January 1, 1892
August 13, 1955
Age at Death:
Mr. Smith was a 63-year-old farmer and WWI veteran, and a voting right's activist. There was a run-off primary scheduled for August 23, so on August 13, Mr. Smith was at the courthouse helping other black voters to fill out absentee ballots so they could vote in the runoff without exposing themselves to violence at the polls.
Mr. Smith was shot and killed in Brookhaven, Mississippi, in front of dozens of witnesses, including Sheriff Robert E. Case, who permitted one of the alleged assailants to leave the crime scene covered in blood. Days later, that man and two others were arrested in connection with the shooting. All three suspects were white. He was believed to be a victim for urging African Americans to vote in a local run-off election. Mr. Smith, a locally known voting rights advocate affiliated with the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, had been threatened and warned to stop trying to register and organize African American voters in the community. Mr. Smith’s death was one of several racially-motivated killings in Mississippi that year, including the May 1955 murder of civil rights leader Rev. George Lee in Belzoni; the abduction and murder of Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta in August 1955; and the fatal shooting of Gus Courts in Belzoni in December 1955. Source: and
Was justice served?
No. In September 1955, a grand jury composed of 20 white men declined to indict the three suspects for murder after witnesses failed to come forward to testify. Following the grand jury’s report, District Attorney E. C. Barlow criticized the lack of witness cooperation and complained about the sheriff’s handling of the case. Despite Barlow’s public promises to proceed with the investigation, the criminal case against the three suspects was dismissed. No one was punished for the crime.