Supervisors delay vote on lynching marker for Courthouse lawn

Published 11:15 am Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A vote to approve a monument to memorialize African American victims of lynching in Lafayette County was delayed on Monday.

During their regular meeting, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors did not hold a vote on the marker, which is the final step in getting it placed on the grounds of the Lafayette County Courthouse.

District 3 Supervisor David Rikard said he had an issue with one of the names of the victims listed on the marker, Lawson Patton, and was not comfortable approving the language for the marker as it currently reads. Rikard stated he did not want to “immortalize” a man who was caught “red-handed doing an extremely violent act.”

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Patton, according to news articles dating back to 1908, was lynched by a mob led by then-Mississippi U.S. Senator W.V. Sullivan. The mob pulled Patton out of the Oxford jail. Patton was charged with murdering a white woman identified as a “Mrs. Patton.”

“I don’t want to memorialize anybody doing a horrific act,” Rikard said. “If we remove that one name, then I’ll be okay with it.”

Rikard went on to say he was in favor of the marker, and wanted to move forward with the process of getting the marker placed on the Courthouse lawn.

The Lynching Memorialization in Lafayette County Committee, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative, has worked since last year with the Supervisors to get a marker placed. In September of last year, the Supervisors voted to move forward with process and send the language of the marker to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

During last year’s discussion, District 2 Supervisor Chad McLarty had an issue with some of the initial language on the marker, but he and the committee worked to resolve those issues.

The MDAH approved the current language and issued a permit for the marker, leaving only the Board of Supervisors’ final approval before the marker can be placed.

“This issue gets to the complicated history of lynching,” said April Grayson, a member of the committee, to the Board. “The entirety of the case, the facts of the case weren’t actually presented or presented truthfully. It’s a complicated history and the marker is not memorializing (Patton’s) actions, but it is speaking to a larger issue of the fact that no one was given their right of due process of law.”

Rikard is scheduled to meet with members of the committee next week in anticipation of getting the marker on the Board’s Dec. 21 meeting for final approval.

The Board also approved a monument, honoring law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty, to be placed on the Courthouse grounds. A moratorium on monuments being installed on the Courthouse grounds was also approved by the Board, excluding the lynching marker which has already been approved.