StoryCorps: Daughters Remember Willie Edwards Jr.'s Larger-Than-Life Legacy Two sisters talk about the killing of their father, Willie Edwards Jr., by Klansmen in 1957. "You destroyed our hopes and our dreams and our love, but you didn't remove the man," says Malinda Edwards.

Klansmen Brutally Killed Their Father. They Now Say His Legacy Is Larger Than Life

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Time now for StoryCorps. In 1957, Willie Edwards Jr. was eating dinner with his family in Montgomery, Ala., when he got called into work. He never came home. Years later, a former member of the KKK said that he and some other men pulled Edwards out of his truck at gunpoint, beat him and forced him to jump off a bridge into the Alabama River. His daughter Malinda Edwards was only 3 at the time. She talked to her sister Mildred Betts about their father's brutal death.

MALINDA EDWARDS: Momma did tell me everything by the time I was 12. That night, she sat in the room and watched him dress. She says she watched every stitch of clothing that he put on, and he kissed her goodbye, but the next day, he didn't come back. She's like, where is he? Where is he? She didn't know where he was for months. And then she said we found him washed up in the river. And she had to identify the body. The jeans he put on, she had sewn them up herself and she remembered the thread. She remembered the color of his underwear and his shirt and his T-shirt. And she told me when you get married, don't you let your husband go out the door without knowing what he has on every day because you don't know if he's coming back. Was it hurtful when you read that the men that did this were not prosecuted for their crime?

MILDRED BETTS: I couldn't believe that they would not be accountable for their actions. And right now, they're still not.

EDWARDS: At that moment, I took a vow. I said with every breath that's in me, I am going to make these men's life miserable until somebody helps me. Only thing I accomplished was that his death certificate was changed to murder. People now know he was slain by people with no heart, no feeling.

BETTS: You know, I'm very proud of you, Malinda, 'cause you was persistent and that you did what you did for our family.

EDWARDS: I want to let the Klan know one thing. You may have thought you snuffed out a life, removed it from this Earth, but you didn't. You made this man bigger than life. Now he is taught in universities that he couldn't even attend. This man is on monuments. You didn't destroy Willie Edwards Jr. You destroyed our hopes and our dreams and our love. But you didn't remove the man.


KING: That was Malinda Edwards and her sister, Mildred Betts. Their story was produced in collaboration with the PBS series "FRONTLINE" as part of "Un(re)solved," which documents cold case murders during the civil rights era.

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