There is a renewed effort to solve a 40-year-old triple murder in Mississippi. The state's new Republican governor told me today that it's time those who know who killed three civil rights workers in 1964 step forward. Governor Haley Barbour hustled into the Racquet Club in Memphis Wednesday for a speech that celebrated some of Mississippi's recent economic successes: like a new 600 million dollar FedEx facility coming to Olive Branch.
"We're on the front edge of a rising tide economically in our state," Barbour said. To keep the tide rising, Barbour knows Mississippi must shed civil rights era images that inspired films like "Mississippi Burning."
Civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were beaten, shot, and buried in Neshoba County, Mississippi this month 40 years ago.
"By remembering this 40 year old evil and considering today's evil of fanatical Islamic terrorism, we recommit ourselves to fighting and defeating the extreme hateful intolerance in both these evils," said Governor Barbour last Sunday.
Barbour gave the welcome Sunday at the Philadelphia, Mississippi ceremony commemorating the 40th anniversary of the murder of the trio. No one was ever tried in the murders; state and federal prosecutors are now reinvestigating with Barbou--calling for those who know the truth to step forward.
"If you hide evil things, that's complicit. If you know some crime was committed and didn't come forward, that's just like countries that hide terrorists. That's not acceptable in our state and in our country," said the Governor.
Barbour had planned to be out of Mississippi this past weekend but rearranged his schedule to be present for the civil rights workers ceremony. The governor says his appearance was more than just for show; it was to help seek justice.
"If they can make a case, they should. There is no statute of limitations for the crime of murder," Barbour said.
Of the 18 Klansmen arrested on federal conspiracy charges in the 1964 murders, only seven were convicted. No state charges were ever brought. Eight of the men originally arrested in the case are still alive.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood and US Attorney Dunn Lampton in Jackson are hoping someone out there can tell the truth about what happened 40 years ago and close an ugly chapter in the state's history.