Emmett and His Mother Mamie Till...The only way Mamie could identify her son's body was by the ring that he wore on his hand which once belonged to his late father Louis Till...
Timothy R. Brown
September 17, 2008
The Emmett Till Memorial Park & Interpretive Nature Trail is an extension of a museum honoring the Chicago 14-year-old whose death helped bring national attention to the brutality of segregation. The park will include picnic pavilions, a baseball field and an outdoor stage.
Till was kidnapped Aug. 28, 1955, from his uncle's home in the rural community of Money after being accused of whistling at a white woman. Three days later, a fisherman spotted Till's mangled body in the Tallahatchie River.
The teen's body was unrecognizable, except for a ring. Till's mother insisted on a public viewing and funeral in Chicago. Pictures of the brutalized body shocked the world.
On Sept. 23, 1955, a jury acquitted Roy Bryant, and his half brother, J.W. Milam of murder. Bryant owned Bryant Grocery & Meat Market, the store where Till reportedly whistled at Bryant's wife, Carolyn. A few months later, the two men admitted in a paid interview for Look magazine that they killed the teen. Because they were acquitted, they could not be retried. The two men are now dead.
Glendora Mayor Johnny Thomas said the park's opening is a way to honor Till and remember the past.
"We are working hard to keep the history alive because if the history is not kept alive it will certainly somehow raise its ugly head again," he said.
For Thomas, Till's murder is more than a distant historical event. His father, Henry Lee Loggins, was accused of being with Milam and Bryant when Till was abducted and killed. The U.S. Justice Department worked with state prosecutors to reopen the case in 2005.
Loggins consistently denied any involvement in or knowledge of the killing, and in 2007, a Mississippi grand jury declined to issue indictments. Loggins was not the focus of the investigation but was a potential witness.
"We are working to try to get a healing process beginning," Thomas said.
Glendora, which has about 250 residents, is a few miles north of Money. The town already has converted a cotton gin into the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center. The museum includes oral histories, an audiovisual archive and a cotton gin fan like the one used to weigh down Till's body after it was dumped in the river.
The park has a mile-long nature trail and will include plaques that tell the story of Till's death.
Prairie View A&M University in Texas donated money for the park. Mississippi Valley State University in nearby Itta Bena, the Delta Research & Cultural Institute and others helped complete the project.
About 100 Prairie View students volunteered this summer to build the nature trail, Thomas said.
"The odd part of it is, after applying to the state on two occasions to assist us with a park, out of the blue came Prairie View after we had received our turndown notice for the second time," Thomas said.
Everette Penn, coordinator of Service Learning at Prairie View, said in a news release that the project is a chance for students to be a part of history.