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Remembering those who died for justice

Engraved on the Civil Rights Memorial, built by the SPLC outside its office in Montgomery, Ala., are the names of 40 men, women and children who died for equality.

They were killed during a campaign of terror waged by white supremacists during the most contentious phase of the civil rights movement – the period between the Supreme Court’s 1954 school desegregation decision and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.

Here are the stories of eight of those who lost for their lives in the march for justice. 

Vernon Dahmer
Jan. 10, 1966
Hattiesburg, Miss.


By the time he was middle-aged, Vernon Dahmer had overcome the handicaps of racial discrimination and a 10th-grade education to become a wealthy businessman. He owned a 200-acre commercial farm just north of Hattiesburg, Miss., as well as a sawmill and a grocery store.

African Americans and whites alike had tremendous respect for Dahmer. His businesses provided much-needed jobs for the rural community, and farmers could always count on him to lend a hand at harvest time. (Continue to full biography).

Oneal Moore
June 2, 1965
Bogalusa, La.


His mother worried endlessly, but Oneal Moore could not have been prouder when he was chosen to be one of the first black deputies in Washington Parish, La.

His selection was no surprise to those who knew him. Moore was a 34-year-old Army veteran who had distinguished himself as a leader in his church, his local fraternal lodge and the PTA. He had four daughters who idolized him and a wife who had great ambitions for him and their children. Another black man, Creed Rogers, was also named as a deputy. (Continue to full biography).


William Lewis Moore
April 23, 1963
Attalla, Ala.


A group of black students stood in line at a whites-only movie theater in Baltimore in 1963, waiting to buy tickets but expecting to go to jail. Sure enough, the police arrived and began arresting the students for trespassing.

In the midst of the black students, the police were astonished to see a white man, William Lewis Moore. A puzzled officer asked Moore if he understood that he was in line to be arrested. Moore explained that if the others couldn’t see the movie because of the color of their skin, then he didn’t want to see it either. He spent that night in jail. (Continue to full biography).


Herbert Lee
Sept. 25, 1961
Liberty, Miss.


At age 50, Herbert Lee was a small, graying man who had worked hard to build his Mississippi cotton farm and dairy into a business that would support his wife and their nine children. He had little formal education and could barely read. His wife taught him how to sign his name after they were married.

Lee was a quiet man. Even those who knew him well do not recall hearing him talk about civil rights. But his actions spoke: He attended NAACP meetings at a neighboring farm without fail, even when threats and harassment kept many others away. (Continue to full biography)

Jimmie Lee Jackson
Feb. 26, 1965
Marion, Ala.


When Jimmie Lee Jackson saw his frail 80-year-old grandfather rudely turned away from the registrar’s office in 1962 after attempting to register to vote in Marion, Ala., the young man became angry. He knew he had to join the civil rights movement.

On Feb. 18, 1965, he was among more than 200 people participating in a night march in Marion. Before they had walked a block, they were confronted by state troopers and the police chief, who ordered them to disperse. (Continue to full biography)

Rev. George Lee
May 7, 1955
Belzoni, Miss.


In 1954, blacks in Belzoni, Miss., outnumbered whites 2-to-1. But like all Southern blacks, they were not allowed to attend white schools. They were forbidden to eat in white restaurants. They would be arrested if they sat in bus seats reserved for whites. And they did not vote.

Integration would be a long time coming to the small Delta town on the banks of the Yazoo River. The Rev. George Lee, a black minister who also ran a local grocery store and printing press, had no illusions that it would come in his lifetime or that it would come without a struggle.

But Lee knew where the change would have to begin: at the ballot box. (Continue to full biography).

Rev. Bruce Klunder
April 7, 1964
Cleveland, Ohio


Bruce Klunder was a minister who believed his life must be his sermon. He was living out his faith when he laid his body down in the mud behind a bulldozer that was breaking ground for a segregated school.

Klunder intended not only to protest segregation but to prevent it. Instead, he was crushed to death. And although his death was in one sense an accident, it was also an expression of the purpose to which he had committed his life. (Continue to full biography)

Jonathan Daniels
Aug. 20, 1965
Hayneville, Ala.


When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. issued his nationwide call in 1965 for clergy of all faiths to come to Selma, Ala., to support voting rights marchers, Jonathan Daniels, a 26-year-old white Episcopal seminary student from Massachusetts, heeded the call.

During the long hours of waiting, meeting and marching in Selma, Daniels was buoyant in the knowledge that he was living his faith. He made fast friends with a black family who opened their home to him, and he quickly saw the urgent need for economic and political reform in the South. When the Selma-to-Montgomery march was over, Daniels decided to stay and work in Alabama. (Continue to full biography)..