A one-time Ku Klux Klan leader and former preacher convicted of organizing the deaths of a trio of civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964 has died in prison.
The Mississippi Department of Corrections said 92-year-old Edgar Ray Killen was pronounced dead at the hospital at the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman at 9 p.m. on January 11.
Killen was serving 60 years after being convicted of manslaughter in the June 21, 1964 deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner near Philadelphia, Mississippi in Neshoba County.
The case, which inspired the movie Mississippi Burning, was reopened 38 years after a hung jury failed to reach a verdict.
Killen, who would have turned 93 on January 17, was convicted 41 years to the day after Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman vanished while doing civil rights work in central Mississippi. Killen was sentenced to six decades in prison on June 23, 2005 after a retrial.
The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld his convictions on January 12, 2007.
Mississippi officials said an autopsy is pending for Killen, who suffered from congestive heart failure and hypertension. Foul play is not suspected.
New Yorkers Goodman and Schwerner joined Chaney, a Mississippian, for the Mississippi Summer Project, also known as Freedom Summer. The Summer Project was a campaign to register black voters throughout the state.
Klansmen stopped the three as they were traveling along an isolated road and beat and shot them to death.
At the time of their deaths, the lives of Schwerner and Goodman, who were white, would have been considered by many in Mississippi to be more valuable than Chaney's, who was black.
After a massive federal investigation, their bodies were found 44 days later buried under an earthen dam. Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner are among the more than 40 martyrs listed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery.