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Klansman serving life for civil rights murder dies

No tears will be shed for this man. Samuel H. Bowers was not convicted for the bombing death of Mississippi civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer until 1998. (AP):

Former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Samuel H. Bowers, who was serving a life sentence for the 1966 bombing death of a civil rights leader, died Sunday in a state penitentiary, officials said. He was 82.

He died of cardio pulmonary arrest, said Mississippi Department of Corrections spokeswoman Tara Booth.

Bowers was convicted in August of 1998 of ordering the assassination of Vernon Dahmer, a civil rights activist who had fought for black rights during Mississippi’s turbulent struggle for racial equality.

“He was supposed to stay there until he died. I guess he fulfilled that,” Vernon Dahmer’s widow, Ellie Dahmer, told The Associated Press on Sunday. “He lived a lot longer than Vernon Dahmer did.”

…Two carloads of Klansmen arrived at Dahmer’s Hattiesburg-area home in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 10, 1966. Dahmer was able keep the Klansmen at bay with a shotgun while his family fled, according to court testimony during a four-day trial in Forrest County Circuit Court in 1998. He died in his wife’s arms about 12 hours after the attack.

Dahmer was targeted because he dared to try to register black voters, an irony since in many ways, nothing much has changed. Voting is considered such a subversive act by those who stand to lose their grip on power, that they will do anything to prevent certain groups from being able to participate in the process. From a white paper by Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy center:

Organized misinformation campaigns often target minority communities in the run-up to Election Day.

— 14,000 Latino residents in Orange County, Calif., received a letter in October warning that it was a crime for immigrants to vote and cautioning that they could be jailed or deported if they went to the polls in November. These are naturalized citizens eligible to vote, as guaranteed by law.

— A fictitious “Milwaukee Black Voters League” distributed fliers intended to suppress black voters in largely African- American neighborhoods in 2004. The fliers claimed that voters could not cast a ballot if they had already voted that year or if any family member had been found guilty of a crime. “If you violate any of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your children will be taken away from you,” the flier warned.

— A memo on bogus letterhead of the Lake County, Ohio, Board of Elections was sent to local residents in 2004, stating that registrations submitted through the Democratic Party and the NAACP were invalid.

— A bogus advisory purported to be from the Franklin County, Ohio, Board of Elections in 2004 advised that Democrats were being asked to vote on the day after the November election at their regular polling places, due to heavy voter registration. Republicans would vote on the actual election date. The targeted area, Columbus’ near east side, is predominantly African American.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding