Remembrances

Civil-Rights Author Florence Mars Dies

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Florence Mars, a Mississippi native who wrote about the slaying of three civil rights workers in her state by the Ku Klux Klan, died last week at 83. Her book, Witness in Philadelphia, tells the story of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

We'd also like to note the death of Florence Mars, a Mississippi native who wrote about the slayings of three civil rights workers in her state by the Ku Klux Klan. Mars died at her home in Philadelphia, Mississippi last week. She was 83.

Her book, Witness in Philadelphia, tells the story of the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, and reveals in chilling detail how the crime ripped at the soul of her hometown. Her book opens with the line, In Philadelphia, Mississippi, the basement of the past is not very deep.

Florence Mars was one of the few white citizens who cooperated with the FBI agents who descended on Mississippi after the murders, and she paid dearly for it. She was arrested, alienated from her church, and the Klan burned down her barn.

The last time I saw Florence Mars, she sat proudly in the Neshoba County courthouse last summer, watching as former Klan leader Edgar Ray Killen was finally convicted of manslaughter for orchestrating the killings. Florence Mars was a cattle owner, tree farmer, and photographer. She'll be buried in Philadelphia, Mississippi, on Thursday.

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