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Elwood Higginbottom to be honored with historical marker

Elwood Higginbottom, Lafayette County’s last recorded lynching victim, will officially receive recognition in the form of a historical marker following a vote at Tuesday’s meeting of the Oxford Board of Aldermen.

Higginbottom, whose lynching made state and national headlines in 1935, recently returned to the spotlight thanks to Northwestern University law student Kyleen Burke and the Equal Justice Initiative, both of whom spent the last year connecting with his descendants and working to appropriately honor his memory.

April Grayson, of the William Winter Institute, said the recognition and acknowledgement of all parts of Lafayette County’s past is an important step toward reconciliation.

“There’s a local movement in Lafayette County focused on reckoning with the history of lynchings here,” Grayson said. “Building on the past 16 months of research and outreach, we plan to reveal a marker honoring Elwood Higginbottom on Oct. 27.”

According to Alonzo Hilliard, who has also worked with the Higginbottom family through the process of returning to Oxford and learning about their forefather, erecting a marker is a way to acknowledge a dark part of Lafayette County’s past, while also recognizing why Higginbottom died.

Hilliard said he’s noticed a change in the Higginbottom family members since they first returned to Oxford last year – one of empowerment and pride.

“I think this process brought them to another level,” Hilliard said. “They found out more about their grandfather and father, and I saw a little bit of pride, because they found out not only where and why he died, but what he died for.”

According to reports from 1935 editions of the EAGLE, Higginbottom was arrested and subsequently lynched for killing a white man in self-defense following a land dispute. Standing up for himself cost him his life, Hilliard explained.

The marker is tentatively set to be placed near the site of the lynching, at the corner of Molly Barr Road and North Lamar Boulevard formerly known as the Old Three-Way.

A public information session about the project will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 28 at the Tallahatchie-Oxford Missionary Baptist Association Building, located off Highway 334.

Alderman Preston Taylor spoke prior to the board’s vote, saying he commended the committee behind the marker for all the hard work they’d done.

“It’s just so good that this is happening,” Taylor said. “When you think about it, 1935 hasn’t been that long ago.”

The board of aldermen granted permission for the project to move forward in a unanimous vote.