By Monica Land
The United States House of Representatives passed a bill to designate the Federal Bureau of Investigations building, currently under construction in Jackson, Miss., the James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner Federal Building. Bill Number 3562 passed the House by unanimous consent this month with no Members of the House objecting to its passage.
“Mr. Speaker, these young men paid the ultimate price attempting to bring justice and equality to my home State of Mississippi.” said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson on the House floor. “
While the naming of this building pales in comparison to the loss of a son or brother, we hope that the families of these three young men will find solace in our acknowledgment of their contribution by naming the latest symbol of justice in Mississippi after their loved ones.”
Thompson also said in support of the bill, which is now headed to the Senate for consideration: “While there may be many individuals who are worthy of having their names grace Mississippi’s new FBI building, I cannot think of anyone more fitting for this honor than James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner,” he said.
“May the naming of this building serve as a notice to domestic terrorists–in this instance, they were law enforcement officials, Ku Klux Klansmen, and trucking company owners–that their actions will never be tolerated again.
The new building, located at 1220 Echelon Parkway, Jackson, Mississippi, is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2010. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were three Civil Rights workers murdered during what is known as, “Freedom Summer.”
On June 21, 1964, Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner went to investigate the burning of the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Supposedly, the church had been burned because it supported Civil Rights activity.
Chaney, the only black victim, was a local Freedom Movement activist from Meridian. Schwerner was a CORE organizer from New York, and Goodman, also from New York, was a Freedom Summer volunteer. All three young men had just returned from a week-long training on the campus of Western College for Women regarding strategies on how to register blacks to vote.
Later that evening, the three men were pulled over by Neshoba County deputy Cecil Price who charged Chaney with speeding. Price, a member of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, alerted his fellow Klansmen on how to kill the three men.
Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner were taken to an isolated spot near Philadelphia, Miss., where Chaney was savagely beaten and all three men were shot to death. Their car was set on fire and driven into the Bogue Chitto swamp.
The three victims were buried in an earthen dam and their bodies were discovered six weeks later.
The FBI subsequently arrested 18 men in October 1964 for the murders, but state prosecutors refused to try the case, claiming a lack of evidence.
On June 21, 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, an ordained Baptist minister, and ringleader of the kidnapping and murder of the three men, was found guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.
Now 85, Killen is serving 60 years with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.