Sept. 2, 1912

Credit: Obituary of R. Jess Brown that ran in the Clarion Ledger

Civil rights lawyer R. Jess Brown was born in Kansas, grew up in Oklahoma, and moved to Mississippi after World War II. 

After teaching school, he became involved in a 1948 lawsuit to equalize pay for Black and white teachers. Fired for that, he decided to become a lawyer. He, Jack Young Sr. and Carsie Hall were reportedly the only Black lawyers daring to tackle civil rights cases in Mississippi. 

He represented a Black pastor in Jefferson Davis County, challenging Jim Crow laws that sought to bar Black votes. Brown also helped represent James Meredith in his successful bid in 1962 to enter the previously all-white University of Mississippi. Three years earlier, Brown and Young represented Mack Charles Parker, who was lynched before he could stand trial. A year after that, Brown represented Clyde Kennard, who was railroaded on a charge for “stealing chicken feed.” 

Brown died of cancer on the last day of 1989. A documentary, “The Defenders,” spotlights the work of Brown, Young and Hall.

More on this day


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

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.