Civil Rights Killings

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A black congressman from Georgia who knew the three civil rights workers killed in Mississippi more than 40 years ago calls the arrest of a suspect, "a tremendous step down a very long road."

Representative John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, told NBC's "Today" that Thursday's arrests along with the similar reopening of other civil-rights-era cases in recent years will have, "a redeeming effect on the very soul of this region of our country."

A reputed member of the Ku Klux Klan, Edgar Ray Killen, was arrested in the 1964 shooting deaths James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Mississippi, and two white New Yorkers, 20-year-old Andrew Goodman and 24-year-old Michael Schwerner.

It was the first time the state has sought criminal charges in the case that outraged a nation.

In 1967, the Justice Department tried Killen and 18 other men, many of them also Klan members, on federal civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years.

Now 79, Killen was freed after his trial ended in a hung jury. Friday he is to be arraigned in Mississippi in Neshoba County court on three counts of murder.

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