Ben Chester White, Gunned Down By The KKK

Ben Chester White (January 5, 1899 – June 10, 1966) was an African-American caretaker in Natchez, Mississippi. White had spent his entire life as a caretaker on the Carter family farm and was a deacon in the local Baptist church.

He was murdered by KKK members James L. Jones, Claude Fuller, and Ernest Avants. They took him into the Homochitto National Forest under the pretense of finding a lost dog, where they shot him eighteen times and dumped his body into Pretty Creek.

It has been speculated that White was murdered to lure Martin Luther King to the area in an assassination attempt or to divert attention from James Meredith’s March Against Fear.

Jones confessed to the crime, but Fuller and Avants were never tried. In 1968, White’s son sued the KKK for his father’s death and was awarded $1 million, marking the first time the organization was legally held responsible for one of its members. However, the money was never received. In 2000, the only surviving perpetrator, Ernest Avants, was arrested and found guilty of first-degree murder by a federal jury. He died in prison in 2004.

White was not a participant in the civil rights movement and should not be a tragic footnote. His death should be a reminder of the lengths some will go to destroy the rights of others.