JUNE 10, 1966

Ben Chester White. Credit: Credit: FBI

Ben Chester White was shot to death by Klansmen near Natchez, Mississippi. 

White worked most of his life as a caretaker on a plantation and had no involvement in the civil rights movement. Klansmen told White that they needed help finding a lost dog. They lied to him, part of their plot to kill White so that they could lure Martin Luther King Jr. to the area and assassinate him. 

They took him to a remote area and began to fire their guns at him. His final words? “Oh, Lord, what have I done to deserve this?” As he breathed his last, his blood ran red in a stream called Pretty Creek. 

News of White’s murder never made it to King, who was nowhere near Mississippi. Although one of the Klansmen later confessed, no one was ever convicted until 2003, when the last surviving Klansman was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, where he died.

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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.