He has been calleda loose cannonanda white traitor.Despite that, Jerry Mitchell has never given up in his quest to bring unpunished killers to justice, prompting one colleague to call himthe Souths Simon Wiesenthal.
Since 1989, this award-winning investigative reporter for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., has unearthed documents, cajoled suspects and witnesses and quietly pursued evidence in the nations notorious killings from the civil rights era.
Mitchell will give a lecture,Tales of Justice and Redemption in the South,on Wednesday (Oct. 24) as part of the West Virginia University Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism Ogden Newspapers Seminar Series.
He will share stories of how his reporting has led to the reopening of cold cases from the civil rights era in Mississippi and elsewhere. The event, which is open to the public, will be held at 7:30 pm in 202 Brooks Hall.
His work has helped put five Klansmen behind bars: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers; Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the deadly firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966; Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls; Edgar Ray Killen for helping orchestrate the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman; and James Ford Seale for his role in the abductions and killings of two black teenagers, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.
For his work leading to Killens imprisonment, the Pulitzer Board in 2006 named Mitchell a Pulitzer Prize finalist, praising himfor his relentless and masterly stories on the successful prosecution of a man accused of orchestrating the killing of three civil rights workers in 1964.
Mitchell has received more than 20 national awards, including the George Polk Award for Justice Reporting, Vernon Jarrett Award for Investigative Reporting and the Elijah Lovejoy Award named after the nations first martyr to freedom of the press.
In 2005, Mitchell became the youngest recipient of Columbia Universitys John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, and this year, he received the John Peter and Anna Catherine Zenger Award for Freedom of the Press for his persistence in exposing these injustices.
Mitchells work has inspired others. Since 1989, authorities in Mississippi and six other states have re-examined 29 killings from the civil rights era and made 30 arrests, leading to 23 convictions. The Justice Department is now reexamining more than 100 slayings from the era.
Mitchell has been featured in national media including CNN ,ABC Evening News,Newsweek,Nightline, USA TODAY , The New York Times, American Journalism Review, National Public Radio and others.
In 1996, he was portrayed in the Rob Reiner film,Ghosts of Mississippi.He was featured in The Learning Channel documentary,Civil Rights Martyrs,that aired in February 2000 and was a consultant for the Discovery Channel documentary,Killed by the Klan,which aired in 1999.