50 years ago on May 12, 1967, Benjamin Brown died from gunshot wounds inflicted by law enforcement officers on John Roy Lynch Street the night before. His killing is one of Jackson’s unprosecuted crimes from the civil rights era.
From 1963-1965, 1017 Lynch Street was the state headquarters of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). By 1967, it was the Kon-Tiki restaurant, and Ben was shot near the corner of Mt. Olive Cemetery after he left the Kon-Tiki, by a Jackson police officer who was in a group of police and Highway Patrol officers lined up across Lynch Street facing rock-throwing young men coming toward Rose Street from Dalton.
In 1995, the Jackson City Council passed a resolution stating in part:
“Ben Brown went on the night of May 11, 1967, to a restaurant on J.R. Lynch Street to get a sandwich for his wife, and he had just left the restaurant when police fired toward the demonstrators, and Ben ran away toward the campus; and he was shot in the back, the leg, and the back of the head, and laid in the street 45 minutes before he received medical attention, and at 4:42 AM on May 12, 1967, his 22nd birthday, Benjamin Brown died at University Hospital.”
Over 30 years later, the City of Jackson did an investigation that resulted in a small settlement with the family, based on the City’s conclusion that a police officer then deceased had been the shooter. In its brief investigation in 1967, the FBI had identified two other officers who apparently shot level rather than over the heads of the young men in Lynch Street, but no local or federal prosecution followed.
Ben Brown was active in the civil rights movement in Jackson and was one of the young Freedom Corps members who helped organize people on Delta plantations in the mid-1960s. Ben’s mother, Mrs. Ollie Mae Brown, kept his memory alive through radio, TV and newspapers for the rest of her life.
Published sources include Lynch Street by Tim Spofford (pages 14-17), The Delta Ministry
by Bruce Hilton (pages 139-145, 183), and http://nuweb9.neu.edu/civilrights/benjamin-brown/