Joint Committee to Investigate Cold Civil Rights Cases

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l-r; Rep. G. A. Hardaway, Charlie Morris and Rep. Johnnie Turner Photo submitted

By Peter White

 

MEMPHIS, TN – Charlie Morris, 96, remembers his brother’s death like it was yesterday. Jesse Lee Bond was murdered July 17, 1939 in Arlington, TN. Bond was a sharecropper and Sam Wilson, the landowner, shot him as he walked into the plantation store that day.

Bond, 19, stumbled back out the door and took refuge in a nearby outhouse. Wilson followed him and riddled it with bullets until Bond fell outside dead. He was castrated and thrown in the Lousahatchie River. The coroner reported the death as a drowning.

Bond had bought $13.90 worth of seed from Wilson’s son a few days before and had insisted on getting a receipt. In those days, supplies were sold on credit, the amount put in a ledger, and the account was settled after crops were harvested. Too often, sharecroppers worked all year for next to nothing and the owners account book was how they were routinely cheated.

The receipt Bond wanted was insurance. It was just a piece of paper but it cost him his life. Charlie Morris was just 11 years old at the time.

“All these years Charlie Morris has told that story over and over and over again. But yesterday he had a smile on his face, “ said Rep. Johnnie Turner.

Turner sponsored a bill to create a special joint legislative committee to investigate unsolved civil rights crimes. Many are cold cases that have never been resolved like the murder of Jesse Bond.

“Finally, something’s going to be done about the murder of my brother,” Morris said.

“There were times when rights were violated, when we had incidents of violence and cruelty to human beings who were citizens and yet we did nothing about it,” said Representative G.A. Hardaway, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Rep. Turner says the bill’s passage culminates a long battle for her to bring justice to victims like Jesse Bond. “For years, I’ve tried to get this bill passed and bring closure to the remaining family members of slain African-Americans,” Turner said.  “It is my hope that this can be first step to helping some of those families finally find some measure of peace.”

Some 25 members of the Morris family attended a press conference at the NAACP Memphis office Monday.  Morris’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, and church members were there.

Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill on June 21. The joint committee members are Senators Thelma Harper, Ed Jackson, and Mark Norris. The three House members are Johnnie Turner, Tilman Goins, and Bill Sanderson.

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