By: Davis Houck
Emmett Till almost didn’t make it to Mississippi and the Wright house. On Saturday morning, August 20, he and his mom were running late trying to catch the Illinois Central for the 650-mile journey south.
So tardy were they that they decided to meet Moses Wright and Wheeler Parker at the Englewood Station at Sixty-Third and Woodlawn rather than the Central Street Station where the two men had boarded. Before departing Chicago, Emmett gave his mom a kiss and his watch; he claimed he wouldn’t need it in Mississippi. But Emmett also wore a silver signet ring with the engraving L.T. for his father, Louis Till, who’d purchased it overseas during his service in World War II; the ring now fit the 14-year-old’s finger. That ring, and the father who’d once owned it, would prove to be very important in the coming days and weeks.
According to Moses Wright’s account of the lengthy trip, Emmett could hardly sit still as the City of New Orleans train rumbled south toward Winona, the Montgomery County seat just 33 miles east of Greenwood and less than one hour from the Wright residence in Money. So restless was Emmett that by the time the small group finally reached their destination he’d lost both of his shoes! Maurice Wright, Moses and Elizabeth’s 16-year-old son, met the weary travelers at the depot with the family car, a 1946 Ford, in the late afternoon of Sunday, August 21.
When Emmett’s bloated corpse was pulled from the muddy Tallahatchie River just ten days later on Wednesday morning, August 31, his great uncle was able to confirm his identification largely from Louis Till’s signet ring. When doubts later surfaced as to whether or not the body was Emmett Till’s—a doubt raised by Sheriff H.C. Strider and put forward by Milam and Bryant’s legal defense team—Hodding Carter, Jr., editor and publisher of the Delta Democrat-Times (Greenville) was quick to remind everyone of the ring: it would take some kind of elaborate (and impossible) planning for a planted corpse to have such a ring. Later, when it was discovered that Louis Till had been hanged in Italy for raping two white women and murdering a third, not a few white Mississippians intoned, “like father, like son.”