George W. Lee was assassinated on May 7, 1955 in Belzoni, Mississippi. A minister and entrepreneur, he became the first African American in the 20th century to register to vote in Humphreys County. A vocal leader in the voter registration campaign, he is sometimes identified as the first martyr of the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Ambushed while driving his automobile, Lee’s assailants were never brought to justice. Rosebud Lee chose an open casket funeral for her husband. Photographs of his face, disfigured by the shotgun blast, drew national attention. Four months later, grieving Mamie Till-Mobley would leave open the casket of her 14-year-old son, Emmett, lynched further north in the Delta.
George Lee is buried nearby at the Green Grove Baptist Church cemetery.
For a number of years, I wanted to visit The Rev. George Lee and Fannie Lou Hamer Civil Rights Museums on Highway 49 in Belzoni. Each time I stopped the museums were closed. So, I am very grateful to Helen Sims for taking my phone call, opening the museums, and giving me two hours of her valuable time. I admire her and all those who manage grassroots civil rights museums in the Delta. They keep alive in our generation the courage and sacrifice of men and women like George W. Lee and Fanny Lou Hamer.
75 minutes northwest of Jackson, I encourage RTS students to visit the The Rev. George Lee and Fannie Lou Hamer Civl Rights Museums. Before going, I suggest reading Timothy B. Tyson’s The Blood of Emmett Till for background information.