Friday, February 13, 2015

Civil Rights Organizer Herbert Lee Murdered By A Mississippi Elected Official

Herbert Lee
Herbert Lee, the son of Albert Lee and Elvia Lee was born in Amite County, Mississippi. He was married to Prince Melson Lee, to their union nine children were born: Wilma, Irma, Bessie, Ruby, Shirley, Roy, Ray, Frank and Herbert Lee, Jr. He was a faithful member of Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church and a successful dairy farmer. He became a member of the NAACP in the early 1950's. When SNCC voting rights activist started working in Amite and Pike counties in the fall of 1961, Lee,  close friend of the Amite County NAACP brand chairman E.W. Steptoe became involved, helping transport the workers and acquaint them to the area.

Assistant United States Attorney John Doar and others from the Justice Department interviewed several persons in Amite County about the infringements of the voting laws. They learned that threats had been made to harm NAACP members and Voting Rights Activist in Amite and other counties.

On the morning of September 25, 1961, Hebert Lee took a truckload of cotton to the cotton gin in Liberty, Mississippi.  Hurst followed Lee according to the witnesses, Lee was sitting in his truck when Hurst angrily walks up and begins arguing, and pulls out a pistol. "I'm not fooling around this time, I really mean business," shout Hurst.  " Put the gun down," responds Lee, " I won't talk to you unless you put the gun down." Lee slides out of his truck on the other side and  E. H. Hurst a dairy farmer and politician in Mississippi, elected as a Democrat to the Mississippi House of Representatives shot Lee in the head, killing him instantly.  It happened in front of about a dozen witnesses, including several Negroes. On the day of the killing, the corner's jury concluded that E. Hurst, claimed self-defense by a all white jury at the inquest.
Amite County Grand Jury Docket
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.

Herbert Lee was only trying to register African-American people in the small rural town to become voters. After eleven years of trying to register African-American people of Amite County.
The Cotton Gin where Herbert Lee was murdered
On July 20, 1965, E. W. Steptoe and other African Americans became registered voters.

Louis Allen, a black witness to Lee's being shot, discussed the case with SNCC civil rights activist including Julian Bond. In January 1965, the night before he was planning to move away from Liberty, Allen was murdered in his driveway by two shot-gun blasts. Allen learned that a federal jury was considering charges against Hurst, Allen met with representatives of the FBI and Civil Rights Commissions to see if he could get federal protection if he were to testify. The Justice Department  told him that they couldn't offer him protection, Allen refused to change it story and stood up for the truth and what he felt was right to do. In 1994 investigation said suggested that Allen was murdered by Daniel Jones, the Amite County Sheriff, but no one has been prosecuted for his murder. The corner's jury ruled the homicide was justifiable and no further legal actions was taken against the Mississippi State Legislator.

Marion Barry was among the SNCC activists organizing in Pike County, Mississippi with Bob Parris Moses, and other SNCC members led a march of 100 black high school students through the streets of McComb, Mississippi. The marchers was arrested as they knelt down to pray on the steps of city hall, the students was expelled from school.

Herbert Lee's wife Prince Melson Lee was from St. Helena, Louisiana. My cousin Tito Lee came into the Art Gallery three years ago and informed me about what happen to his grandfather. We must never forget Herbert Lee, he died for our right to vote and yet many African American people will not get out and vote.


  1.  Cold case: "The murder of Louis Allen"60 Minutes (CBS), 10 April 2011
  2. The Struggle for Voting Rights in Mississippi-Civil Rights.
  3.  Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony for Herbert Lee