Interview with James Farmer
QUESTION 46
INTERVIEWER:

COULD WE CUT FOR A SECOND? [unintelligible] WITH THE DISAPPEARANCE OF [MICHAEL] SCHWERNER, [JAMES] CHANEY, [ANDREW] GOODMAN, GIVE ME A VERY BRIEF ACCOUNT OF WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU FIRST GOT THE CALL THAT THEY WERE MISSING.

James Farmer:

It was 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning when I got a call from one of the CORE staff people in Meridian, Mississippi telling me that Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney had gone over to Philadelphia, Mississippi in Neshoba County to view the remains, the ruins, of a church that had been burned out--the church in which they had conducted voter education classes. They had not returned to Meridian; they'd intended to be back by sundown the previous night. My staff person called me and told me that they were missing and I should come down immediately. I told them I would be on the next plane down. I called Dick Gregory in Chicago woke him up--he had just gotten back in he country and was jet lagged and everything else but his reaction was "Hey Big Daddy, what's happenin'?" And then I told him what had happened and he said, "When are you going," and I said, "Next flight: 7 o'clock in the morning." [He] said, "Well, I'll get the first plane I can get out of Chicago, and I'll meet you down there." Well, he and I, in Meridian went to Philadelphia in Neshoba County and actually talked with the Sheriff [Lawrence] Rainey and his deputy, [Cecil] Price about the disappearance of my three staff members, Schwerner, Goodwin and Chaney, and they of course denied they knew anything about it. They had arrested the men for speeding, they claimed, and finally had taken them out of jail and headed them back toward Meridian. Well, we learned later from grapevine information of what had really happened, that they had been taken out and turned over to a mob and Chaney had been beaten to death, and the other men shot once in the heart. We turned the information over to the FBI, and the FBI soon located the bodies.