Stanley Dearman, Editor Who Sought Justice in 1964 Murders, Dies at 84

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Stanley Dearman, left, in 2004 with Carolyn Goodman, the mother of one of the three civil rights workers murdered by a Ku Klux Klan mob on June 21, 1964.

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Rogelio Solis/Associated Press

Stanley Dearman, the editor and publisher of a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Miss., whose editorials expressing outrage at the 1964 murders of three young civil rights workers helped set the stage for the belated conviction of a former Klansman for organizing the killings, died on Saturday in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He was 84.

Mr. Dearman’s death was announced by the newspaper, The Neshoba Democrat, which he purchased in 1966 and ran until his retirement 34 years later.

At a time when rigid segregation reigned in the Deep South, Mr. Dearman, a Mississippi native, called for justice in a case that became a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. It was the basis for the 1988 film “Mississippi Burning.”

On the night of June 21, 1964, a station wagon carrying James Earl Chaney, a black activist from Mississippi, and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, white New Yorkers, was intercepted on a rural road by a gang of Klansmen who shot them to death.

A deputy sheriff in Philadelphia had arrested the civil rights workers on minor charges earlier in the day, then released them after alerting the mob.

The victims, all in their 20s, had been taking part in Freedom Summer, a drive to register black voters in the South. They had been in Philadelphia investigating the Ku Klux Klan’s torching of a black church where a voter-registration drive had been held.

A month and a half after the killings, their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam on a nearby farm.

The authorities identified Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time preacher and sawmill operator, as a Klan organizer in the Philadelphia area and the man who had put together the mob that…

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