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On this day in 2003

Feb. 28, 2003

Ernest Avants in his 1967 arrest photograph Credit: House Un-American Activities Committee/LSU Cold Case Project

A U.S. District Court jury in Jackson, Mississippi, convicted Ernest Avants of murder — the first federal murder charges connected to the pursuit of unpunished killings from the civil rights era. 

Avants received a life sentence for joining other Klansmen in killing an African-American handyman, Ben Chester White, near Natchez, Mississippi. The Klansmen had hoped to lure Martin Luther King Jr., who was taking part in a march in Mississippi, to the area by killing White. The plot failed. 

White is among the 40 martyrs listed on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama.

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