TCU Hosts Last Witness to Emmett Till Kidnapping

Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., shares his memories of that fateful night and its importance to the civil rights movement

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TCU will host a conversation with the last living witness to the kidnapping of Emmett Till, whose murder in 1955 became a turning point in the civil rights movement.

The event will take place on Wednesday in Fort Worth.

Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., was Till's cousin. He was two years older than Till, and he was with the 14-year-old at their relatives' home in Mississippi the night Till was kidnapped and brutally murdered for whistling at a white woman.

His killers were acquitted, and the death of the teenager became one of most infamous acts of racial violence in the country's history.

Frederick Gooding, PhD, is an associate professor in TCU's Honor College with special emphasis on African American studies. He also chairs the university's Race and Reconciliation initiative.

He hopes hearing Parker's eyewitness account will open conversation and inspire the community to work towards a better future.

"This gentleman, Wheeler Parker, Jr, has embodied the spirit of reconciliation because he's had to live with the difficulty of processing anger, processing despair and still finding enough power in the positivity and the art of the possible to move forward," Gooding said. "Unless I forget the small detail that Wheeler Parker, Jr., was also in the same bed as Emmett Tilll that fateful night in 1955 when he was kidnapped upon gunpoint with the flashlight in the middle of the night. Wheeler was there but wheeler is also here. Walking the walk of reconciliation. And I think it's a powerful opportunity for us to connect with living history."

The virtual event with Rev. Parker is Wednesday at 6 p.m. and will be livestreamed on the TCU Facebook page. Everyone is invited to watch.

Senior ESPN writer Wright Thompson will moderate the conversation.

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