By: Dave Tell
On the morning of August 28, 1955, historians believe that this may have been the spot that Emmett Till was shot in the head and then thrown into the water below, the Black Bayou.
1.8 miles west of this spot (downstream), the Bayou spills into the Tallahatchie River. The confluence of the two rivers is marked by an Emmett Till Memorial Commission sign as the site where Till’s body was recovered from the river.
It is difficult to know, precisely, where Till was thrown in the river. The influential account in LOOK Magazine by William Bradford Huie claimed that Till was thrown directly into the Tallahatchie River from a lonely spot on River Road 3.5 miles south of Sharkey Road. Although Huie’s version of the Till murder has been widely discredited, there is some evidence in favor of his Sharkey Road theory. At the trial, Robert Hodges (the fisherman who discovered Till’s body) and B. L. Mims (his landlord) both claimed that they found Till on a section of the river north of Philipp that divided Tallahatchie County from Leflore County. Under cross-examination, both were careful to note that the body was found on the Tallahatchie County side of the Tallahatchie River. This testimony is consistent with Huie’s tale. After he was thrown in the river, Huie claims, the current carried Till for eight miles. Although one wonders if the river had sufficient force to carry a gin-fan-laden body such a distance, the eight-mile journey would have put Till right where Hodges and Mims said they found him.
If Till was thrown into the Black Bayou from this spot just south of Glendora, however, it is difficult to imagine he could have made the journey all the way to the portion of the Tallahatchie River that divides Tallahatchie County from Leflore County (the spot where the trial indicates he was found). That would have required the River/Bayou to carry him approximately 10 miles. The sheer distance (not to mention the gin fan around his neck) makes such a journey seem unlikely.
The strongest argument in favor of the theory that Till was thrown off this bridge and recovered 1.8 miles downstream is its intuitiveness. This site is immediately adjacent to both J. W. Milam’s home (where Till’s clothes were burned) and the Glendora Cotton Gin (where they could have easily secured the fan). After the murder party finished torturing Emmett Till on the Sturdivant Plantation in Drew they were in a race with daybreak to dispose of Till as quickly as possible. The sheer convenience of this spot makes it difficult to imagine the murder party circling around on River Road. Heightening the convenience of this theory is the fact that this road was closed permanently sometime in 1955.
Beyond convenience, the Black Bayou Bridge theory has a strong advocate in Glendora Mayor Johnny B. Thomas. Thomas has used the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (a Till museum housed in the former gin) to advocate this theory for years. Making matters more interesting still, Thomas’s father was Henry Lee Loggins—Milam’s “right hand man” who was widely rumored to be personally involved in the murder. Although Loggins publicly denied all involvement his entire life (most publicly on 60 Minutes), there are rumors that he made a deathbed confession to his son. If true, it means that Johnny B. Thomas’s claim that the body was thrown over this bridge might be based on an eyewitness account.