The Murder of Civil Rights Activist Jonathan Daniels
On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Daniels and several other civil rights activists wanted to buy a coke after getting out of jail. A few minutes later, the 26-year-old Episcopal seminary student lay dead in Alabama, having stepped in front of a shotgun blast intended for a fellow activist, Ruby Sales. Daniels, a native of New Hampshire and a 1961 graduate of Virginia Military Institute (VMI), had come to Alabama to support the movement in Selma, Montgomery, and then Lowndes County. His murder received relatively little coverage, especially compared to the earlier killings of other white activists such as Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo. Daniels was at least the 22 nd person killed in the civil rights struggle by white supremacists since 1963. Sixteen of the victims were black, and only a few of those cases received national attention. In the Daniels’ case, the shooter, highway worker and volunteer deputy sheriff Tom Coleman, who had also turned his gun on a Catholic priest named Richard Morrisroe after shooting Daniels, was later acquitted by an all-white jury.
A day after Daniels’ death, President Lyndon Johnson had a conversation with his chief civil rights aide Lee White that revealed a heart-wrenching predicament: What to do with the bodies of slain activists? The transporting of the dead out of Dixie had become such a problem that the White House got involved in a hands-on basis.
Date: Aug 20, 1965
Participants: Lyndon Johnson, Lee White