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Journalist Jerry Mitchell Discusses Decades Investigating Civil Rights Era Killings

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tags: civil rights, journalism



MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST: 

A loose cannon and a white traitor - those are just a couple of things our next guest has been called, according to his own official bio on the Jackson Clarion Ledger website.

Jerry Mitchell is a reporter for the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, Miss. He has spent his career investigating some of the most notorious killings of the civil rights era. Mitchell's work has led to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for the assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers, the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., church that killed four girls, and the man who organized the killings of three civil rights workers.

Now, after more than 30 years at the paper, Mitchell is leaving to start a new, independent journalism project. Jerry Mitchell joins us from Jackson. Welcome.

JERRY MITCHELL: Well, thank you for having me.

KELLY: So it was 1989 when you took up investigating the civil rights era and killings from that era that had gone unpunished. And I want to ask about what I gather was the very first case you took on, which was the assassination of Medgar Evers. Remind people who he was.

MITCHELL: Well, Medgar Evers was an NAACP leader. He was the field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP. He fought in Normandy and then came home and fought racism all over again in the form of Jim Crow - put like 50-60,000 miles a year on his Oldsmobile driving across Mississippi, investigating civil rights beatings and killings. And he - on the same night that President Kennedy told the nation that the grandsons of slaves were still not free, he was assassinated, shot in the back outside his own home, June 12, 1963.

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