MARCH 23, 1964

Johnnie Mae Chappell was walking to a store in Jacksonville, Florida, to buy some ice cream for her children when she realized she had dropped her wallet. 

As she retraced her steps along a road, four white men spotted her, and one of them killed her. They had been looking for anyone Black to kill following a day of racial unrest. All four men were indicted, but only J.W. Rich, the alleged triggerman, was tried. He was convicted of manslaughter and served only three years behind bars. 

Chappell’s story is featured at the National Civil Rights Memorial Museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and Keith Beauchamp told her story in his television program, “Wanted Justice: Johnnie Mae Chappell.”

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.