This article was originally published in the Colorlines print magazine (PDF).
“I heard a scream, and I said, ‘That’s Mother, that’s Mother.’ And we all started running to look.” It was August 14, 1959, near midnight, in Centreville, Mississippi. Laura O’Quinn Smith, then 33, and her brother Clarence, then 32, rushed from the house and found their father, Samuel O’Quinn, shot in the back outside of the front gate of Whitaker Plantation, the 235-acre family land.
Clarence got his mother and wounded father back into the car and drove to the Field Memorial Community Hospital. Samuel O’Quinn died en route, in the arms of his wife, Ida. He was 58 years old and the father of 11 children. No one has ever been charged with the crime.
Today, Laura and Clarence, now ages 81 and 80, are living in Springfield, Massachusetts, along with two other siblings, Phalba and Rance. They are one of numerous families who are still waiting for justice in racial murders from the civil rights era. “It would give closure for us,” said Phalba O’Quinn Plummer, who is now 71. “It would really help a lot for all of us to know what happened.”