Sara Criss’ Civil Rights Memoir #32: White Shoes and White Defense

“He [De La Beckwith] always played the role of the true Southern gentleman, greeting the ladies with a bow and ‘Howdy, Ma’am’ and always saying ‘Sir’ to the men. He liked to dress in white and once when he met Howard Bartling [Sara’s brother-in-law], who was wearing white shoes, he gave him his card and commented ‘I like those shoes. I always wear white shoes because white is right.’

“De La was proud of his membership in various organizations such as Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Shrine, American Legion and VFW, but especially he was proud of being a member of the Citizens Council. And it was some of the leaders of the Citizens Council who stood behind him along with the Klan members. Hardy Lott was his attorney and had two Greenwood police officers testify that they saw De La in Greenwood at the time of the murder.

“A legal fund was started to help with his defense. It was called ‘The White Citizens Legal Fund,’ and a spokesman for the group said: ‘Monies collected for this fund initially will be used to provide legal counsel for Mr. Beckwith if he is found to be in need of funds. The fund will be administered by a committee of prominent Greenwood citizens who will make any decision necessary as to disbursements from the fund.’ We fussed at Mama for sending $5 to the fund, but she said she was just remembering De La as that little boy whose mother died when he was very young and who played ball on the vacant lot across the street.”

About sec040121

Hello....I'm in possession of a priceless collection of memoirs and memorabilia left by my mother, Sara Evans Criss. She was a native and lifelong (88 years!) devotee of our small town, who covered this peculiar and volatile corner of the world for 30 years as the Memphis Commercial Appeal's Greenwood bureau chief, a job that started out with debutantes and high school football and wound up spang in the midst of one of the twentieth century's most enduring social upheavals. This blog is dedicated to her memory and the legacy she left behind, both for her family and her community.
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