The Sovereignty Commission hired investigators and local informants to monitor and disrupt civil right activities across the state of Mississippi. The local informants were white and black. One of those informants was my grandmother's pastor, Reverend J. W. Johnson.
According to the commission, Reverend Johnson was well respected, had no previous record as a trouble maker, and he was well known to many prominent people in Jackson, MS. He was the pastor of Love Temple Church of God in Christ.
My grandmother Gertrude Overton Durr became a member of this church when she first moved to Jackson, in 1962, from her rural community near Hazlehurst, MS. The church was around the corner from her home.
Reverend Johnson came to the attention of the commission because he was soliciting funds for his church from white citizens he knew. One of those citizens reported him to the commission which resulted in Reverend Johnson being investigated. The investigator concluded Johnson used the funds for the purpose he requested.
After a lengthy conversation with Johnson, they hoped he would make a good informant and invited him to visit the Sovereignty Commission office the next day for additional conversation. He was to speak with the investigator and two more men associated with the commission. I wonder if he knew their intentions.
Reverend Johnson was investigated from May 16, 1963, until the report was made June 17, 1963. It was an intense summer of racial tensions in Mississippi. College students from across the nation converged on the state to assist African Americans with voter registration. It was the summer, June 21, 1963, three civil right workers were murdered.
Reverend Johnson was asked to attend a particular civil rights meeting. The report does not reveal any details about the meeting. He attended the meeting and brought back a short written report, which was not helpful. He did bring back a copy of the program and a pamphlet which the commission found beneficial. Johnson was asked to attend a second meeting. He brought back a short written report that had been previously published in the newspaper. The commission was not satisfied.
Reverend Johnson's file ends with the second meeting he attended. There is no additional information concerning his informant activities. I hope he found this type of activity defeatist and made the decision to not participate.
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