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Exhibition Drawing Justice: The Art of Courtroom Illustration

Pat Lopez. Vernon Dahmer Trial—Sam Bowers Trial—Family Sits in Old 'Colored' Section in Hattiesburg Courthouse, 1998. Colored pencil and graphite on lavender paper. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (060.00.00)
LC-DIG-ppmsca-51120 © Pat Lopez
Gift and purchase, Pat Lopez

Vernon Dahmer's Family at Klan Wizard's Trial

On January 10, 1966, Ku Klux Klan members firebombed the house and country store of local NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer, sending his family members fleeing into the night. While defending his home, Dahmer succumbed to smoke inhalation just hours after the attack. Dahmer had been urging African Americans to register to vote and had offered to help pay their poll tax. Although local Klan Wizard Sam Bowers had won acquittal in several trials, the family asked Lindsay Carter, District Attorney of Forrest County, Mississippi, and his assistant Bob Helfrich to reopen the case. On August 17, 1998, Bowers faced trial for the fifth time and was sentenced to life in prison. Here, Dahmer's widow, Ellie Dahmer, and some of his children and grandchildren sit in the "old colored section" of the Hattiesburg Court House.