Announcements

Civil Rights Martyr Vernon Dahmer Sr. to be honored by Mississippi Legislature

Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr.

Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. Photo courtesy of Vernon Dahmer, Jr.

On January 10, 1966, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Vernon Dahmer, Sr., a courageous, forward-thinking Civil Rights leader, was murdered by white supremacists associated with the Ku Klux Klan. 

  
Today, I’m honored to share the news that the Mississippi Legislature will honor the courage and sacrifice of this Civil Rights hero (see details here, in the Clarion-Ledger).
Below is the program for the “50th year Commemoration of the Life, Civil Rights Activities, and Legacy of Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, Sr.”, followed by the story of Dahmer’s life and struggle.
According to Dennis Dahmer:
One of the main focuses of this program will be to say thank you to the individuals and organizations that helped us to get the Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, Sr., case re-opened, investigated, and successfully prosecuted.
 
The program will be held at the Shady Grove Baptist Church on January 10, at 3 p.m., at 101 Warren Mott Parkway, north of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Program
Welcome ……………………………………….. Eddie Holloway/Program Moderator
Scripture ……………………………………………… Kyrstin Dahmer/Brian Swanson
Prayer ……………………………………………………………. Rev. Reginald Woullard
Song ……………………………………………………………………………. Church Choir
Tribute To Vernon  F. Dahmer, Sr. ………………………………….. Karen Dahmer
Kelly Settlement & Vernon  F. Dahmer, Sr. …………………………… Alvin Eaton
Civil Rights Involvement …………………………………………………. Hollis Watkins
The First Trials ……………………………………………………… Program Moderator
Song ……………………………………………………………………… Melissa Davidson
Keeping The Memory Alive ………………………………….Dennis K. Dahmer, Sr.
Hattiesburg Business & Professional Mens Club Recognition
Case Re- Opened / The Second Trials:
Building Community Support …………………………………… Rep. Percy Watson
Informing The Public …………………………………….. Nicki Mautte/Jerry Mitchell
The Trials ……………………………………………………………..  Judge Bob Helfrich
Thank You!! ……………………………………………………………….. Ellie J. Dahmer
Benediction …………………………………………………….. Rev. Reginald Woullard
Wreath Laying On Grave …………………………………………………………. Family

TRIBUTE TO VERNON F. DAHMER, SR

Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, Sr. was born March 10, 1908 to George and Ellen (Kelly) Dahmer, the eighth of twelve children. He was a true son of “Kelly Settlement”, Forrest County, Mississippi. Following in the mode of his father George Dahmer, Vernon believed in the philosophy that “We Are Our Brother’s Keeper”.

Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. struggled for years on community projects…..he believed that “People Make People”. He proved this theory time and time again by helping his fellow man. He did this by acquiring family-owned property and expanding it into businesses that the community could benefit from. He began to make jobs for his struggling neighbors. The establishment of a sawmill, store and planer mill brought much needed employment to the Forrest county community, especially Kelly Settlement.

Being a very hard worker, Vernon not only brought enterprising businesses to Forrest County, he also did commercial farming, again providing much needed jobs for the community. In providing jobs locally, Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. allowed for families to remain in Forrest County and progress. The jobs that he provided locally allowed for less of a flight out of the area to seek employment. He knew that local jobs built communities.

While operating a store, sawmill, planer mill and growing cotton commercially, Vernon Dahmer, Sr. was very active in community activities. He was an active member of Shady Grove Baptist Church, where he served as the Sunday School Superintendent. As a member of the choir, his enthusiasm was always contagious. Whatever needed to be done at Shady Grove, Vernon could always be counted on to do his best and more; he encouraged you to do your best at all times.

Even though Church, Family and business kept Vernon busy, he always had time for the Forrest County NAACP. Serving as one of the branch’s early presidents, Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. was very much concerned about community issues. He felt that the right to vote was the key to ridding Black people of second class citizenship. “Register and Vote” was one of his favorite axioms. Encouraging friends and neighbors to register and vote was always heard around the store and mill.

Like all other great men, Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, Sr. was ahead of his time. He promoted every man’s right to vote when Blacks were not truly considered men. He called for “Voter Registration Drives” when it was not a safe, nor a popular thing to do. Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. became known, in some circles, as a radical because he was interested in change for Black people.  It is now known that Vernon was no radical, but a man of vision, he saw what life could be for Blacks in Forrest County.

Because he dared to dream, Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. died on January 10, 1966, at the age of 58, from injuries received (asphyxiation), while fighting a 2 AM gun battle with two car loads of armed individuals of little conscience, protecting his family and defending his home from a cowardly attack. His death was directly related to the fact that his store was selected to be a safe place for collecting poll taxes.  A “Poll tax” was required by law to be paid before a person could be even tested to register to vote. During that time, Blacks were routinely denied the right to vote because they could not “answer” subjective test questions devised by (and answers evaluated by same) local voter registrars to insure that they never did pass, thus never could vote……….even college educated Blacks were also routinely failed.

Mr. Dahmer died cruelly, but very few men of vision die painlessly. This businessman, community worker and family man died when men of little conscience fire bombed his home and business………They burned the man’s property………….. but not his vision!

Forrest County has been kinder in the wake of Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. untimely death. Local & national organizations, religious groups, concerned local residents, and certain businesses assisted in the rebuilding of the destroyed Dahmer home. A street has been renamed in his honor, a historical marker at home site, and a park with monument also bear his name.

These are small tributes when you consider that Mrs. Ellie Jewel Davis Dahmer lost a husband and Vernon Jr., Martinez, Caroll, George, Harold, Alvin, Dennis and Bettie lost a father.  The high price paid by the Dahmers should not be in vain. A local NAACP member was once heard saying, “Vernon Dahmer was a man in every sense of the word, he lived as he believed, helping his brother. The Black community will get it together for us, our children and Vernon. I personally believe as Vernon, we all remember his philosophy: “If you don’t vote, you don’t count’.”

The spirit of Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. will always be present to many of Forrest County’s (Kelly Settlement) Black males. This is the man that provided early leadership in their young lives, he promoted community gatherings, baseball leagues, Boy Scouts, teaching boys to fish, swim and camp.

Today Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. casts a long shadow from his formal resting place, Shady Grove Baptist Church Cemetery. This Shadow encompasses all of Forrest County and surrounding areas. This man of vision and hope was right in his words, “If you don’t vote, you don’t count”.

Written by Wilma Backstrom. Excerpted from VFD park monument dedication program (1986) & updated. Thanks to the faculty and students of the “LIFT EVERY VOICE : FREEDOM INSTITUTE 2004” that raised the funds to pay for historical marker!

THANK YOU!
The Dahmer family would like to say “thank you” to the many individuals and organizations that never forgot about us as a family, or Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. vision.

Thru the many years you were always there as a friend, a voice of support and comfort, especially during the years when it looked like “justice denied” would never be remedied.

Thank you for keeping Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. memory alive by your actions and not forgetting.

The Dahmer family knew that without community support, our chances of getting the case reopened would be minimal! You were there when we needed you!

There were many individuals and organizations that played a role in helping us to get the case reopened, investigated and successfully prosecuted. We would like to publicly thank SOME of these individuals and organizations listed below.

 

  • Citizens For Justice · Reverend Kenny Fairley – Mt. Carmel Baptist Church · Reverend Nathan Jordan – NAACP · Sandra Peterson – National Council Of Churches · Southern Christian Leadership Conference – Woullard Family · Shady Grove Baptist Church · True Light Baptist Church – Rev. Johnnie Williams (Former Pastor) · U. S. Representative – Bennie Thompson · Lindsay Carter – Former Forrest County District Attorney · Mike Moore – Former Mississippi Attorney General · Lee Martin- Former Asst Prosecutor- Ms. Attys. General Office · Bill East – Chief Investigator – Ms Attys. General Office  · Jim Gilliland – Asst Investigator – Ms Attys. General Office  · Andy Shelton – Jury Consultant · Bob Stringer – Key Witness · Jerry Himelstein – Anti Defamation League (ADL) · NAACP Legal Defense Fund

 

When one starts to compile this type of list, someone always get omitted, if you fall in that category, please accept our apologies.

The Dahmer Family

“A Special Thanks To All The Children, Grand Children And Great-Grand Children Of Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. For All The Help And Support You Have Given Me Over The Years”

Ellie J. Dahmer

NOTE: On December 6, 2009, I posted one of the most important and widely-read essays ever to appear on Renegade South: Yvonne Bivins and Wilmer Watts Backstrom’s history of the family origins of Vernon Dahmer—a history that intertwines with that of the Jones County Knight family.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Announcements, Mississippi

4 replies »

  1. This is long past due.

    Given this honor by the legislature, I wonder if they will take action on the state flag. I believe it is time to have a serious conversation on the subject. My personal choice is to bring back the Magnolia flag or some updated version of it.

  2. I was in junior high school (Jones Junior High) in Laurel, MS when this happened. Mr. Dahmer’s killing was plotted by Laurel’s own Sam Bowers and carried out by his KKK henchmen, Deavours Nix and Lawrence Byrd I believe. I sat in class next to Lynn Byrd, Lawrence’s son. Lynn was a gangly, quiet kid. The day after his dad’s arrest hit the news, I was surprised to see him at school.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s