Vernon Dahmer is a hero of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement. A business owner and president of the Forrest County NAACP, he worked tirelessly to register black voters in Hattiesburg and surrounding communities.
He was murdered in 1966 when members of the Laurel-based White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan set his home ablaze. This horrific crime is the subject of Curtis Wilkie’s When Evil Lived in Laurel: The “White Nights” and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer.
At the center of this riveting story is Tom Landrum, a courageous FBI informant. His infiltration of the Klan helped bring about the arrest and trial of the man who authorized the deadly attack on Dahmer’s home – Sam Bowers – as well the men who executed Bower’s plan.
At the time of his death, four of Dahmer’s sons were serving in the military. They are pictured below in the ruins of the family home (photo by Chris McNair). Eventually, six of his sons would serve a total of 78 years in uniform.
In covering this tragic chapter in Mississippi history, the author provides a brief history of Dahmer’s life and courageous civil rights work. He also gives attention to attacks on Jewish homes and synagogues in Jackson and Meridian in the 1960s.