Willie Henry Lee

Background

Willie Henry Lee of Goshen Springs Mississippi was murdered at age 24. On February 25, 1965, his body was found near railroad tracks in Rankin, Mississippi. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Arkansas Delta Truth and Justice Center, an autopsy showed that he died from strangulation.

According to the FBI’s information, Willie Henry Lee also went by John Patrick Lee. Other sources indicate that a John Patrick Lee was also killed and found beaten on a county road on the same date. Willie Henry Lee was known to regularly attend Civil Rights meetings in the area where he was killed.

The murder of Willie Henry Lee occurred in the wake of a series of violent acts by whites against blacks. On February 16, 1965 the United States Civil Rights Commission began a five day hearing in Jackson, Mississippi on the obstruction of the right to vote. Then on February 22nd ex-governor Ross Barnett went to Salem, Alabama and warned whites in that they faced, “absolute extinction of all we hold dear unless we are victorious.” In the six days following this speech, Willie Henry Lee was one of four African-Americans murdered in Mississippi.

Legal Status

There does not appear to have been an investigation of the murder of Willie Henry Lee. No one was held responsible for his murder. Willie Henry Lee is included on the FBI’s Cold Case list.