11 of 19
In his famous speech, Dr. King proclaimed: "I have a dream that one day, even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."

When he said those powerful words, Mississippi wasn't the only state sweltering with the heat of hatred and violence. In 1964, Jacksonville, Florida, was in the throes of deadly race riots. In the midst of the turmoil, police say four young white men set out looking for trouble—they armed themselves and decided to kill a black person.

Across town, Johnnie Mae Chappell, a 35-year-old housekeeper and mother of 10, was walking home from work. "They just slowed down and shot Mrs. Chappell to death with a single shot from a .22-caliber revolver," says C. Lee Cody Jr., a former detective sergeant. "It was probably a good 10 miles to the nearest facility that would accept her. She couldn't go to a white hospital. And she bled to death. That was her cause of death."

Johnnie Mae Chappell's children honor her memory. Watch

The only photo that still exists of Johnnie Mae Chappell was shot at the morgue. Her grieving husband, Willie, stands over her just hours after she died. "I remember that night," says Johnnie Mae's son, Willie Jr. "Our lives stopped. Our world shut down. It was like everything just froze in time."
FROM: The Dream Lives: A Martin Luther King Day Special
Published on March 14, 2008


Next Story