Richard Barrett: How are things going for you?
Edgar Ray Killen: I am eighty-years-old and work every day, logging. I, also, work on fixing up my house. A man offered to do the work for $3,000.00, but I did it for $100.00. It took a lot of climbing, but my legs sometimes give out on me. I have some cows. My wife died some years ago and I have remarried. We take care of my wife's elderly mother. I had an operation for skin-cancer, but am doing all right. I sometimes start out making one point and end up at some other point, before finishing the first point. I don't remember like I used to. I guess it is from getting old.
Barrett: What about your background?
Killen: I have pastored churches all through Neshoba County for over fifty years. I am well thought of by most everyone. I have taken part in many political campaigns, especially for Ross Barnett and "Big Jim" Eastland. I have a big picture of Barnett hanging on my wall. I would get up and give speeches for candidates and organize speakings. One told me that he didn't even need to show up, so long as I was speaking for him. I have been encouraged to run for office, myself.
Barrett: Is there someone you most admire?
Killen: "Big Jim" Eastland. I used to go to see him a lot. The security guards would always let me in. I got stopped for speeding on the way to his house, one time, and the patrolman just waved me through. We would talk a lot and he would say that he would do anything he could for me. He was a powerful man and could bottle up laws that were wrong. He even told me that Bobby Kennedy once asked him to pick someone to succeed J. Edgar Hoover, because his brother was fixing to fire Hoover. When "Big Jim" said that he was supporting Hoover, no matter what, Bobby came back and said that he gave in. Hoover stayed on.
Barrett: You were put on trial, once, over trying to keep Communists out of Mississippi.
Killen: Old John Doar kept staring at me, like he was trying to look right through me. I stared right back at him and gave him the finger. That made him mad. He was really mad when he could not convict me. During the trial, I wrote a note for my lawyer, Laurel Weir, to bring up about the plan by Negroes to rape white women that Summer. He did and the judge rebuked him for it, but the point got made.
Barrett: Any chance you will change your beliefs and turn against your own people, the way George Wallace did?
Killen: No, I sure will never do that. People come up to me, all the time, and hug my neck. A new guy took over the local newspaper here, who is very hostile. People have criticized him severely. Even his own father. He wrote terrible articles about the Confederate flag, the worst you could ever imagine. Yet, Neshoba County voted for the flag, the highest in the state. Almost eighty-percent. That shows where we stand. We're poor folks, but we love our freedom and are against Communism. "Little Dick" Molpus came out against the flag. Neshoba County usually takes care of its own, but we turned him down soundly.
Barrett: William Winter was a major opponent of the flag, who got beaten badly.
Killen: When he was running for office, Winter came up to me and told me that he was "on my side," but that he would have to keep it quiet. I asked his wife if he was a man of his word and she said, "Oh, yes." But, he was not. He was one of the worst we've ever had. "Little Jimmy" Swan told me that if he [Swan] was elected and I ever needed a pardon, he would give it to me. Congressman Arthur Winstead, also, was a close friend, who would call me and back me up.
Barrett: You've gotten a lot of news-media attention.
Killen: Yes, Connie Chung camped outside my house for four days trying to interview me. She sent me "love letters" wanting me to talk to her. I turned her down. She later apologized, but got fired, anyhow.
Barrett:: What would you say about the prospects for defeating Communism and integration?
Killen: R. G. Lee, the preacher up in Memphis, summed it all up in the title to a sermon he gave, his best sermon, Payday's Coming.
Barrett: Is there something folks could do for you, right now?
Killen: Just be my friend.
This interview took place on July 4, 2004. The same day, Forrest McDonald, Professor Emeritus at the University of Alabama and author of The American Presidency, appearing on C-SPAN II, condemned President Lyndon B. Johnson for "sending Communists to destroy the Mississippi Democratic Party." Edgar Ray Killen had, also, asked Richard Barrett to be his lawyer, but Barrett declined because Killen's old-age and memory-lapses prevented Killen from communicating effectively with him. Also, Barrett would have mounted a political defense to the political charges against Killen, requiring Killen to testify and place Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Lynson Johnson, Martin Luther King, the Communist Party, integration and the entire left-wing apparatus on trial. But, Killen, although he "gave the finger" to his prosecutors forty years earlier, was incapable in his old age of mounting such a defense.
A political defense had succeeded in the trial of Larry Walker and Kenneth Painter, accused of trying to burn down WLBT, when the TV-station was turned over to Negroes. Barrett had placed the NAACP, Black Caucus and FBI symbolically "on trial" and called expert-witnesses to show the motivation of the defendants in opposing the takeover. When Barrett declined the case, Killen selected James McIntyre and Mitch Moran, upon recommendation of Robert Crook, instead, both without political experience, who opted for a doctrinnaire criminal-defense, that Killen was "not involved, wasn't there, knew nothing about it." Moran, even, told the jury that the case had "nothing to do" with Killen's political-membership, which he had previously goaded Killen into denying in public, but then contradicted in court. However, prosecutor Jim Hood insisted that the membership had "everything" to do with it.
In a news conference at the Neshoba County Courthouse, on June 15, 2005, following opening arguments, Barrett compared the 1964 Communist-invaders to the 1775 Red-Coat invaders and called upon the world to stand with Mississippi in defense of home, blood, land and rights. He said that preventing Jackson from becoming African and Philadelphia from becoming Indian would help prevent London from becoming Pakistani, Paris from becoming Algerian or Berlin from becoming Turkish. He also showed the resolve of Mississippi to overcome any Second Reconstruction and America to defeat any form of Communism. George Stafford was among those applauding the conference, calling it "great" and "a really good thing." Robert Jackson said that he watched "with respect and admiration." One anonymous on-looker said that "it is too bad that Barrett was not Killen's lawyer. His current legal team is a fiasco." Gerald McManus observed that the speech was "wide-ranging and well-done. The future is in good hands." Barrett quipped that "prosecutors will rue the day they brought this case back up, because we shall have the last word."
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