Voting challenges continue 66 years later

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, August 14, 2021

On Aug. 13, 1955, Lamar “Ditney” Smith, a husband, father, my grandfather, uncle, World War I veteran, African–American farmer and an organizer of black voter registration was shot dead in broad daylight on the lawn of the Lincoln County courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi.

According to an article by David Cortes, Mr. Smith worked to educate his community on the political process, register voters and ensure they were able to cast a ballot. He died registering people to vote.

In the past, African American people were shot and killed for voting, now 66 years later history is repeating itself. I am sure that Mr. Smith knew that he had a right to vote.  The original U. S. Constitution did not define voting rights for citizens until 1870 and only white men were allowed to vote. However, the 15th amendment was ratified to extend voting rights to men of all races. Mr. Smith was born in 1892, (22 years later) and he knew his rights.

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Today, we are at an impasse. There is no way African Americans should allow our rights to vote to be mocked by political adversaries. The right to vote is part of our constitution.  The voting rights act, signed by President Johnson, gave African-American voters the legal means to challenge voting restriction. So why are governors in some states in America breaking the law and have not been arrested?  In 1955 there were witnesses to the shooting of Mr. Smith, however, the whole world are witnesses and we must come forward and point out the law breakers and hold them accountable.

Mr. Smith’s killers were never indicted — the grand jury failed after two attempts. Mr. Smith died with 27 absentee ballots in his possession, and was taking them into the county courthouse when he was murdered on the steps of the courthouse. He did not let the powers that be stop him. The only way that he would be stopped was with a bullet.

Deborah J. Griffin is the granddaughter of Lamar Smith.