Matt McWilliams


On January 6, 1947 Matt McWilliams, 68 years old of Dekalb, MS was shot and killed by Kemper County Sheriff Arnold Harbour after he resisted an effort to seize his property. On the day in question, Sheriff Harbor went to McWilliams’s home to serve him with a warrant for trespassing. Newspaper accounts are to the effect that as the sheriff sought to arrest McWilliams, he turned to go back into his house. McWilliams is alleged to have stopped to take the sheriff’s pistol from him, whereupon Sheriff Harbor shot and killed him.

Legal Status

The case was set for preliminary proceedings in the county court. Two witnesses, Jesse Wilkerson and L.L. Wilkerson, testified that Matt McWilliams had always been a “bad negro.” Sheriff Arnold Harbor claimed he shot in self-defense. District Attorney Red Brown conducted an investigation, credited the self-defense claim, and released the sheriff.