ALABAMA CIVIL RIGHTS WORKER VIOLA LIUZZO MURDER - ALABAMA KKK FBI FILES
1,500 pages of files copied from FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., covering the investigation of the Viola Liuzzo murder. Viola Liuzzo was a 39-year-old white mother and a civil rights worker from Detroit who came to Alabama to help with voter registration. She was murdered March 25, 1965 en route to a civil rights meeting. Her murder was allegedly committed by KKK members Eugene Thomas, Collie Leroy Wilkins, Jr. and William Orville Eaton. Thomas and Wilkins were found not guilty of first degree murder in state court. However, all three suspects were found guilty of civil rights violations in U.S. District Court in Montgomery, AL, and sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison. Eaton died on March 9, 1966, from natural causes, before serving his sentence.
File coverage includes a background investigation of Viola Liuzzo and her husband; Accounts from informants within the Klan; President Johnson's interest in the case; Alabama Governor George Wallace's response to the murder.
In 1963, civil rights activists began an effort to register black voters in Dallas County, Alabama. During 1963 and 1964, although they brought potential voters by the hundreds to the registrar's office in the courthouse in Selma, they were unable to have them registered. In January and February 1965, protests were held in Selma to bring attention to this violation of rights. The protests were met by violence by Sheriff James Clark and his deputies. On February 17, a small civil rights march ended in the shooting of Jimmy Lee Jackson who died from his wounds several days later. The civil rights activists decided to hold a memorial march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery on March. 7.
Approximately 600 marchers started out on the march that Sunday morning. When the marchers crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge on the outskirts of Selma, they were met by about 200 state troopers, and Sheriff Clark and his deputies mounted on horseback, armed with tear gas, night sticks and bull whips. The marchers were ordered to turn back. When they did not, they were attacked by the law enforcement officers. The air filled with tear gas and marchers were beaten, whipped and trampled by the horses. Finally, they turned around and returned to Selma. Seventeen marchers were hospitalized.
Dr. King and his supporters filed a federal lawsuit requesting to be permitted to proceed with the march. On March 21, the march began again, with federal troops protecting the marchers, and proceeded to Montgomery. In Montgomery, a rally was held on the steps of the state capitol. However, within hours of the end of the march Liuzzo was killed.