I was born in Liberty, in Amite County, Mississippi, October 8, 1922. I went to school in Liberty through the 7th grade. My father and mother, Jim and Etta Taplin, were born and raised in Amite County. They had eleven children, six girls and five boys. Three of my brothers have died. My mother and father left Liberty in 1949 to come to Baton Rouge to live.
Lewis Allen was born April 25, 1919, in Amite County and went to the 7th grade in Amite County. His father and mother, Crawford and Armer Allen, were born and raised in Amite County and had eight children, four boys and four girls. His mother died a week before was killed, and his father left Amite County the day of his funeral.
I married Lewis, March 8, 1941. We had four children. Tommy Lewis was born August 30, 1941. Etta was born January 29, 1943. Henry Crawford was born March 4, 1945. Mary Elizabeth was born September 2, 1960. Tommy finished high school in Liberty and worked for his father, logging. Doris Etta died March 8, 1957. She had epileptic spells. Henry dropped out of school in November, 1963, when his father was put in jail. He was in the 12th grade. He says he wants to go back and high school and then take the trade that his daddy wanted him to take. The baby stays with me.
Lewis always logged. Before he went in the army he logged for Lloyd Cain, who lives out from Liberty. He was coming from Lloyd's house when he was killed. He was out at Lloyd's house when the call came for him to go to the army. Him and his brother both, Morris Allen, were called the same day, January 19, 1943. He served 19 months and came out August, 1944. He served in New Guinea. He took sick with a bad heart and an ulcerated stomach and they shipped him back to Springfield, Missouri, then to Alexander, Louisiana. He was discharged from there.
After he came from the service, we stayed with my mommy and daddy. I went to live with my mommy and daddy when Lewis went in the army. When he came back, we stayed with them all that fall. In January, Mommy and Daddy moved out to a house in Liberty and we still stayed in the old house. We made one crop there and then we moved to a new house on the same place — it was Charlie-boy Dickson's place. The first year Lewis came back he farmed. The second year he went to the veterans' school in McComb to study mechanics. It seemed like he went to school two years.
When he stopped school he started logging for Roy Newman. He had been logging some for Jewel Spearman, while he was farming and going to school. But Jewel broke his back and Lewis took to logging for Roy Newman. We stayed on Charlie- boy's place until a year or more before we bought our own place. We bought this place from P.N. Wilson. We paid $40 a month, $200 down. He gave us two or three years to pay. We put the money in a Liberty bank and he would pick it up from New Orleans. He was a white man and Mr. Joe Gordon was our lawyer.
Mr. Gordon was always Lewis's lawyer. He arranged for Lewis's daughter to marry T.B. Allen (not related). Lewis had one child before he was married, Elaine Allen. Her grandmother raised her. Her mother stayed up in the Delta. Elaine first married Jack Carrol She was only twelve years old and Lewis did not want her to get married. She stayed with her husband two years. When she left him, she come stayed with us until she was grown. She married T.E. Allen when she was 18, but they both had to get divorces. The lawyer came and told them they could not together until they their divorces. Then Mr. Joe Gordon fixed up some papers and told Elaine she would have to go to New Orleans and her husband to sign them. Lewis went down to Orleans and got Jack to sign the papers. Then they got married again.
'When we finished paying for the land, Lewis borrowed some money for some logging equipment and logged for himself. We borrowed the money from the Liberty bank. The notes were $40 a month. 'When they began foreclosing so many people in Liberty, Negroes that we took it out of the bank and put it in Melvin Blaelock's name. We lost our insurance when we did this and last year we put it back in with the bank. But Lewis heard something before he decided to leave Amite for good, which made him put the property back in Melvin Blaelock's name the day he was killed. I still owe $400 and some more on the notes.
We never had any trouble with the community or the laws until Lewis testified at the trial about Herbert Lee's killing. Herbert Lee was killed on September 30th, 1961. That same day Lewis came home and said that they wanted him to testify that Herbert Lee had a piece of iron. Lewis said that Herbert Lee didn't have no iron. But he said for his family and his life he had to tell he had an iron. Lewis told me he didn't want to tell no story about the dead, because he couldn't ask them for forgiveness.
They had two courts about Herbert Lee's killing. When they had the second court Lewis did not want to testify. He said he didn't want to go back and testify no more that a man had a piece of iron when he didn't have it, but he said he didn't have no choice, he was there and he had to go to court. He said he told the FBI the truth, that Herbert Lee didn't have a piece of iron when he was shot.
After this he began to have trouble. He sold pine logs to the Mabrys up above Liberty, had been doing it pretty near since he had been logging. They told him he could only haul two and then one load a week. Then they stopped letting him have money to buy a strip of timber that he wanted to work. Donis Hawkins' service station and Daryl Blaelock's station cut out his credit.
Then on Saturday night, late in June, we went to town to do the groceries. We parked the car across the street from the jailhouse. We was coming out from the store and someone called from across the street and I told Lewis someone called him. Lewis sent T. [illegible] and Doug Martin across to see what they wanted. They told them they wanted to speak to Lewis. Lewis went over to the jailhouse. They told Lewis their home was in Jackson and they wanted to call somebody out in Jackson. They gave him a note with a of paper, it had a phone number on it. When he came back I ask him what did the peoples want with him, he told me they wanted him to call to Jackson.
We drove back horne. We got back around 10 P.M. Police Officer A______ came out about 10:30. We were watching "The Untouchables." Henry went to the door. Officer said he wanted to speak to Lewis. Lewis went outside to see what wanted. Officer told him he was under arrest. Lewis asked him could he go his bond. Officer A______ told him he couldn't, he had to go to jail. About that time Police Officer B______ called and asked what was it. Officer A______ said he was out at Lewis Allen's house and asked should he bring him in, he told him yes, bring him in.
Lewis then asked Officer A______ could he get his hat. Officer A______ told him no. Then Lewis asked if his baby boy could go it. When he turned to look at Henry, who was standing in the doorway, Officer A______ struck him with a flashlight across his jaw. When Lewis turned around Police Officer C______ throwed a gun on him and told him he better not hit that white man. They took Lewis to town and we tried to follow them.
When we got to town I saw Officer A______ coming back from the courthouse. I asked him what did he do with Lewis; he told me he was in jail, where the hell he was going to stay. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I was going after my son Tommy. He told me to hurry up and get Tommy and get on back across the river before we all will be in jail or dead ones.
Tommy went to the jailhouse Sunday to see what they had him for. His daddy told him to go tell Officer B______ his jawbone was broke and if could get a doctor up there. Officer B______ told Tommy wasn't going to fool with it. Sunday evening we all decided to go to the jailhouse to see him, but Officer B______ was at the courthouse and told us that ain't nobody told us we could go to the jailhouse and we came back home. Lewis got out on Monday. They charged him with interfering with an officer; they fined him $17.50 [equal to $140 in 2017]. He went to the hospital when he got out, they told him he had a broke jawbone.
Lewis and Henry Crawford went up to Jackson to testify about this to the people up there. When came back Henry lost his job three or four days after. He had been working at the Donis Hawkins service station. Donis told him he didn't need him no more.
That happened in the summer of 1962. One day in November of 1963, he had trouble again. Lewis had been to work and was on his way home and had stopped at Donis Hawkins' service station for gas. Police Officer A______ was there — he spent a lot of his spare time around that service station. Officer A______ sat there until Lewis pulled off, then stopped him and told him he was under arrest. Then reached into Lewis's glove compartment and got his pistol and carried him to jail. Tommy Lewis was with his daddy, and Officer aksed him if he had a license to drive. Tommy told him yes, but he didn't have it with him because he worked in the woods and his daddy hauled the trucks. Officer A______ told him that would be all right, for him to drive the truck on home.
I asked Tommy when he got home if he was going to do anything to see about getting his daddy out of jail. He said there wasn't anything to do until the next morning, cause they weren't going to let him out tonight. I asked him if they hit him this time, he said that he didn't think they hit him.
The next day Tommy and Henry went to the courthouse and asked Police Officer B______ how much was their daddy's fine. He told them $500 [equal to $4,000 in 2017] and 90 days in jail. They went and told their daddy this and he told them to go to see if it could be all cash. They told him it would be $800 [equal to $6,400 in 2017] and Lewis told them to see if Mr. Barney Gray would loan them the money. But Mr. Gray told them no, he wasn't fooling with it. Then they went to Melvin Blaelock, who said he could pay the whole $800 but would rather not to. They went to more white people but they wouldn't help him no way. ____ [a local official] told them that Lewis was worth more dead than alive, just as well not get him out. Lewis told them not to try any more white people.
They had Lewis charged for a concealed weapon and a bad check. What it was, was a check for twenty some dollars he wrote to the sheriff to pay for his license tag. But he was lacking $2 or $3 in the bank to cover for it. But they never told him this, just picked him up for nothing ... just for nothing.
Well, while he was in jail they picked up a man between Gloster and Woodville and put him in jail with Lewis. This man told him they had a mob crowd to get him while he was in jail. Lewis wrote a note, put it in a matchbox and threw it down to Tommy Lewis and Henry. They went out that night and stayed around the jail. They didn't tell me cause they knew I had heart trouble. Lewis stayed in jail twenty-one days. The $800 was put up by colored people. When he got out of jail he was scared to stay at the house, he never stopped, just got all of us and came down to Baton Rouge. On the way he laid down in the car until we crossed the state line. When we crossed the line he got up and said, "Thank you, Jesus."
We stayed in Baton Rouge for a week. He called around trying to get work while he was in Baton Rouge. He went back down to Baton Rouge just before Christmas. He said he was going to try and make it through December, but he had to find him a job outside of Mississippi.
Lewis was a person like this, he mostly kept his business to himself, he wouldn't tell me things because he didn't want to worry me, I have heart trouble. But he said to me he didn't want to be in Amite County when Police Officer A______ became ______, there would be trouble. Henry Crawford stayed out of school after his daddy got out of jail. Lewis was trying to get together to leave. He carried Henry with him everywhere he went. He let Tommy Lewis haul the logs and he stayed in the woods and he never would go to town. If he went anywhere he carried Henry with him and let him drive. Officer ______ was elected in November and he took office in January.
On New Year's Day, [a local merchant] came out to the house. He asked me if Lewis was home. He collects the money, only we usually pay it at his [store] the first of the month. He never came out to the house before to collect. While he was talking to Lewis he told him, he say, "You see that little baby standing out by that ... ?" Lewis told him, "Yes, sir." He say, "It would be mighty bad if she turned up burnt up, wouldn't it?" Lewis said, "Sure would." He say, "Cause she's an innocent baby but she could get burnt up just like that. I could tell you more but I'm not ... Well, if I was you I would get my rags together in a bundle and leave here." He laughed and then started talking about the money for the bill. I think they was intending to all of us, to burn us like they did Leo McKnight.
A week or two later Lewis walked in to the Liberty bank to pay his note — he was behind and had just carried a load of logs and when he got the money he went to the bank to pay his note. He heard E______ and F______, he's an old white man who has a place that joins ours, talking about him. Lewis told me he heard E______ tell F______ he knowed a way to foreclose Lewis out and if he did he would let F______ have the place, you see, don't nothing separated F______'s place from us but a fence. Lewis say they stopped talking when they saw him. Lewis paid his note and went back to the woods to work. That was two or three weeks before he was killed.
When Lewis came in from work that night, after dark, he told me what happened and said he was going to turn his place back over to Melvin Blaelock. Lewis said he was going to leave that month. He first planned to leave Saturday, January 25, but his mother took sick the Friday before. That Saturday night he went to town with his sister to see about the flowers for his mother, who was dying. While he was gone I saw some white men down at the gap. They shot, they were just shooting, then they left.
Next week on Thursday night, January 30, Lewis talked with Melvin Blaelock and told him to meet him in town Friday morning. Friday morning Lewis left the house with Henry about 8 or 9 in the morning. He was going to take the note out of the bank and put it over to Melvin and also pay the taxes on the place. He went to the bank and got things straight and then went down to Blaelock's store. Henry Crawford went to the courthouse to pay taxes. They told him at the courthouse that Lewis would have to sign. Lewis told him to come and get me cause he didn't want to go nowhere by the courthouse.
I came into town with Henry and met Lewis at Blaelock's. We went first to T.F. Badon and signed the papers for the note. While we were at Blaelock's, Mr. Jay Butler, a Negro, came and Lewis told him he was to leave. Jay told Lewis to come by his house and his son's address in Chicago and if Lewis's brother didn't get him a job his son would. Then I went to courthouse and then they drove me back home and Lewis went to work and carried a load.
Lewis came home at 12 noon that day. He eat first, then him and Henry went to Gloster to see Mr. Jewel Spearman. He told me he was going to him to fix out some papers for the kind of work he could do for a job when he got North. He had been telling me all the week he was planning on leaving on the 9 A.M. bus for New Orleans. Mr. Jewel wasn't there, but his son told Lewis he could fix up some papers for him. He said, "I knew your father, I remember your face"; Lewis used to log for his father. Then he asked him, he "What's your name," and he said "Lewis Allen," then he said, "I can't fix it," and he didn't fix the papers.
Then Lewis went by Jay Butler's house and got Alec's address, he is Mr. Jay's son who is over a big contracting company in Chicago. Lewis came back and told me they wouldn't fix the papers and told me to start looking for his service discharge. He cried that afternoon, he don't hardly never do nothing like that, then he went on out the house and sit down by himself for a long time cause he said he didn't want to be bothered. He said he would go that night to Mr. Lloyd Cain's, when he got home from his work. Mr. Lloyd didn't get in till night.
When he was leaving that night to go to Mr. Lloyd's to get the papers fixed he said, "I feel like I'm being watched, turn the porch light out." He had us turn the porch light out before he got into his truck. His son Henry said, "Well, Daddy, why don't you take a pistol." He says, "What good is a pistol, I put my trust in God." He went by himself cause he let Henry go to Gloster with John to a party. He told Henry to go and enjoy himself cause he didn't know when he would have another chance cause he wanted him to look after his mother and sister real good till he could send for them. He said he wouldn't be gone long, but would be back around 8:30.
I was watching TV when I heard three shots. It was around 8:30 cause "Johnny Newman," which is a Western and comes on Friday night was on. I heard the shots, I didn't know what they was, I saw the lights burning from the truck at the gap, and saw them getting dimmer and dimmer. I stayed up walking from room to room. Henry and John came back late. They found Lewis dead up under the truck. Henry went to get the sheriff, Daniel Jones.
They wouldn't let me go to the body. Daniel Jones talked to me early Saturday morning. He came back Sunday morning and told me the FBIs would come to see me, but that whatever I told them they would turn over to him cause he was investigating the case. He said they had been out to see [E.W.] Steptoe and he told them it was all on account of Herbert Lee's killing and Lewis's testimony, but it wasn't any use in bringing that old account up now, that I should tell the FBI the same I told him, not like Lewis did, telling the jury one thing and telling the FBI something else. The FBI came and talked to me Sunday night. They buried Lewis Monday. I left and came to Baton Rouge with my family the same day.
I remember Lewis walking through the house before he was killed, saying he didn't want to die, that he knew people who had been dead, died when he was a boy, that when you're dead you're dead a long time.
SIGNED: Elizabeth Allen
See Louis Allen Murdered
for background & more information.
See also Mississippi Freedom Movements for web links.
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