• Cold murder case of 1940s civil rights activist reopened

    By: Jeremy Pierre

    Updated:

    BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. - The cold case murder of a Brownsville, Tenn. NAACP worker from 78 years ago is being reopened by the Haywood County District Attorney.

    No one ever faced a judge or punishment for the murder of Elbert Williams in 1940.

    Jim Emison said since he retired from practicing law in 2011, he’s been working on the case that is very cold and old.

    “It’s a great day, a great day. A good day for justice,” Emison said.

    He’s been working to bring justice to Williams’ family.

    Williams is said to be the first NAACP worker killed while doing civil rights work.

    Emison told FOX13 someone killed Williams and then put his body in the Hatchie River outside of Brownsville on June 20, 1940.

    Officials discovered Williams’ body three days later.

    Emison said according to records, Williams’ wife, Annie Williams, believed someone shot her husband.

    “The body and the evidence of murder if Annie Williams was right, the bullets were buried that Sunday afternoon,” Emison said.

    Emison said the coroner never performed an autopsy on Williams and ordered the body to be buried immediately after it was discovered.


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    “The FBI was in Brownsville the next Tuesday two days late – June the 25th,” Emison said. “They didn’t try to exhume the body and made no effort to determine the cause of death. They collected no physical evidence and their interrogation of witnesses could have been done by a third grader.”

    According to Emison, there is no record of Williams ever being seen alive at the Brownsville Police Station.

    Emison told FOX13 two officers kidnapped Williams from his home and brought him to the station for questioning about NAACP activities.

    “Tip Hunter and Charles Reed. They admitted to the FBI they took him,” Emison said.

    Hunter is listed in official FBI records as the chief suspect in the case, Emison said.

    “That internal investigation concluded the FBI failed to follow its procedure, failed to follow leads that were available,” Emison said.

    Emison said District Attorney Garry Brown’s decision to reopen this cold case is a landmark move.

    “We have a couple of leads that I have developed already that I have turned over to the District Attorney,” Emison said.

    Williams’ body is buried in an unmarked grave in Haywood county, and a great deal of evidence may be buried with him.

    Now that this case is open again, more information will come to light.

    “I think there are probably people in Haywood County that I do not know about who know something about this, and there may be someone who actually participated in it, we don’t know,” Emison said.

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