Lamar Smith, sixty-three-year-old farmer and World War II veteran, was shot in cold blood on the crowded courthouse lawn in Brookhaven, Mississippi, for urging blacks to vote. In Local People, John Dittmer says that “although the sheriff saw a white man leaving the scene ‘with blood all over him,’ no one admitted to having witnessed the shooting” and “the killer went free.”
Lamar Smith (c. 1892 – August 13, 1955) was a U.S. civil rights figure. Smith was a black farmer, World War I veteran and organizer of black voter registration. He was shot to death in broad daylight at close range on the lawn of the Lincoln County courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi. Some contemporary reports say there were many white witnesses including the local sheriff who saw a white man covered with blood leaving the scene. No witnesses would come forward and the three men who had been arrested went free.
Smith apparently had attended meetings of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), probably the largest civil rights organization in the state. He was also a personal friend of the RCNL’s president, Dr. T.R.M. Howard of Mound Bayou, Mississippi.
Smith’s murder was one of several racially motivated attacks in Mississippi during 1955. The other incidents included the murder of George W. Lee, a civil rights leader in Belzoni (May), the killing of Emmett Till, a black teenager visiting from Chicago (August), and the shooting of Gus Courts (December), a civil rights associate of Lee in Belzoni.
The Smith case was cited in the NAACP’s pamphlet M is for Murder and Mississippi.