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Subject: Mamie Mobley, 81, son was murdered 1955

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Date Posted: January 08, 2003 4:03:39 EDT

Nearly 50 years after the death of her son, Emmett Till, who was murdered and thrown into a river in Mississippi, Mamie Till Mobley died January 6, still clinging to the hope for justice. She was 81.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, speaking tonight at a news conference on behalf of the family inside her home, said Mrs. Mobley had been having dialysis about three times a week for some time and that she suffered cardiac arrest today. Family members said she was rushed to Jackson Park Hospital, where she died about 2:30 p.m.

After the killing of her 14-year-old son in 1955 in Money, Miss., Mrs. Mobley allowed his mutilated body to be displayed in an open coffin during his funeral service, where mourners recoiled at the sight of Emmett's wounds.

His death came to symbolize the brutality in the racist South and became a symbol of the civil rights movement. Emmett was killed for supposedly whistling at a white woman, an act that in the Jim Crow South could mean a lynching for a black man.

Mrs. Mobley became an outspoken champion for children in poor neighborhoods and spent more than half her life keeping alive the memory of Emmett and the hope of bringing his killers to justice. At the time of her death, she was writing a book, "Death of Innocence," which is to be published this fall by Random House.

No one was ever convicted in her only son's death, a fact that drove Mrs. Mobley to speak out about racial injustice for more than four decades.

"It was very difficult; that's what kept her living all 81 years," said Airickca Gordon, 33, a surrogate granddaughter, who was reared by Mrs. Mobley.

"Her ultimate goal was to bring justice for what happened to her son. She was constantly speaking on it, trying to get the story out," Ms. Gordon said. "She was yet doing activist work. She never stopped. That's what kept her going."

Ms. Gordon said she would most remember Mrs. Mobley for her spirit.

"Her will and her spirit," she said, calling her "a strong-willed woman."

In addition to writing the current book, with Chris Benson, a Chicago lawyer and author, on her son's case, Mrs. Mobley is also featured in a new documentary, "The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till," by Keith Beauchamp.

Mr. Jackson praised Mrs. Mobley as a woman of strength who did not harbor hate and who used her son's death to transform the lives of others.

"She was still consoling and still teaching," Mr. Jackson said.

"What must be put into perspective is that we often say the modern Civil Rights movement began with Rosa Parks in Montgomery. That's really not accurate," Mr. Jackson said. He said Emmett's murder "broke the emotional chains of Jim Crow."

"Mrs. Mobley did a profound strategic thing," Mr. Jackson added. "With his body water-soaked and defaced, most people would have kept the casket covered. She let the body be exposed. More than 100,000 people saw his body lying in that casket here in Chicago. That must have been at that time the largest single civil rights demonstration in American history."

After Emmett's death, Mrs. Mobley recently told The Times, "at first, I just wanted to go in a hole and hide my face from the world."

But she said she soon began to talk about her son's death and to sound the call for justice.

"It gives me a chance to get out what is clogged up inside, because if I don't talk, it stays in and worries me," she said. "If I can let it go, even though I cry sometimes, I have some relief."

She believed that her son's dying ultimately was not in vain. And despite what was done to him, Mrs. Mobley said, "I have not spent one minute hating."

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