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Traitor Town: The Unsolved Civil Rights Slaying of Clifton Walker

Today, in  Jackson, Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger, I published the first investigative news report about the 1964 racial murder of Clifton Walker:

Four and a half years after the FBI announced it would reopen and investigate more than 100 cases of unsolved civil rights-era killings in the South, the bureau has yet to initiate charges in any of the cases. It has instead closed all but 39 of those cases without recommending prosecution.

"Few, if any, of these cases will be prosecuted," the Department of Justice has acknowledged to Congress.

Despite its most vigorous efforts, the FBI has said, it has not been able to overcome "difficulties inherent in all cold cases: subjects die; witnesses die or can no longer be located; memories become clouded; evidence is destroyed or cannot be located; original investigations lacked the technical or scientific advances relied upon today."

But none of those reasons explains why the FBI has been able to gain little ground in a case that is still open - the slaying of Clifton Walker, a 37-year-old African American who was ambushed by a white mob and brutally gunned down in his car on an unpaved backwoods road outside the southwest Mississippi town of Woodville on Feb. 28, 1964. Walker was married and the father of five children.

For Walker's children, the FBI's own management of the case raises questions

Read the rest at the Clarion-Ledger or at USA Today, which also ran the story.

Also today, fellow Civil Rights Cold Case Project reporter Stanley Nelson interviewed me about the Clifton Walker case for his newspaper, the Concordia Sentinel, in Ferriday Louisiana, just across the Mississippi River from southwest Mississippi, where Clifton Walker was murdered. Stanley gave me a nice opportunity to talk more about Clifton Walker and his family.

Clifton Walker was born in Woodville, Miss. in 1927. The youngest of nine children, he was nicknamed "Man" as a child, which stuck through adulthood, as his older siblings tended to look up to him.

Clifton Walker met Ruby Phipps on her way home from Sunday school in 1943. They were married in 1945 and had five children together. The Walker children remember their parents as a strong unit. After they were put to bed, the children would hear their parents talking about life and planning for their needs, how to pay for a car or a washer or what to buy their kids for Christmas.

Clifton Walker served in the U.S. Army in the Korean War. After his discharge, following a knee injury, Walker went to work at International Paper plant in Natchez, where he was a laborer in the wood yard and a member of the black union, St. James Local 747 Pulp, Sulfite and Paper Mill Workers. At the time of his death he made a good wage for a black worker, reportedly $8/hour.

Read the rest at the Concordia Sentinel.

Be sure to watch the trailer posted with the article (as well as here, on hungryblues.net) to see portions of my investigation unfold, meet three of Clifton Walker’s children and visit the crime scene, where he was murdered.

(Cross-posted at the Civil Rights Cold Case Project.)

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