Rev. George W. Lee, one of the first African Americans registered to vote in Humphreys County, Miss. since Reconstruction, used his pulpit and his printing press to urge others to vote. Lee was head of the Belzoni, Mississippi NAACP.
History News Network reports in “The Grim and Overlooked Anniversary of the Murder of Civil Rights Activist the Rev. George W. Lee”:
In April, Lee was one of the speakers at the Council’s annual meeting, which drew a crowd of more than seven thousand to the all-black town of Mound Bayou. Simeon Booker of Jet, observed how Lee’s “down-home dialogue and his sense of political timing” had “electrified” the crowd. “Pray not for your mom and pop,” Lee suggested. “They’ve gone to heaven. Pray you can make it through this hell.”
Less than a month after this speech, on May 7, 1955, a convertible pulled alongside Lee’s car just before midnight. An unidentified assailant fired three shot-gun blasts shattering his jaw and driving him off the road. Lee died before he could make it to the hospital. The attack came days after he had received a threatening note demanding that he drop his name from the voting rolls. An autopsy extracted lead pellets from his face that were consistent with buckshot. The sheriff, who wanted to call it a traffic accident and close the case, claimed that they were dental fillings torn loose by the impact of the crash. Continue reading.
One of the people sent to investigate his murder was Medgar Evers, who was murdered on June 12, 1963.
Lee’s widow, Rosebud Lee, decided to hold an open-coffin ceremony for her late husband. This decision planted the seeds for a similar decision by Mamie Till Mobley, Emmett Till’s mother. Read more about Lee’s life and murder on the Mississippi Civil Rights Project website and in a chapter from the book Where Rebels Roost…Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited called Bloody Belzoni. See the 43 minute documentary, the Rev. George Lee Case on Vimeo by Keith Beauchamp.