One of the witnesses to the horror of Emmett Till’s abduction has died at 74.
Simeon Wright was a cousin and friend of Till, a 14-year-old whose killing in 1950s Mississippi helped spark the civil rights movement.
He died on Monday after a lengthy battle with cancer, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger.
Then 12, Wright said he was outside of the Bryant grocery store when his cousin whistled at Carolyn Bryant, and was sleeping in the same room as him days later when Bryant’s husband and his half-brother barged in with guns to kidnap Till.
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The teen, visiting from Chicago, was later found dead, beaten and shot before being put in a river near Money, Miss. with a weight to make him sink.
Wright, who later recounted his terror in the book “Simeon’s Story,” said that he consistently suffered from memories of the terror.
“Certain sounds bring it back. Certain smells. Honeysuckle smell. Because honeysuckle was blooming that summer,” he told Chicago magazine in 2009.
He moved from Mississippi to Chicago after the shooting, later devoting his life to Christianity and working as a pipe fitter.
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Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were put on trial for Till’s murder and acquitted by an all-white jury, though later confessed in an interview.
There has been a renewed interest in the case in recent years, particularly after Carolyn Bryant admitted earlier this year that she lied in court when she said that Till had grabbed and threatened her at the store.
Family called on the FBI to reopen the case, and Patrick Weems of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center told the Daily News Tuesday that Wright had been hopeful about new attempts at justice.
Weems said that Till’s cousin, who began traveling the country speaking to groups, had become a spokesman for his cause after the death of Till’s mother Mamie Till Mobley.
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“Mr. Wright was a genuine and forgiving man . Like his father he was principled and stood up for the right thing but I admired the fact that he forgave the state of Mississippi despite what happened to his cousin and family,” he said.
Wright accepted an apology from Tallahatchie County, Miss. in 2007.
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