ku klux klan

New Book by Curtis Wilkie: When Evil Lived in Laurel

I’ve had a couple of Renegade South readers message me regarding Curtis Wilkie’s When Evil Lived in Laurel: The “White Knights” and the Murder of Vernon Dahmer. I highly recommend this newly-released and powerful history of racism, murder, and the Ku Klux Klan in Jones County, Mississippi!

Note that the “courageous FBI informant” who helped expose the murderers of Vernon Dahmer was Tom Landrum, a descendant of one of the county’s strongest pro-Union families during the Civil War. For background histories on both Landrum and Dahmer, see Ed Payne, Landrums in Gray & Blue, (3 pts) and Yvonne Bivins and Wilmer Watts Backstrom, The Family Origins of Vernon Dahmer, both on this site.

—Vikki Bynum

7 replies »

  1. I am glad that this book was written.

    My family did not participate in the writing of this book beyond interviews that may have been done with Wilkie when he was a reporter with the Boston Globe, pertaining to the 1998 retrial of SOME involved in my Dad’s murder.

    The Vernon F. Dahmer geneology listed in book is wrong, a better source is the posting on this blog. Some of the statements made by Wilkie during his book promotion discussions about VFD are wrong. None of these VFD errors are really that significant to the main focus & material in the book.

    This book is based heavily upon the seven binders of carbon copies FBI reports submitted by Tom Landrum, over 200 pages, typewritten.

    I have not seen, nor read, these FBI reports.

    The Landrum family should donate a copy of these FBI report binders to the USM Library Civil Rights Archives for all that are interested to read.

    Wilkie used this USM Archives as one of the resources for his book.

    This USM Civil Rights Archives also contains a lot of VFD information, the trial transcripts, FBI files, Bob Helfrich papers, FREEDOM SUMMER campaign, sixties era Black voter registration, etc…

    AGAIN, I am glad that this book was written.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. An enlightening read…to say the least. I spent the summer of 1966 in Hattiesburg with my dad’s brother and his family. Having just completed my Sophomore year in high school I was very much aware of the civil right activities of the day. I was not aware of how close to home these turbulent times fell. Tom Landrum is a 4th cousin 1x removed. Our common ancestor is Henry Marshall Landrum, my 4th and Tom’s 3rd great grandfather. I also share a 5th great grandfather, John C Pitts, with Billy Roy Pitts. The convergence of these two wildly different lines is as astounding to me as it is baffling. I venture to say that my family lines remain at opposite ends of the spectrum today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Chuck. I’ll bet many of us would find a similar dichotomy in our family line if we looked closely.


  3. On a visit to Jones County a few years ago, a story was passed along to me about my great Uncle Charley, my grandfather John’s brother. As told by his son Marcus, there was a poor black family that lived on the same road as Uncle Charley. The family owned no car, buggy or horse and the only way for the man to get around was on foot, and the only way for him to get to town was to walk past Uncle Charley’s house. If Uncle Charley saw the man walking to town in the early morning hours, he was sure to watch for his return. If the man’s return was late in the evening and it was getting dark, Uncle Charley would cajole him into his home and would bed him down on the floor by the fire. As daylight broke the following morning the man would hasten out the door and down the road to return home. I can only imagine the thoughts of the man’s wife and children as they feared what may have happened. It may seem like a small and simple gesture of kindness. But in a time of raging hatred and cruelty, it seems pretty grand to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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