Interview with John Doar


John Doar:

Anyway, Bob Moses and I drove over to Mr. Stepto's house, and I asked him about what the experience was of the black people in that area, and that holding meetings wh-, where, uh, the SNCC kids were encouraging people to go up to the registrar's office and register. And uh, he said, or, we were in th, that, uh, there were people coming to the outside of the meetings and taking the license numbers down of the people that, that uh, were at the meetings. Now in the winter before, I had been in Haywood, in Fayette counties, Tennessee, where there had been a co-, co-, uh, comprehensive, and uh, efforts at economic intimidation by forcing sharecroppers off the land who'd attempted to register to vote. And this was the f…, uh, first example of economic intimidation that we'd carefully investigated. And so the taking down of license numbers and getting the names of people suggested that, that there was an effort, or might be an effort in doing the same thing in southern Mississippi, southwest Mississippi. And I asked Mr. Stepto if he knew, uh…, uh, or he saw the people that were taking down the license numbers, and he said he didn't, but Herbert Lee did. And as I recall it, we visited a little bit longer there, and I asked him who the most powerful white person was in that area and he said a man named Hearst who was a state senator, a state legislator. And, uh, in talking to him uh, he said, uh, that he'd grown up with Mr. Hearst, and he was I think a tenant on uh, Hearst's farm, and that, uh, that was just information that I got, well then we went down the road to try to find Herbert Lee, Bob and I, and, and when we got to Herbert Lee's house, which was maybe five or six miles down this country road, he was not there, he'd gone off to see relatives, or was, was gone for the Sunday afternoon. So I had to go back to Washington, and when I got back to Washington at ten o'clock the following night, uh, there was a note on my desk that Herbert Lee had been killed. And I learned that Mr. Hearst uh, had, there had been a confrontation, and that Mr. Hearst had, had, uh…, claimed that he'd been attacked with a tire, tire iron, and he had to respond by, by killing him. And that's uh…, that's the, my r…, recollection of the Herbert Lee situation.