By: Davis Houck
One of the unpleasant truths about the murder of Emmett Till is that local black men were involved. To what extent their participation was coerced or freely given we’ll never know.
Suffice it to say that the so-called Look Magazine “confession” that J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant gave to William Bradford Huie carefully omitted the names and actions of several black men who helped kidnap and murder Till.
One of the men long thought involved in the case was a black man from Glendora, Henry Lee Loggins, who worked for Milam. From the earliest days of the case Loggins and friend, Levy “Too Tight” Collins, were fingered as potential accomplices. Hugh Stephen Whitaker even claims, based on an interview with one of the attorneys representing Milam and Bryant, that both Loggins and Collins were hidden under aliases in the Charleston Jail so that they could not be located and interviewed about the murder. Nearly 50 years after the murder, Loggins steadfastly maintained that he had nothing to do with the case in a 60 Minutes interview with Ed Bradley.
And yet we know from the investigative reporting of black journalist James Hicks that Loggins confessed to his father, DeWitt Loggins, as well as a local preacher. Hicks’ source for the confession came from Mound Bayou surgeon, Dr. T. R. M. Howard, who’d gotten the information first-hand.
Henry Lee Loggins’ involvement in the Till murder is important to understanding what’s happening today in this small and extremely impoverished Delta community. Loggins’ son, Glendora Mayor, Johnny B. Thomas, created the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center (ETHIC) in 2005. Today the museum serves as an important place of commemoration for the events of 1955; in fact, Thomas maintains that the site of the museum, a partially restored cotton gin, was the place from which Milam and Bryant stole the blast wheel that was tied to Emmett Till’s neck. This claim is even more plausible since gin operator, Elmer Odis Kimbell, was Milam’s neighbor and was rumored to be among the white men who kidnapped and murdered Till. Thomas also maintains that the body of Emmett Till was thrown into Black Bayou from the Black Bayou Bridge at the end of Second Avenue in Glendora; from there, the body supposedly floated downstream to the Tallahatchie River and was recovered not far from where the Bayou intersects the River.
Loggins died in Dayton, Ohio in 2009. According to his son, Loggins made a death-bed confession about his involvement in Till’s murder. Details of that confession have yet to be revealed, though Thomas claims he will share them in a forthcoming book.