January 31st, 1964

Louis Allen Murdered in Liberty, Mississippi

On September 25, 1961, E.H. Hurst – a local white state legislator – shot and killed Herbert Lee in an Amite County, Mississippi, cotton gin in front of several eyewitnesses. Mr. Lee was a member of the Amite County, Mississippi, NAACP and worked with Bob Moses of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) on a voter registration drive. Louis Allen, a black man who witnessed the murder, was initially coerced into saying that Hurst killed Herbert Lee in self defense; he later recanted and said Hurst had actually shot Lee for registering black voters.

Louis Allen spoke with the FBI about Lee’s murder, but told federal authorities that he would need protection if he were to agree to cooperate in their investigation. The FBI refused to provide protection, and Allen did not testify against Hurst. However, news spread in the local community that Allen had spoken with federal investigators.

Beginning in 1962, Mr. Allen was targeted for harassment and violence: local whites cut off business to his logging company; he was jailed on false charges; and on one occasion, Sheriff Daniel Jones broke Allen’s jaw with a flashlight. The son of a high ranking local Klansman, Sheriff Jones was suspected to also be a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Louis Allen filed complaints and testified before a federal grand jury regarding the abuse he suffered at the hands of Sheriff Jones, but his claims were dismissed.

By 1964, Mr. Allen had resigned himself to leaving Mississippi for his own safety. On January 31, 1964, the night before Louis Allen was set to move to Milwaukee, he was ambushed outside his property and shot twice in the face with a shotgun. Allen died almost instantly. Sheriff Daniel Jones was the main suspect, and later told Louis Allen’s widow, “if Louis had just shut his mouth, he wouldn’t be layin’ there on the ground.” No one was ever charged or convicted for the murder.