Dahmers donate parts of truck to civil rights museum

June 11, 2012 in News, Statewide News, Top Stories

HATTIESBURG – (AP) The family of slain voting rights leader Vernon Dahmer is donating a bullet-riddled truck to the Mississippi civil rights museum.

Dahmer’s widow, Ellie Dahmer, told the Hattiesburg American that family members used the truck to flee a firebombing of their home by the Ku Klux Klan in 1966. Dahmer died from injuries suffered in that firebombing. He led voter registration drives for blacks from a store near his home.

In 1998, a Forrest County jury convicted one-time KKK Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers of ordering Dahmer’s killing. Bowers was sentenced to life in prison, where he died in 2006.

Ellie Dahmer says the 1958 Ford F100 pickup truck was sitting under an open carport on the morning of Jan. 10, 1966, when the firebombing occurred engulfing their home and the family’s car.

Vernon Dahmer

Vernon Dahmer’s brother, Harold, moved the truck and got family members out. Ellie Dahmer said Klansmen shot at the truck.

Bullet holes are visible in the side panel of what remains of the truck. The steering wheel and dashboard also remain.

Cindy Gardner, director of collections at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said the family will loan the pieces for an exhibition in the Civil Rights Museum, set to open in 2017.

“In order to tell the civil rights movement history of Mississippi, we have to tell the story of Vernon Dahmer and what happened to him and his family,” Gardner said.

“We came down and saw the bullet holes and this is what the family had driven away in. It was the perfect piece to be able to tell their story.”

Ellie Dahmer said it is important to not only teach future generations about Mississippi’s past but to encourage them to be agents of change.

“I guess I should be happy, but I’m sorry this happened to us. Since it did happen, I would like for everybody to know about it,” she said. “Mississippi was a bad place then. Hopefully they can help make it a better place.”