The following is an account my father wrote upon his return to Chicago from his first Civil Rights trip to Mississippi which was for Medgar Evers funeral. It was scanned and OCR'd several years ago. I have done very slight editing to fix typos/ocr errors where I saw them. I have made a few very minor additions of my own. These are found in brackets, [ ]. I have also added links to some of the many people (or other interesting items) named in this account. This is long and I decided against editing for brevity as I think the unpolished stream-of-remembrance style of its writing gives one a strong feeling of the experience. It is also very interesting to read many of the little comments that might get edited out but that tell a little story of their own.
Account of the Trip of [Reverend] Warner C. White to Jackson, Mississippi, over the weekend of June 15, 1963.
I am a member of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity [ESCRU] and have been for several years. Up until now about all I have done is to be a dues-paying member and then to organize a local group in the area around the Church of the Redeemer [Hyde Park - Chicago, Il]. But a month or so ago John Morris, the Executive Secretary of the Society asked for volunteers among both clergy and lay people — that is, priest-layman teams — who would be willing to go South in any emergency situation to do what we might be able to do in those situations. I volunteered. I had lay people willing to go, but we were not able to find times when both parties would be able to go, so I was down at the time this came up as a single priest member or volunteer. Sometime in the late afternoon of Thursday, June 13, I received a long-distance call from John Morris asking me if I would be willing to go to Jackson, Mississippi, to attend the funeral of Medgar Evers, the local secretary for the NAACP, who had been murdered several days earlier [the day before] — it must have been Tuesday. John said he was asking clergy from various parts of the country if they would be willing to go and represent the Church at the funeral Saturday and then to stay over Sunday and Monday to listen and to talk to people in the area to see what we might be able to do. I called Rufus Nightingale, who helps me at the Church of the Redeemer to see if he would be able to take services for me that weekend, then called various other people, then later that evening phoned John Morris to say that I would be willing to go.
I made arrangements to take a plane to Atlanta, got my affairs in order Friday morning, and took a plane out of O’Hare Field to Atlanta, arriving there in Atlanta at 6:00 p.m. Atlanta time. There I went by pre-arrangement to the Air Host Inn to stay and found in the room reserved for me the Reverend David Gracie of Rodgers City, Michigan. We had some coffee in the room — there was a special device for that — got acquainted. Shortly thereafter we received a phone call from John Morris, who was in the Motel. We went to his room and talked some more . Then little by little various of the participants arrived — I don’t remember the order I am afraid. These included the Rev. Rowland Cox of Princeton, New Jersey, where he is the Episcopal Chaplain at the University; the Rev. John Snow of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the assistant at Christ Church; the Rev. Brian Kelley of Boston, Massachusetts — I realize I do not know what parish he is from; and the Rev. Loren Mead from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Loren has a parish just outside in a sort of suburb of Chapel Hill in which there are quite a number of University people. John Morris told us he had just learned from Ruby Hurley, one of the secretaries for the NAACP who works out of Atlanta, and who had asked us to come represent the Episcopal Church at the funeral, that we would be honorary pallbearers. I have to confess for my own part that though I went to sleep that night without too much difficulty, I wasn’t sure I would — I was quite nervous — Nevertheless I did not get a great deal of sleep because in the morning I woke earlier than the time for which I had set the alarm, and after I woke I found I was unable to get back to sleep. I had two other clergy in the room with me — we had two beds and a roll-in cot. When I got up I tried to move around very quietly so I wouldn’t wake them, but I soon discovered that I need not have bothered since they were both awake themselves. We all admitted to a considerable amount of tension. We ate a very hasty breakfast, and then boarded a plane for Jackson.
One of the things of interest that happened was that our plane was being used by Martin Luther King and other workers in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference so we had a chance to meet and talk to these men on the plane and on the ground when we stopped in Montgomery, Alabama, and Meridian, Mississippi, on our way. When we arrived in Jackson — I might say it was very hot all along the way — temperatures were in the 80’s and 90’s at our various stops — when we arrived in Jackson the temperature was, if not then in the hundreds, it soon got up into the hundred’s. At the airport there were newsreel cameras and reporters waiting to speak to Martin Luther King. There were also two helmeted motorcycle policemen who did not look terribly friendly — or at least I didn’t think they did — and who were waiting to escort Dr. King to the funeral. Meeting us at the airport was the Reverend Cornelius Tarpley from the National Council of the Episcopal Church, who had been there for a day or so earlier. With him were the Rev. John Thompson from Mobile, Alabama, and the Rev. Wofford Smith, who is the Episcopal chaplain at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.