close this window to go back to timeline

January 1966: Murder of Vernon Dahmer


Vernon Dahmer was an NAACP leader, farmer and businessman who worked tirelessly to advance the rights of blacks in Hattiesburg, MS. After the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Dahmer set out to get as many Forrest County blacks to vote as he could. Because he was independently wealthy by Mississippi standards, the "regular" acts of intimidation failed to deter his activities. When whites realized how dangerous this "inside agitator" could become, they set out to silence him.

In January 1966, two carloads of whites paid the Dahmer family a visit. While one group burned his store, another bombed his home. They then began firing their shotguns into the house, all this while the family slept. Before long, Dahmer responded with shots of his own while he ordered his family to take refuge in the woods in the back of his house. Despite his courageous efforts, the smoke and flames Dahmer inhaled killed him. It was 1998 before a jury convicted Sam Bowers, the leader of the Klan at the time of Dahmer's murder.