Rexdale Henry, a Choctaw activist, beaten and "
found dead" in Neshoba County Jail
July 29, 2015
A plane just left Mississippi carrying the body of Rexdale Henry. His family has asked for an independent autopsy by a Florida board certified pathologist. Mr. Henry was found dead in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in a Neshoba County jail cell on Tuesday, July 14, 2015 just two days after the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail. A lifelong community activist and member of the Choctaw tribe, Mr. Henry was arrested July 9 allegedly for failure to pay an old fine.
He reportedly suffered two broken ribs at some time during his arrest or in the jail. Local concerned citizens have raised substantial questions about the cause of his death. His family wants to know what or who caused their healthy,fifty-three year old loved one to die in that cell. Since the Chief Medical Examiner in Jackson, Mississippi, has refused so far to inform the family or their representatives of either the cause or manner of death, the family made the difficult decision to postpone burial after the funeral Sunday because they are determined to find out what really happened.
Friends of Mr. Henry, including long time civil rights activists John Steele and Diane Nash, have joined forces with law professors Janis McDonald and Paula Johnson of the Cold Case Justice Initiative from Syracuse University College of Law to ensure that an unbiased autopsy can be conducted to either verify or challenge the work of Mississippi state officials. According to Professor McDonald, “At a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which Black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.”
Others have died mysteriously in the same Neshoba County Jail. In November 2014 Michael Deangelo McDougle was found dead in his cell. Although the coroner’s inquest found no wrongdoing, the autopsy results have yet to be released. Mr. McDougle’s body was badly bruised, according to some who observed the body. Several other inmates have died under questionable circumstances in the recent past.
Philadelphia, Mississippi in Neshoba County gained national notoriety when three civil rights workers: James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were arrested on June 21, 1964 while investigating a church bombing site during Freedom Summer. They were placed in Neshoba County detention facilities,then escorted and left outside city limits late that night by the deputy sheriff where members of the local Klan tortured and murdered them.
John Steele was a young man living in Philadelphia with his parents, long time civil rights activists who worked along with Michael Schwerner and James Chaney in Neshoba County. Steele was a close friend of Rexdale Henry.
“Mr. Henry was a dedicated family man and the medicine man for his Choctaw community of Bogue Chitto,” states John Steele. In addition to his many other activities he was the coach of the stickball team and, a week before his arrest, he was a candidate for his Choctaw Tribal Council. The funeral was held at a local gymnasium with an overflow crowd on Sunday, July 19.
Diane Nash, who met Rexdale Henry in Philadelphia last summer, and John Steele are two of the organizers of the Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service. The MCRMMS sponsors a conference and caravan each year in Meridian and Philadelphia, Mississippi to commemorate Mississippi civil rights martyrs, including Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman.
The Cold Case Justice Initiative at Syracuse University College of Law began in 2007 and is committed to helping families achieve justice for the loss of their loved ones as a result of racist killings by individuals, groups or law enforcement.
Anonymous donors contributed to a fund to ensure that the important questions raised by Mr. Henry’s death are answered.
Results of the second autopsy will be announced as soon as they are available.
John Steele firstname.lastname@example.org MS Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Committee (315)935-5529 Philadelphia, Mississippi (662) 773-2655
Janis L. McDonald, Professor of Law Co-Director, Cold Case Justice Initiative Syracuse University College of Law email@example.com (315) 935-5529
Members of the Mississippi Civil Rights Martyrs Memorial Service: John Steele, Chairman, Annis Collins, Ralph Fertig, Lena Jones, Suzanne Marks, Rev. Advial McKenzie, Curtis Muhammad, Diane Nash, George Roberts, Rev. C. T. Vivian
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