1964: Civil Rights workers murdered, Klan planned?

Charles Marsh: What about the theory--

Ed King: The Bowers thing--

CM: The idea that the church was bombed as an occasion to burn the church out of Meridian…

EK: To begin with that theory--that theory lets the Klan be too sophisticated. Certainly Schwerner would have wanted someone to check about the burned church… He would not necessarily [have been the person to check it]. J.E. Cheney would have been more likely… the Klan supposed spying through the [Sovereignty Commission, knowing what we were doing at every move. Well, we were in Ohio that week and Cheney and Schwerner were in Ohio. We had planned this big Ohio thing for a long time, there was every reason to think that Cheney and Schwerner would have been in Ohio… Well, I think Ohio probably started on Monday--Monday or Tuesday of that week, but that's dumb. Some Klansman drinking and partying and talking about it might have said it. Cheny was a local guy that they wouldn't have paid much attention to. Schwerner had lived three or four months in Meridian. Any white person in the Movement was more visible, but they would have had Cheney's name and stuff like this in late spring. They meaning everybody on the wide side who cared--from the Citizen's Council to the Klan to the John Birch Society to local police to legislators, anybody like this. Schwerner had a name that next to the Klan would have sounded Jewish. But there are a lot of German names in Mississippi including Bauer [Bowers?]… But he's the target [Schwerner], for the guy who's looking for the Jewish connection. Schwerner's wife comes down a month or so before the project starts, a white woman living--these people are fascinated with sex. The very fact that they were Mr. and Mrs. must have disappointed a lot of people. I mean--they were looking for sexual orgies in freedom houses… But a white woman coming in, and the Klan fantasy would have been the only reason she came down from the North was to sleep with the black male. Here she is and she's got a white husband, what does she need a black man for? Well the Klan fantasies could get heavier. But there weren't many white women out in the projects. SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] had a rule of no women in projects to begin with. Chauvinist, yes, but it was the rule. Eventually there were a few black women, but the women were still more concentrated in the Jackson office. Eventually Greenwood, after two years of SNCC work, Jane [Stinbridge] works in Greenwood, a white woman, a few other people and she was a white southern woman. But this is very rare. So a white woman in Meridian, everybody knows, where they live, who they are, everything they're doing. Certainly everybody knows the car. They live in the black community. They're controversial people, they're driving a huge white station wagon--white meaning color--you could say black or white cars as meaning the occupants. CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] brought a big station wagon so that you could carry people to the polls. We used that care in Freedom days in [?] Madison County where various people would come over. We had two big events in Madison that spring, one in the end of June. I'm pretty sure Schwerner was there, he would have brought the CORE care. The deputy sheriff from Neshoba came over to help [beat heads] in Madison on the day of demonstration. If he didn't know where the car was he certainly knew whose car was what on the freedom day at the end of May. Ok. So you get the car, it's registered to Core, everybody knows whose it is. The license plate of that car, in the Sovereignty Commission records at USM was under Paul Johnson. It's very clear that the sheriff of Neshoba county accused of the murder received the information about the car that the men were driving the night of the murder was given to the sheriff by the Sovereignty Commission. It's inconceivable to me that the even read the letter. He would have said those damn fools in Jackson, how incompetent do they think we are? You mean I'm going to let that white communist and nigger friend, they've been up here for three weeks and these bastards in Jackson think I don't even know the car? It was the biggest car we had…A lady legislator from Meridian asked the Sovereignty Commition tell me about Mickey Schwerner and the civil rights workers in my county. This was routine work for the Sovereignty Commission. They did this in every county where we had an office. She also go the license plate number. The TV implied the Bowers story… but they also have implied--and several have implied--and this one you saw ended with Rita Schwerner saying this business about the license plate numbers and so on. It's absolutely true that the secret spy agency gave the identification of the car to the men who did the murder… I think it was useless information that they had already. The SC had a list of over 60 vehicles used by people in the movement all over the state, mostly local people who would help out driving to the polls. And they sent a list of numerous license plate numbers to every sheriff.