Aug. 13, 1955

Lamar Smith Credit: Wikipedia

Lamar Smith, a World War I veteran who organized Black Americans to vote, was shot dead in broad daylight on the courthouse lawn in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Dozens of people watched but denied being able to identify his killer. NAACP leader Medgar Evers investigated the assassination. 

The 63-year-old Smith was a member of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a civil rights organization started by Dr. T.R.M. Howard, which held gatherings of more than 10,000 in the Mississippi Delta. The organization pledged an “all-out fight for unrestricted voting rights.” 

Smith took the message to heart. He voted in the Aug. 2, 1955, primary and helped others get out the vote. On Aug. 13, he was helping other Black voters get to the polls to vote absentee, so they could vote without becoming victims of violence. 

Authorities arrested three white men – Noah Smith, Mack Smith and Charles Falvey – in connection with Smith’s assassination, but an all-white grand jury refused to indict, despite the fact the sheriff saw Noah Smith covered in blood at the scene. The trio have since died. 

Lamar Smith is among the 40 martyrs listed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama. He is also listed on the memorial at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery.

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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.