EarHustle411 and the writing staff are deeply saddened to report the untimely death of Simeon Wright who was the cousin of abducted and murdered teen Emmett Till. Till who was yanked out of his bed in the dark of night by Roy Bryant and one of his cohorts for allegedly “wolf whistling” at Bryant’s wife Carolyn. Simeon in most recent years had been traveling across America sharing his story about the day he would never forget. He tells his version of what happened the day Emmett Till, having been sleeping in the same bed with his cousin Emmett. Wright states that he and his other cousins knew that after Emmett whistled at Carolyn Bryant, troubled loomed ahead.
EarHustle411 had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Simeon Wright in 2015 as he made stops on his book tour. It was an awesome experience being in the presence of this humble man who clearly had been personally affected by the abduction and subsequent murder of his cousin.
We send our sincerest condolences to the family of Simeon Wright.
Read more as reported by The Clarion Ledger:
Simeon Wright, an eyewitness to the 1955 abduction of his cousin Emmett Till, died Monday after a long battle with cancer, friends say.
Wright had long wanted to see justice in his cousin’s case, but it never came. To this day, the Till case remains a symbol for those in the civil rights movement and for those who experience injustices.
In recent years, he has toured the country, speaking to groups such as Sojourn to the Past, which takes high school students on a civil rights tour through the South.
“His gentleness, kindness and insistence on young people knowing the truth will be terribly missed,” said Sojourn founder Jeff Steinberg.
Wright, who was 12 at the time, was present when he said Till, nicknamed “Bobo,” wolf-whistled at Bryant’s wife at the family’s grocery store. Wright said they all left in a car.
Days later, on Aug. 28, 1955, Wright and Till were sleeping next to each other when J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant entered with guns.
Wright wrote his own book about the events called “Simeon’s Story,” describing how his mother entered the room, begging the men not to take Till, even offering them money.
“They had come for Bobo,” Wright wrote. “No begging, pleading or payment was going to stop them.”
The men took Till away, and Wright never saw him again.
“I must have stayed in the bed for hours, petrified,” wrote Wright, whose father identified the abductors at trial.
The answer to what happened to his cousin came days later when Till’s body was found floating in the Tallahatchie River, a 75-pound gin fan tied to his neck. He had been brutally beaten and shot in the head.
To show the horror done to her 14-year-old son, his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, told the funeral home to leave the casket open.
More than 100,000 African-Americans passed by, some weeping, some gasping, some fainting — all moved by the gruesome slight.
The photograph ran in publications around the world, and many African-Americans saw the picture for the first time in Jet magazine.
For Mobley, the horror didn’t end with her son’s killing.
Weeks later, an all-white jury acquitted Bryant and Milam of murdering Till — only for them to confess months later to Look magazine they had indeed beaten and killed the Chicago teen.
There has been a groundswell of interest in Till with the release of several books and some film projects underway. Wright had been working with filmmaker Keith Beauchamp.
Interest rose even higher after the release of Tim Tyson’s book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” which included an interview with Roy Bryant’s ex-wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham.
Before the 1955 trial ended for Bryant, she took the witness stand and testified outside the presence of the Tallahatchie County jury that Till grabbed her, asked for a date and said he had been “with white women before.”
Civil rights activist Alvin Sykes of Kansas City recalled Wright telling the story of Till’s abduction to federal and state prosecutors in February 2004.
When Wright finished talking, everyone in the room said, “We’ve got to do this,” Sykes recalled. “He had that quiet demeanor that just compelled anybody who met him to want to do something to help him.”
After that, the FBI reopened the case, and agent Dale Killinger spoke to Donham, who divorced Bryant in 1975 and later remarried.
She repeated the story about Till she had previously testified to, telling Killinger that “as soon as he touched me, I started screaming.”
Notes obtained by The Clarion-Ledger reveal that she gave a different story when she first spoke to defense lawyers in 1955, saying Till “insulted” her, but mentioned nothing about touching her.
In 2007 a majority-black grand jury in Greenwood declined to indict her, considering charges ranging from manslaughter to accessory after the fact. The FBI closed the case.
Donham has written about her experiences in the Till case in an unpublished memoir, “More Than a Wolf Whistle: The Memoir of Carolyn Bryant Donham.”
That won’t be available for public inspection at the University of North Carolina archives until 2036 or until she dies, but authorities could subpoena her words.
Tyson said Donham told him her testimony about a physical assault by Till was “not true.”
“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Tyson quoted her as saying.
He said she gave no reason for the story she told, although he suspects it was contrived for her by Bryant’s family and lawyers.
The Justice Department “is currently assessing whether the newly revealed statement could warrant additional investigation,” Acting Assistant Attorney General T.E. Wheeler II wrote U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson in a letter.
Sykes and Till’s cousin, Deborah Watts, met in April with Attorney General Jeff Sessions about the Till case and mainly about the possibility of pursuing other civil rights cold cases.
Sykes said Sessions expressed support for pursuing these cold cases. Sykes is hoping to get Congress to pass funding for legislation to pursue these cases.
Watts quoted Sessions as saying, “No one gets a pass.”
Source: The Clarion Ledger