Special friendship forms out of a brutal crime - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Special friendship forms out of a brutal crime

Memphian Joan Nelson says she and Mamie Till Mobley enjoyed a unique friendship. And although Mamie died in 2003 - their relationship lives on in Nelson's heart.

Memphian Joan Nelson was nine-years-old when pictures of Emmett Till's funeral were broadcast around the country.

Nelson says before Mamie Till-Mobley died in 2003, she would confide in her and describe details of her son's brutal murder.

"There was an axe that was brought down midway and his head was actually severed," said Nelson.

The viciousness of Emmett Till's murder stunned the world and traumatized his mother.

"And when I looked at his face it was just like I was hit with a baseball bat," Till-Mobley said softly in a 1997 home video.

By the time Nelson recorded the video, she and Mamie Till-Mobley had become close friends.

"Well, I first met her on the telephone - I had written a poem," said Nelson.

Nelson sent the poem to Till's mother the week Chicago honored what would've been Emmett Till's 50th birthday.

"He didn't know that there was this much hate, an innocent child bore a terrible weight," said Nelson reading from her poem.

Nelson says the sincerity of the poem cemented a strong bond between them.

"I could share things with her that I could not share with anyone else," said Nelson.

Nelson runs The Living Legacy Museum out of a tiny home in north Memphis. There you can see momentoes Mobley donated - along with stories about Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, the two men accused of murdering Til, because the 14-year-old allegedly whistled at Bryant's wife at a store in Money, Miss.

"She told me she never believed that he was in anyway being smart or fresh in any way," said Nelson.

Nelson says Mobley always maintained that whistling at a white woman would never have been in Emmett's character and that she she even warned her son about racism in the south.

"So, she tried to prepare him for what it was like in the south but of course he could not have imagined the type of hatred...blatant hatred that is present in the south," said Nelson.

Nelson says it took a lot of courage for Mobley to return to the south for the murder trial.

"They sent me telegrams and letters and made phone calls and told me the same thing. 'Stay out of Mississippi or we will bomb your home! We will kill everybody there,'" said Till-Mobley on the video.

Nelson says Mobley was devastated Bryant and Milam were acquitted.

Still, she refused to stop living. Mobley went on to get a masters degree and threw her energy into helping other children.

"She formed the Emmett Till Players, a group of young people that she would take all over the United States and they preformed speeches of others...Dr. King and other great speeches," said Nelson.

Now, both Mobley's courage and her son's death are part of civil rights history. we found out that Emmett Till's goal in life was to become a policeman.

The complete FBI report on Till's murder is expected to be delivered to the district attorney before the end of the year. Then it will be up to the DA to decide whether to have a grand jury consider possible indictments in the case.

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