55 years later, the healing can begin - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

55 years later, the healing can begin

Posted by Morgan Chesky - bio | email

By Layron Livingston - bio | email

RUSK COUNTY, TEXAS (KLTV) - On October 22, 1955 John Earl Reese was shot and killed by two white men.  His cousin, Joyce Crockett, was 13 years old at the time and was with her cousin inside a Gregg County cafe when the bullets started flying.  One bullet hit her in the arm.  She said when she looked around, she saw her cousin, John, on the floor.

On October 23rd, she stood outside Smith Chapel Baptist Church, admiring a newly placed Civil Rights Marker, honoring her cousin. 

"I feel like something's been done about it," she said.

Smith Chapel Church stands just a few yards away from where Mayflower School once stood.  John Reese attended that school.  He'd walk down Rusk County Road 2174 to get there.

Today, that road was renamed in Reese's honor.  Family, friends, former classmates, and community officials applauded as the sign was unveiled.

"I can come here and look at [the marker], and look at the road sign, and just get some relief," said Crockett.

"It's a moving event where you can see that there has been healing and forgiveness," said Phil Cory, mayor of the city of Tatum.  "If we forget our history, then I don't think we've learned very much."

"[We're] reclaiming this history, re-owning this history, and passing it down, honestly, to our children," said Margaret Burnham.

Burnham is a law professor and director of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.  Researchers spent the past two years in Tatum, reviving and reliving Reese's case.

Burnham said reconciliation has always been the overall goal.

It's a constant process of reflecting, and learning and understanding," she said.

Reese's name will also be added to the Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, Alabama.

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