Lawrence Rainey, 79; Sheriff Was Tried in ’64 Civil Rights Slayings

From Associated Press

Lawrence Andrew Rainey Sr., the sheriff whose acquittal in the slayings of three civil rights workers was chronicled in the 1988 movie “Mississippi Burning,” has died. He was 79.

His wife, Juanita, said he died Friday of throat cancer.

As Neshoba County sheriff, Rainey was charged with civil rights violations for allegedly conspiring to kill James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in 1964 during Mississippi’s turbulent “Freedom Summer,” when hundreds of volunteers scoured the state to register black voters.

The three disappeared when they went to investigate a fire at a church in Neshoba County. Their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam a few miles from the church. They had been shot and beaten.


Seven Ku Klux Klansmen, including Chief Deputy Cecil Price, were convicted of federal civil rights violations in the deaths and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Rainey was acquitted. The state never brought murder charges, and none of those convicted served more than six years.

Mississippi Atty. Gen. Mike Moore and Neshoba County Dist. Atty. Ken Turner have been trying to build a case against an undisclosed number of suspects, some with ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

Rainey was sheriff from 1963 until 1967.