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Emmett Till Casket Removed, Investigators Looking for Memorial Money

Society & Culture  (tags: dishonesty, death, child, murder, Civil Rights, gravestone, cemetary, scandal, memorial, Emmett Till Case )

- 3536 days ago -
The rusting casket of Emmett Till was removed Monday from an old storage shed at the beleaguered Burr Oak Cemetery and into a safer location, officials said. But what happens to his legacy and local plans to memorialize the Civil Rights icon from


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Raffi LidoRoiz (301)
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 2:12 pm
Till casket removed, investigators looking for memorial money


The rusting casket of Emmett Till was removed Monday from an old storage shed at the beleaguered Burr Oak Cemetery and into a safer location, officials said.

But what happens to his legacy and local plans to memorialize the Civil Rights icon from Chicago remains unknown because the woman who put herself in charge of building him a museum on the grounds of the Alsip cemetery is in jail, accused of pocketing cash from the reselling of grave sites.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart is looking for anyone who has made a donation to the Emmett Till Memorial Fund since its 2003 inception.

"No one's been charged with a financial crime so we are kind of limited in what we can say beyond we are investigating the location of any donations made," said sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson. "We're hoping that anybody who may have made a donation to this fund could reach out to our office so we can conduct that investigation properly."

But a source close to the investigation said no one yet knows how much money may have been collected or spent by Carolyn Towns, the cemetery's manager now charged in the debacle, who also administered the fund, apparently without records.

The Till case got much attention - presumably attracting contributions - when a movie about Till was released and when authorities reopened the investigation of his murder. It was about this time that Towns was soliciting donations to build a Till-related museum at Burr Oak.

And though Illinois law requires charities to register with the attorney general's office, an employee in the charities division could not find any open file for any funds for Emmett Till.

Till is perhaps the most famous among prominent blacks buried at Burr Oak, a cemetery established in 1929 when blacks and whites were segregated even in death.

The Chicago teen was kidnapped from a cousin's home in Mississippi at night in August 1955, allegedly for whistling at a white woman. His body was found days later in the Tallahatchie River, shot, bloated and with a cotton gin barb wired around his neck. Till's mother, Mamie Till Mobley, insisted mourners view her son's body through a glass-topped casket. The only two white men charged in his murder were acquitted. The outrage at the violence against the 14-year-old was a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement.

Till's body was exhumed in 2005 after the Justice Department reopened his murder and other Civil Rights-related killings from the time. Till was reburied in Burr Oak in a different casket.

His plain copper headstone, donated by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, appears undisturbed, Dart said. But the glass-topped casket from his viewing was discovered rotting in a shed full of trash, housing a family of possums, Dart said.

At the Till family's request, sheriff's employees moved that casket to one of their police holding lots on Chicago's far South Side, Patterson said.

"There's a police officer stationed outside general area where it is," he said. "It's a safe place to store it until we hear from the family - ultimately it's up to them what they want to do with it."

Joycey B (750)
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 3:45 pm
Thanks Raffi.

Jamie L (195)
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 4:11 pm
:( Thanks Raffi!

Sheryl G (359)
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 5:08 pm
What a sad state of affairs. Perhaps a group can donate the funds to have this properly taken care he may rest in peace again.

Catherine Turley (192)
Tuesday July 14, 2009, 5:39 pm
that glass top casket is a part of american history. where are all the historical preservation groups. this ought to be in the smithsonian.

Cheree M (46)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 12:20 am
Sad. Thanks for sharing.

Elainna Crowell (174)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 12:48 am
I still find it difficult to think about what happened to Emmett Till and this report makes me even sadder. How anyone could put his casket in a trashy shed while pocketing donations for his memorial is beyond comprehension! I hope they throw this woman & her accomplices in jail & throw away the key!

Ivy S (2169)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 1:32 am
It's really hard to believe such things can happen in this day and age! I feel really sad when I hear such horrible stories where people cheat by misusing the name of well known figures like Emmett Till. Elainna, I also just cannot comprehend all this - what do you say? Thanks Rafael for sharing this story with us. Noted!

Amena Andersson (187)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 8:22 am
Thanks, Raffi.

Nancy Welch (68)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 11:43 am
Thanks Raffi for sharing. I feel so bad for this person and all the others who were intentionally mishandled all for the sake of a few extra dollars. I hope they hang 'em up to dry (and then some).

Raffi LidoRoiz (301)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 12:28 pm
Thank you so much for your comments everyone-the Emmett Till case has always been one that stayed indelible in my heart. Here was this child who was savaged so badly and then they find this. This was not just a news story. More will come out of this, I suspect.

Marena Chen (200)
Wednesday July 15, 2009, 11:26 pm
Are the remains still inside the coffin? If not, where are they? This is really bizzarre. Such disrespect for the dead.

Winefred M (88)
Friday July 17, 2009, 5:34 am
What a shame and disgrace no kind of respect for the dead! Think of the family how must they feel! Awful.
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