Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Informant to Soverenignty Commission

Love Temple Church of God in Christ
Jackson, MS

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.

Other articles concerning Mississippi Sovereignty Commission
Mississippi Sovereignty Commission
Investigating the Tougaloo Nine
Teachers, Did You Sign Your Statement
Reverend J. W. Johnson "An Agitator"
Tougaloo Nine
Appeasing the Negro
Suspected Members of NAACP

Sovereignty Commission Online

There were three J. W. Johnson named in Sovereignty Commisson files. All three were preachers, two were black and one was white. One was a civil rights activitist married to a maternal cousin and the other one was my grandmother's pastor.


  1. So very sad. I'm glad he found a way to not be useful. I remember that the choir director in my father's church, who also gave me piano lessons, confessed that he had been an informant for the Detroit police. There was nothing to inform about but who knows what they thought was good information? This was in the early 1960s too.

    1. Getting a new name to investigate kept the ball rolling for the commission, and there was always a new name.