Mamie Till Mobley, whose son's 1955 murder in Mississippi exposed the brutality of the racist Jim Crow South, died January 6 in a Chicago hospital. She was 81. After the killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till, Mrs. Mobley insisted that his mutilated body be displayed in an open coffin during his funeral.
"The brutal murder of Emmett Till sparked the Civil Rights Movement — but only because Mamie Till Mobley had the tenacious courage to insist that her son's story be told to the world," said Center co-founder Morris Dees. "She spoke out against injustice, making sure that her only child's death will never be forgotten. Her fierce bravery will always serve as a beacon of hope to those who strive for peace and harmony."
Emmett Till's name is among the first martyrs inscribed on the Center's Civil Rights Memorial, and Mrs. Mobley was on hand for its dedication in 1989.
"It's almost as if I were touching him, touching Emmett himself," she said as she placed her fingers over his inscription. "It's almost as if I'm reliving the funeral, and yet my heart is full of joy that not only my son but all these other people who gave their lives for the cause are getting the recognition they are due."
Mrs. Mobley became an outspoken champion for children in poor neighborhoods and spent more than half her life keeping alive the memory of Emmett and the hope of bringing his killers to justice.