In this previous post, I discussed the Emmett Till murder case and specifically two key developments that took place in 2007. In that year, a Leflore County, Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Carolyn Bryant, the woman involved in the incident with Till that motivated the murder. In the aftermath of the grand jury’s action, the FBI released its report on the case, which, when looked at closely, raised serious questions about the grand jury’s decision.
A persistent mystery about the case is the question of exactly what happened when Emmett Till went to Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market, where Carolyn Bryant was keeping store. It has been pretty well established that Till later whistled at Mrs. Bryant outside the store, but her claims that Till grabbed and propositioned her in the store have been utterly discredited, for reasons I discussed in the other post.
In June, journalist Gary Glennell Toms posted his interview with Scott Shepherd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and now an anti-racist activist. Shepherd is from Indianola, Mississippi, where he was close to relatives of Carolyn Bryant and others who knew her. (Shepherd’s parents were in the latter category.) Based on that background, he has some ideas about what may have happened in the Bryant store the day Emmett Till walked in.
Shepherd told Toms that it was “common knowledge” in the Indianola community that Carolyn Bryant had a “bad habit” of “flirting with young kids, young boys, and just about anybody that came into the store.” The interviewer followed up on that point.
Toms: Did this also include black boys?
Toms also asked Shepherd about the 2007 grand jury decision. “This does not surprise me,” Shepherd said, “because this is the county that Byron de la Beckwith came from and was a prominent figure in, Leflore County.” In 1963, Beckwith murdered Medgar Evers, field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP and a leading civil rights activist. Beckwith was finally convicted of the murder in 1994 and died while serving a life sentence. “They did get [i.e. convict] Byron de la Beckwith in another county, in Jackson,” Shepherd noted.
Here is the full interview: