, not sure how her name is spelled). Lamar was my grandmother's uncle. Very sad story.

    Anna

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Anna, It is a sad story but I am proud of him fighting for the right to vote.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have you heard of the name Willie Ruth ?

      Delete
    2. I am not familiar with Willie Ruth.

      Delete
  7. Do you have any newspaper accounts of his murder, either in the Jackson paper or the Brookhaven paper?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I have newspaper articles. I've found three, have a couple more to be found. The articles are from the Brookhaven paper.

      Delete
    2. Maybe when you were a child, you, like I, studied from a book entitled “Reading for Meaning.” I’m reminded of the book because I certainly would have flunked any test that was given on this post since I completely overlooked the list of your source material. Sometimes, I try to cover too much ground too fast, the sites for what I’m interested in being so abundant.

      I was six when Lamar Smith was murdered, but I never heard of him or of his lynching until last week when trying to research the 1928 double lynching that I father told me about decades ago. It wasn’t just lynchings of which I am ignorant; I went through 12 years of school in Brookhaven, three years of college at Whitworth, another year at Mississippi College, and an occasional graduate class at Southern, yet my schooling did not enable me to name a single black writer from any century, most regrettably my own simply because that’s where my main interest lies. When I discovered Richard Wright during my fifties, I was indeed shocked that not only was he a wonderful writer, he would have practically been a neighbor if he hadn’t left the South. His obscurity in the state in which he was raised put me in mind of Ellison’s “The Invisible Man” because, truly, black people were seen without being known, the unspoken assumption being that they weren’t worth knowing.

      You and I share an interest because although I’ve lived in Oregon for a long time, my interest in Mississippi is greater now than when I lived there. Of late, I’ve even been buying old postcards of the Brookhaven area.

      Perhaps, you’ve heard of a writer named Joesph Holt Ingraham who was active during the middle third of the 19th century. Although he was from Maine, he so loved Mississippi that he moved there. He did a two volume work entitled “The South-West by a Yankee.” The book was based upon a visit he made to Mississippi in the 1820s, so if you’re interested in a early history of the southwestern part of what was then a southwestern state, I recommend it as entertaining reading.

      I would love it if you did a whole other blog about your experiences because although we’re from the same area and grew up, I would assume, about the same time, and know the same geography and somewhat of the same history; we still lived as it were in very different places based upon the fact that you are black and I am white. I was at BHS the year it was integrated, and I’m wondering if you knew any of those three kids and have any information about what became of them. Their’s was such a hard life for the time they were at BHS that I really don’t think that, had I been their parents, I would have allowed to go through it because there’s no way they could have come out of it without being badly scarred—at least I know I couldn’t. You have no idea how interested I am in knowing what it was like for you to grow up where you did and when you did. Likewise, if you have any questions about what things were like for me back then, I will answer them as fully as I am able and have time for.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I remember the book "Reading for Meaning" or maybe another one "Reading for Understanding". Like you, I am trying to cover a lot of ground and often miss something and misinterpret the rest.

      I was born a few months after Lamar Smith's death, raised in Jackson. My maternal relatives lived in Brookhaven where we visited often, mostly during the summer.

      I didn't learn of Lamar Smith's death until I was in my mid forties. A cousin with whom I do genealogy research informed me of the circumstances of his death once I shared a picture of a young Lamar and wife from my great grandmother's collection of pictures. This discovery lead me to finding newspaper articles concerning his death.

      I was in the 8th or 9th grade when I was introduced to Richard Wright, the same year a new school library was built. The school I attended had a small library which was used when we had library science class or a paper to write would we students be allowed to take books home. After the new library was built, the librarian cautiously suggested I read "Black Boy". It would be years later before I knew Wright was from Natchez.

      My folks shielded the children as much as they could. They spoke of hangings, lynchings, mistreatment, thief of land. I would hears bits and pieces when I was within earshot or sitting quietly in a corner when they had forgotten I was there. By the time I was interest in the details and had questions, my folks were gone.

      I remember the summer of the three missing Civil Rights workers, how sad, disappointed, angry we were. I was less than 10, but I remember feeling what my folks felt.

      My email address is LRudd@aol.com

      Delete
    4. Thank you for your address. I’m email you shortly, but won’t have time to write today as I’m expecting a contractor to arrive any moment.

      I was born in 1949, so I was fifteen when the three fellows were killed, and I remember it well because of the resultant search. You might have seen the Life Magazine cover in which the defendants were smiling and passing the Redman, this in the courtroom. They clearly had no fear of being convicted.

      Delete