Blog entries about Clifton Walker Case
This week on the NPR Code Switch blog I published a story about the racial shooting of Richard Joe Butler. In 1964, near Natchez, Miss., Butler was shot four times by white hooded men—and survived. One of the alleged shooters, who was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in 1964, was also a prime suspect in the Clifton Walker murder.
On February 28, 1964, near midnight, Clifton Walker’s ride home from work was cut short. On the twisty unpaved road he took as a shortcut on the final leg of the drive from the International Paper plant in Natchez, Klansmen stopped his car and shot him multiple times in the face at point blank range.
A week before Thanksgiving, on November 21, I received a text from Catherine Walker Jones from New Orleans. “Strange thing happened a hour ago,” she said, “FBI agent delivered a letter informing me Daddy’s case will be closed!!! I am lost for words and angry.”
Today, in Jackson, Mississippi's Clarion-Ledger, I published the first investigative news report about the 1964 racial murder of Clifton Walker:
Reporter Ben Greenberg talks to the hosts of The Takeaway, a national online news program, about a 2007 federal initiative to investigate and solve "cold case" murders from the civil rights era, and why so few cases are being pursued.
Listen to the program:
As far as I knew, none of the children of Clifton Walker had ever been contacted by FBI agents regarding the February 28, 1964 racial killing of their father, near Woodville, MS. Still, I thought I should confirm this, so a few nights ago I gave a call to Walker's second daughter Catherine and asked her if her family has heard from the FBI.
"I wish we had, no," Catherine answered.
Last weekend, on February 6, Catherine Walker and I were emailing back and forth about our plans to interview people familiar with the unsolved civil rights murder of her father Clifton Walker 46 years ago. Around mid-afternoon we had a breakthrough; Catherine wrote to tell me about her conversation with the son of a possible eyewitness to the planning of the murder:
I explained to him how important today is: “DADDY’S birthday” How I need his Dad’s # to speak with him to move forward with the Justice quest. He understood.
Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend some attention turned to US Senator John Kerry's (D-MA) renewed effort to open the FBI records of Dr. King. Civil Rights Cold Case reporter Jerry Mitchell reported:
U.S. Sen. John Kerry plans to introduce legislation next week that would pave the way for the release of thousands of FBI documents on the life and death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
In October, I was in Mississippi again, following leads in my investigation of the 1964 murder of Clifton Walker, a black man from Woodville, MS.
Driving home from the swing shift at the International Paper plant in Natchez, MS, Walker was ambushed by Klansmen, who stopped his car on a deserted road and blew his face off with shotguns in the dark of night. He never made it home to his wife and five children. He was 37 years old.