The cold case murder of Emmett Till just got a little colder this week when the Department of Justice officially closed it. A fresh generation of Americans may not be familiar with the lynching of Till in Money, Mississippi in 1955 where he was visiting relatives. In his book “Simeon’s Story,” Simeon Wright, Emmett’s first cousin who was sleeping next to him on that tragic night when he was abducted and slain, recounts that incident.
According to Wright, Emmett did whistle at Carolyn Bryant, who worked in the family store, and when word reached her husband, Roy, and his half-brother J.W. Milam, they wanted to teach the 14-year-old from Chicago a little about Mississippi hospitality—in its most brutal form. Till’s body was so battered and disfigured that it took a tremendous amount of courage for his mother to have an open-casket funeral. She wanted the world to see what they had done to her son.
Bryant and Milam were both acquitted and later confessed to the crime after being paid $4,000 by author William Bradford Huie. Because of double jeopardy they could not be re-tried and convicted of the crime.
In 2017, Carolyn Bryant Donham told historian Timothy Tyson, author of “The Blood of Emmett Till” that the alleged attacks on her were not true. She is now in her late 80s and living in Mississippi. Later, she denied what she had told Tyson and thereby ended the possibility of new evidence for the DOJ.
Several books and two documentaries have been done on the tragedy, including one by Keith Beauchamp, which has been widely praised. He is now in the final stages of a feature film on Till, a ghastly ending much of the world knows. Roy Bryant and
J.W. Milam are dead so closing the investigation was a foregone conclusion years ago.