James Young Sworn In As Mayor
James A. Young was sworn in as mayor of Philadelphia on Friday by Chancery Judge J. Max Kilpatrick.
By DEBBIE BURT MYERS
Neshoba Democrat Managing Editor
Friday, July 03, 2009
Mayor James A. Young pledged to lead Philadelphia proudly, honorably and righteously shortly after taking the oath of office Friday morning.
The city's first African-American mayor said voters called for change and they got it.
"Today is the beginning of that change," Young said in remarks on the south steps of the Neshoba County Courthouse before a crowd of about 300 in the broiling sun. "Today is the beginning of moving forward in Philadelphia, Miss."
Young said that Philadelphia was now on the map for the right things and for the right reasons. He pledged to be a mayor not only for the 1,021 residents who voted for him but for all those who did not.
Forty-five years ago last month three young men registering blacks to vote were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Neshoba County, a brutal act that notoriously thrust Philadelphia into an international spotlight.
"I am your mayor," he said. "I am going to lead you with honesty, integrity and righteousness. You said you wanted somebody that is going to treat you fair. You said you wanted somebody that is going to represent everybody. You said you wanted change. You got it.
"We are going to move. We are going to work, we are going to pray. We are going to fuss and we may fight but the job is going to get done in Philadelphia."
Aldermen were sworn in as well.
Young officially takes office on Monday.
Content © 2009
Young Honoree At BET Awards In Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 28: James Young onstage during the 2009 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 28, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images.
By DEBBIE BURT MYERS
Neshoba Democrat Managing Editor
Philadelphia Mayor-elect James Young received a Community Humanitarian Award Sunday night on stage during the 2009 Black Entertainment Television Awards program in Los Angeles.
Young was contacted by the host of the program, actor and musician Jamie Foxx, shortly after he was elected Philadelphia's first African-American mayor.
Foxx saw the interview Young did with CNN and was moved by his story.
"He's sort of a history buff so he knew about our area," Young said. "He called me and said: 'I've got to tell the world about this.'"
Foxx described his mayoral election as evidence of positive change for Philadelphia and Mississippi, Young said.
Foxx arranged travel and accommodations for Young and his daughter, Shanda, to travel to Los Angeles to attend the BET Awards. They sat at a table on the sixth or seventh row from the stage, surrounded by stars.
During the on-stage presentation, which aired live on BET Network, Foxx relayed Young's story of growing up in Philadelphia and Neshoba County during the turbulent 1960s and how he went on to become the city's first African American mayor.
Young said he received a standing ovation from those in attendance as he accepted the award from Foxx.
"I walked up to receive the award from Jamie and we hugged on stage and he said, 'I told you we were going to tell the world your story.'"
Young said he was humbled by the recognition.
"You just can't imagine being in front of people who are on the world stage everyday, just being there representing our city was good. It just says a lot about what Philadelphia has done and is in the process of doing," Young said.
Mt. Zion Memorial Sunday To Remember Men Slain By Klan
Neshoba Democrat Managing Editor
A member of the Mississippi Mass Choir and her father will return to Mt. Zion United Methodist Church Sunday to sing during the 45th annual service memorializing three civil righters workers murdered here in 1964 registering blacks to vote.
Trenee Edwards and her father, Nate Edwards, both of Carthage will provide the music for the event set for Sunday at 3 p.m.
The Edwards were asked to return after their appearance at last year's memorial which many described as especially moving, organizer Jewel McDonald said.
Mayor-elect James Young, the first African-American elected mayor of Philadelphia, will be the keynote speaker, marking the 45th anniversary of the brutal killings of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, all in their 20s.
Master of ceremonies will be Leroy Clemons, while civil rights pioneer Hollis Watkins will give a special tribute. Shanda Young will introduce her father as keynote speaker.
Young, 53, is a Pentecostal minister and former four-term county supervisor and paramedic.
An out-of-town group is planning a separate program and march on Saturday, according to reports.
The Neshoba County murders were among the most notorious crimes of the civil rights era, in part because the murder plot involved law enforcement.
The young men were ambushed and later shot by the Ku Klux Klan on Father's Day, June 21, 1964. They were in Neshoba County investigating the burning of Mt. Zion five days earlier.
The Klan believed the church was playing a central role in the black voter registration effort.
Several members were beaten, some severely, as they left the church the night of the fire.
In 1967, seven men were convicted of conspiring to violate the civil rights of the three murder victims.
The 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning" was a highly fictionalized account of the murders.
In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time Baptist preacher and sawmill owner, was convicted on three counts of manslaughter for his role in orchestrating the murders.
Killen received three 20-year consecutive sentences.
Mt. Zion is in the Longdale community about 10 miles east of town off Mississippi 16 on county Road 747.
For more information, contact Jewel McDonald at 601-650-9720 or Elsie Kirksey at 601-656-8277.
The out-of-town group is planning a 10 a.m. march from Nebo Missionary Baptist Church in west Philadelphia to the courthouse, the route that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took in 1966, reports said.
Black Mayor Of Mississippi Town Brings 'Atomic Bomb Of Change'
* Story Highlights
* Philadelphia, Mississippi, elects first black mayor
* Town of 8,000 is best known for its notorious past, the killings of 3 civil rights workers
* James Young won election by 46 votes; the town has a 55 percent white population
* "When you've been treated the way we've been treated ... it's so overwhelming"
By Ed Lavandera
PHILADELPHIA, Mississippi (CNN) -- James Young still remembers the Ku Klux Klan tormenting his neighborhood. He can still see his father holding a gun on the living room couch ready to shoot anyone who threatened his family.
Nothing about Young's childhood ever made him think he could be the mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi, the town best known for the killings of three civil rights workers in 1964.
That's the way it was for black kids growing up in this crucible of racial hostility -- big dreams were often squelched. Sitting on a sprawling Southern front porch this week, Young broke down in tears about what it means to be elected the town's first black mayor.
"When you've been treated the way we've been treated," he told CNN, choking up and then pausing to wipe the tears from his face. VideoWatch tearful Young describe victory »
For a moment, he couldn't speak. He then regrouped, "That's why it's so overwhelming to be a part of this history."
In May, the 53-year-old Young was elected the mayor of Philadelphia, a town of about 8,000 in the east-central part of the state. Despite a 55 percent white majority, Young defeated Rayburn Waddell, a white, three-term incumbent, by the slim margin of 46 votes. See where the town is located »
Young described the victory as "an atomic bomb of change." Another resident rejoiced, saying Young's win symbolized the scab finally falling off this town's wound.
"I couldn't even have wrote that in a fairy tale," Young said. "Who would have thought a little country boy like me would be mayor of Philadelphia, Mississippi?"
Philadelphia was the site of one of the most notorious killings of the civil rights era. On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers -- James Chaney, a 21-year-old black man from Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24, both activists from New York -- were shot to death at the edge of town. The killings inspired the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."
"Philadelphia will always be connected to what happened here in 1964," said Jim Prince, the publisher of the Neshoba Democrat newspaper.
"But the fact that Philadelphia, Mississippi, with its notorious past, could elect a black man as mayor, it might be time to quit picking on Philadelphia, Mississippi."
Young knows his slim margin of victory means he still has to earn the trust of many more voters here. He knows there are still some in town who won't vote for him because he's black, but he says that number gets smaller and smaller as time passes.
"We have some -- a very small pocket -- that will never change. That's what we've got to deal with," said Young.
The mayor-elect says his election symbolizes a dramatic shift away from his hometown's racist past. And for many black residents, it means they can finally call this place home.
"The places where we were locked out, I'm gonna have the key," he said. "The places we couldn't go, I've got the key. No better way to say it than that."
He takes special pride that his victory comes the same year the nation swore in its first African-American president in Barack Obama. "It inspired people," Young said. "There are times and seasons, I think, for everything. The season arrived and the people let me know it was my time."
The mayor-elect says he won by shaking hands and knocking on doors all over town. But the groundwork for Young's climb to the top of Philadelphia's political world started decades ago.
Young was one of the first black students to integrate Philadelphia's white schools. After graduating from high school, he worked in a motor factory and then as a hospital housekeeper.
A white boss noticed Young's charming people skills and recommended that he become a paramedic. He eventually worked his way up to become the director of the EMT unit, and that catapulted him to his first elected job as a county supervisor in 1991.
He is also a Pentecostal minister preaching on Sunday and organizing weekly Bible studies.
"I've been prepping for this. I felt like I knew enough people. I felt like they knew me and that if I could convince them to just give me the opportunity, things could happen," said Young.
Driving around Philadelphia in a 1981 Ford pickup truck, Young basked in the glow of victory. He calls it the "honeymoon" period. As we drove down the road, black and white residents cheered.
"We're so happy," screamed one lady.
Young shouted back, "We did it!"
Until he's sworn in as mayor, Young will work out of a makeshift transition office provided by a prominent attorney. His victory might seem unlikely but there's little time left to celebrate.
"It's an awesome feeling to have that kind of respect that people support you in this way," Young said near the end of our interview. "I'll never let the people down which called for that."
First Black Mayor in City Known for Klan Killings
Jim Prince/The Neshoba Democrat
James A. Young, a Pentecostal minister and former county supervisor, was elected mayor of Philadelphia, Miss. on Tuesday.
By ROBBIE BROWN Of The NY Times
May 22, 2009
The city of Philadelphia, Miss., where members of the Ku Klux Klan killed three civil rights workers in 1964 in one of the era’s most infamous acts, on Tuesday elected its first black mayor.
James A. Young, a Pentecostal minister and former county supervisor, narrowly beat the incumbent, Rayburn Waddell, in the Democratic primary. There is no Republican challenger.
The results, announced Wednesday night, were a turning point for a mostly white city of 7,300 people in east-central Mississippi still haunted by the killings, which captured front-page headlines across the nation and were featured in the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning.”
“This shows a complete change of attitude and a desire to move forward,” said Mr. Young, 53, a Philadelphia native who integrated the local elementary school as the only black student in his sixth-grade class in the mid-1960s. “When I campaigned, the signs on the doors said, ‘Welcome,’ and I actually felt welcome.”
Mississippi has the largest number of black elected officials in the country, but they rarely come from majority-white electorates, said Joseph Crespino, an expert in Mississippi history at Emory University. Mr. Crespino called Mr. Young’s victory “remarkable.”
“I think this speaks well to the town of Philadelphia,” he said. “Residents there have lived with the memory and the trauma of the killings for many decades.”
The city is 56 percent white, 40 percent black and 2 percent American Indian, according to the Census Bureau.
On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers who were registering voters in Philadelphia — James Chaney, who was black, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were white — were murdered.
In a 1967 trial, seven of 18 defendants were convicted of conspiracy. Then in 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Klansman, was convicted of manslaughter for the killings and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Like so many other Southern cities in the civil rights era, Philadelphia had its national image cemented permanently by one infamous event. But this week, residents saw an opportunity for redefinition.
“It will erase the thought that we’re just a Southern racist town,” said Dorothy Webb, 72, a white retired school principal who said she had voted for Mr. Young.
Mr. Young said that he recalled the cold stares of his all-white classmates at Neshoba Central Elementary School, but that in recent years, racial tensions had abated.
“There was no real negativism in this campaign,” he said, adding, “There was no door slammed in my face.”
Mr. Young campaigned on a shoestring budget, with a dozen workers and volunteers, no yard signs, buttons or T-shirts. His campaign staff credits the Obama campaign with increasing the registration of black and young voters in Philadelphia.
But Mr. Young said the main advantage was his willingness to campaign in all neighborhoods, white and black, adding, “I even talked to my opponent’s mother.”
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