Belzoni in Humphreys County, Mississippi — The American South (East South Central)
The Reverend George Lee
—Mississippi Freedom Trail —
The Reverend George Lee (1903-1955), a pioneer in the early Mississippi civil rights movement, was a vice president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a co-founder of the Belzoni NAACP branch, and a powerful public speaker. In the spring of 1955 he addressed a crowd of 10,000 gathered at a Mound Bayou, Mississippi, voter registration rally. Two weeks later, on May 7, he was assassinated; no one was ever charged for the murder.
The Reverend George Lee, a prominent minister and successful entrepreneur in Belzoni, was determined to succeed as a civil rights leader as well. He was the first black citizen to register to vote in Humphreys County, where blacks were a majority of the population. In 1953 Lee and Gus Courts, a black grocer and early activist, co-founded the Belzoni branch of the NAACP. When Lee and Courts tried to register to vote and the sheriff refused to accept their poll taxes, they reported the case to federal authorities. They then registered successfully, angering local whites. Together, Lee and Courts registered nearly all of the county's black voters in 1955, despite threats of violence and economic pressures. The Regional Council of Negro Leadership, a leading black organization in the state, pressed for voting rights and organized a successful boycott
On May 7, 1955, Lee was driving on a street in Belzoni pulled up along-side his and assailants shot him in the face. He lost control of the car and crashed, and died on the way to the hospital. The next day Jackson's Clarion-Ledger ran the story under the headline "Negro Leaders Dies in Odd Accident." Lee's wife and others demanded an investigation by the FBI, which built a circumstantial murder case against two men, but the local prosecutor refused to take the case to a grand jury. When NAACP field secretary Evers came to investigate the murder, Sheriff Ike Shelton, insisting an autopsy was not necessary, informed Evers that Lee died from a car crash and that the lead found in his jaw was dental fillings. An examination of Lee's body by two black physicians revealed that two to three rifle shots were fired — one at point blank range into the cab — ripping of the lower left side of his face. Medgar Evers and others called on Governor Hugh White to investigate, but White refused. The crime went unchallenged, but news of it was reported nationally. The Reverend
Erected 2013 by the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division. (Marker Number 11.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Mississippi Freedom Trail marker series.
Location. 33° 11.038′ N, 90° 29.302′ W. Marker is in Belzoni, Mississippi, in Humphreys County. Marker is at the intersection of Church Street and First Street (Mississippi Highway 7), on the left when traveling north on Church Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 603 Church Street, Belzoni MS 39038, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 6 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Turner's Drug Store (approx. 0.4 miles away); Denise LaSalle (approx. half a mile away); Pinetop Perkins (approx. 1.2 miles away); Hank Cochran (approx. 7˝ miles away); Little Milton Campbell (approx. 13.2 miles away); Inverness (approx. 13.2 miles away).
Also see . . . Wikipedia entry on his life. (Submitted on September 24, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama.)
Categories. • African Americans • Civil Rights •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 24, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. This page has been viewed 534 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 24, 2014, by Mark Hilton of Montgomery, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.