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Country Blues => Weenie Campbell Main Forum => Topic started by: crawlinkingsnake on February 03, 2013, 05:25:11 PM

Title: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 03, 2013, 05:25:11 PM
As incredible as it is this information came to us earlier today from friends in Mississippi. Almost impossible to comprehend that this is actually 2013. We feel so bad for the family and all those that worked so hard to get the headstone in place and the re-dedicattion of Warm Springs Methodist Cemetery near Crystal Springs.

The headstone of Mississippi Blues legend Tommy Johnson was destroyed last night in an act of racist vandalism near Crystal Springs Mississippi. The headstone was paid for by Bonnie Raitt in 2001 and remained in the Crystal Springs Public Library while a legal battle with the help of the non-profit Mount Zion Memorial Fund to reopen the Warm Springs Methodist cemetery was fought against local landowners and the Copiah County Board of Supervisors. The headstone finally left the Library and was placed on Johnson?s grave in October, 2012. An investigation is pending by the Copiah County Sheriff?s Office who has yet to begin looking into the matter.

Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 03, 2013, 05:31:49 PM
Bummer. We need more info though before we can start sending emails to the local constabulary.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: poymando on February 03, 2013, 05:41:10 PM
Horrible news. Have been following Tyler Moore's progress on his doctoral thesis as well his work in behalf of the effort to mark Johnson's grave. I hope the guilty party/ies are apprehended.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jrn on February 03, 2013, 06:15:14 PM
I'm ashamed to say that kind of stuff happens a lot around here. James Earl Chaney, one of the three civil rights activists murdered here in 1964, is buried just a few miles from my house. His grave has been vandalized many times over the years. There's a picture of him on the gravestone that people will shoot at. The family replaces the picture, then someone does it again. It saddens me in ways I can't even put into words. As long as there are weak minded people in this world, racism will always exist I'm afraid.

Jason
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 03, 2013, 06:27:35 PM
Bummer. We need more info though before we can start sending emails to the local constabulary.

Just got off the phone with Vera (Tommy's niece) in Jackson. She discovered the destruction this morning around 10am. I have a photo..... if I only knew how to submit it.

You can read our article with the photo on pomeroyblues.org
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 03, 2013, 06:44:17 PM
cks, I took the liberty of linking to the photo on your site.

(https://weeniecampbell.com/yabbse/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pomeroyblues.org%2Fblog%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2013%2F02%2FTommy-Johnson-Desecration.jpg&hash=9522c6d4a672bdf230112ff484e4f16749424bde)
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: uncle bud on February 03, 2013, 06:53:19 PM
What a despicable act.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 03, 2013, 06:54:18 PM
Local constabulary link, with email addresses. If you decide to email them I recommend you restrain your natural impulses, keep it very cool and polite, it will have more effect:

http://www.copiahcounty.org/sheriffsoffice.htm (http://www.copiahcounty.org/sheriffsoffice.htm)
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 03, 2013, 07:14:02 PM
Thanks Rivers... appreciate the help
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 03, 2013, 07:20:27 PM
No probs man.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Cleoma on February 03, 2013, 07:58:05 PM
Grrrrrrrrr.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 03, 2013, 08:09:06 PM
Look out, Suzy's growling...  :)
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: frailer24 on February 03, 2013, 10:59:18 PM
Wish I could find the jackass or jackasses responsible. Give 'em a good rant, then turn them in! :-(
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Westside on February 03, 2013, 11:15:59 PM
Stupidity!  What a bunch of wasted energy!  :(
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Stumblin on February 04, 2013, 01:28:47 AM
Shocking, but that's probably exactly what the responsible dumbtards wanted. Who wins? Nobody.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 04, 2013, 07:17:27 AM
What a despicable act.


In an attempt to email Copiah County only messages to Secretary and Chief Investigator seemed to go through. Others show show "failed"
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: harvey on February 04, 2013, 08:01:14 AM
Words fail me, all I can do is pity anoyone who would do such a thing

Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Stuart on February 04, 2013, 08:44:05 AM
Absolutely disgraceful. I can only hope that they catch the person or persons responsible for this and bring them to justice.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: JohnLeePimp on February 04, 2013, 08:46:42 AM
Pretty funny to imagine people getting riled up about the long dead Tommy Johnson's gravestone and actually going through the effort of going there and smashing it... what kind of mindset is that?
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jrn on February 04, 2013, 08:47:47 AM
I would suspect it was juveniles local to the area.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: GhostRider on February 04, 2013, 11:47:22 AM
I'm ashamed to say that kind of stuff happens a lot around here. James Earl Chaney, one of the three civil rights activists murdered here in 1964, is buried just a few miles from my house. His grave has been vandalized many times over the years. There's a picture of him on the gravestone that people will shoot at. The family replaces the picture, then someone does it again. It saddens me in ways I can't even put into words. As long as there are weak minded people in this world, racism will always exist I'm afraid.

Jason

Please tell me your kidding.

Alex
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: misterjones on February 05, 2013, 12:44:31 PM
The headstone of Mississippi Blues legend Tommy Johnson was destroyed last night in an act of racist vandalism near Crystal Springs Mississippi.

I read through the various posts, but I guess I missed it.  What's the evidence of racism?
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: oddenda on February 05, 2013, 04:54:58 PM
If you lived in Mississippi, you'd understand that it is always racist acts.

pbl
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 05, 2013, 07:46:13 PM
If it walks like a duck... etc
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: ozrkreb on February 05, 2013, 08:12:49 PM
I read through the various posts, but I guess I missed it.  What's the evidence of racism?

Excellent point. Odd how sometimes people demand hard evidence and sometimes they're willing to believe without any.

Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 05, 2013, 08:17:56 PM
Probably someone just testing out the new sledgehammer they got from Home Depot. At the end of the day we're all gonna draw our own conclusions, I know where my money is.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Mr.OMuck on February 05, 2013, 08:43:04 PM
I'm gonna go out on a limb here (what else) and suggest that there may have been a religious motive. Sold his soul to the devil and all? That he was given a proper Christian burial might have chuffed some fundamentalist.  Could easily be combined with racism or been done by a fervent Black church goer. Or just as easily been a random act of vandalism to a conspicuous stone. The story about James Chaney's stone is heartbreaking. I went to school with his younger brother Ben.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: bnemerov on February 05, 2013, 08:56:52 PM
I think misterjones makes a point that should be given thoughtful consideration.

One of the principals in the drive to get the headstone placed is a friend and former research associate at MTSU here in Tennessee.

Over the years of legal struggle to get right-of-way to the graveyard, he has told me of the enormous ill will built up with the landowners.

I can imagine them being just as hateful if the headstone was Jimmie Rodgers' (If it was they--or their friends).....the mindset of the conservative who thinks the sanctity of private property is granted by Biblical Covenant.

best,
bruce
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 05, 2013, 09:15:14 PM
Quite possible I agree. Still, I'll go with Occam's Razor on this one. Like I said, everyone is free to draw their own conclusions. Maybe racism is not the whole story here, life being complicated and all, but it's probably part of it. Just my opinion folks.

Whatever the outcome it would be likely impossible to prove me wrong, or right for that matter. If these yahoos ever end up in court what's in their heads isn't going to come out of their mouths, or their lawyer's mouth either.

I just know what I know. And so do a lot of other people. Call it a backlash against decades of mealy-mouthed skirting around the issues. Count me among the majority of people who have had enough of this kind of crap.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: maddoggirl on February 06, 2013, 12:49:35 AM
I think my inclination is to chalk this one up to chance for now. The gravestone is probably fancier than most around it, so any roaming vandals would be perversely drawn to it. I don't think I know anyone who's ever heard of Tommy Johnson in non-Internet life (Robert Johnson, maybe), so I find it hard to believe a group of racist knuckle-draggers would also have cultivated a rather in-depth knowledge of pre-war blues. It's written on the grave, sure, but it's hard to see that that inscription alone would inspire such rage. More likely to be "Something nice, let's trash it!" - the standard thug mentality.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jrn on February 06, 2013, 06:22:52 AM
As I read back through the posts I notice that I'm the first poster that mentions racism. When I heard about Tommy Johnson's grave being vandalized, I immediately thought of James Earl Chaney's grave, and how much it had been vandalized over the years. So at that point my mind was already pondering how hate motivates someone to do such things.

Personally I feel like it was probably nothing more than an act of vandalism by one or more kids that live in that area. A lot of times this seems to be the case. I also seriously doubt race had anything to do with it in this instance.

Jason
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: CF on February 06, 2013, 06:30:32 AM
Lots of white kids destroying white grave plots where I come from. I agree, this is not necessarily a racist act, I'd say bored teenagers are a more likely perpetrator here.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jostber on February 06, 2013, 07:05:59 AM
Bad stuff. Not a way to treat the memory of a legend. Can the headstone be repaired or will a new one be needed?

Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 06, 2013, 07:54:06 AM
General consensus now is that it was probably racial motivated. The cemetery is in a very isolated, over grown area. The guilty party(s) had to know exactly where they were going and what they planned to do.

The gentleman who did the original headstone says he plans to repair or replace it soon as possible. More discussion at pomeroyblues.org

Also Jackson Clarion Ledger released an article on Monday Feb 4th that goes into more detail about what exactly Vera found when she first arrived at the cemetery.

http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130205/NEWS01/302050026/Marker-Mississippi-blues-legend-Tommy-Johnson-vandalized?nclick_check=1 (http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20130205/NEWS01/302050026/Marker-Mississippi-blues-legend-Tommy-Johnson-vandalized?nclick_check=1)
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: misterjones on February 06, 2013, 09:17:50 AM
Lots of white kids destroying white grave plots where I come from. I agree, this is not necessarily a racist act, I'd say bored teenagers are a more likely perpetrator here.

I also would guess that it is not racially motivated. I am accustomed to basing my decisions on evidence rather than historical anger and conjecture.  The article linked to above seems to be light on the former and heavy on the latter.  But having precious little evidence at this point, I cannot say what the motivation(s) of the perpetrator(s) were.

Perhpas it is because (as one person suggested) that I am not from Mississippi, but my first thought was an attempted theft (aborted when the idiots broke the headstone trying to pry it loose).
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: bnemerov on February 06, 2013, 10:18:10 AM

"They tried to take the headstone completely off the grave. It was screwed down, and it was kind of difficult to take off,? she said.
The vandals left tools and a two-by-four there, but only after smashing parts of the headstone when they couldn?t pull it up."

      from the Clarion-Ledger account.

.....hmmm. Some planning here. And knowledge of just where the grave site was.

Doesn't sound like teenage mischief to me....too much work.

Either someone from the neighborhood wanted the headstone to go away (keep the cultural tourism travelers out of the area...fear of busloads of Japanese blues fans pulling up?) or a twisted fan ("Hey man, I've got Tommy Johnson's headstone in my den! How cool is that?") had a psychological breakdown.

Pure speculation until someone's ID'd (fingerprints on the tools?) and confesses a motive.
Call in "CSI--Crystal Springs"

best to all gumshoes,
bruce
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: unezrider on February 06, 2013, 03:46:52 PM
how pathetic & disgusting. the damaging of other people's property is one of my biggest pet peeves. & regardless that it happens to be a "famous" (among us, anyway) bluesman's gravestone. it could be anyone's gravestone this happened to. it's just stupid, pointless, & void of respect.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: bob long on February 06, 2013, 04:44:53 PM
I've sent an email to Milton Twiner, Chief Investigator of Copiah County Police, telling him I live in The UK but I was at the opening ceremony last October and that this is a matter of international interest and importance and that the eyes of the world are watching now and the culprit must be identified and shamed. I also wished him success. The more messages he gets the better!
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on February 06, 2013, 05:40:27 PM
Good on you Bob!  8)
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 08, 2013, 05:04:22 AM
I've sent an email to Milton Twiner, Chief Investigator of Copiah County Police, telling him I live in The UK but I was at the opening ceremony last October and that this is a matter of international interest and importance and that the eyes of the world are watching now and the culprit must be identified and shamed. I also wished him success. The more messages he gets the better!

Thanks Bob. Other emails have also been sent with hopes more. During the '68 Democratic Convention in Chicago when police beat protesters with billy clubs the crowd chanted "the whole world's watching" Crystal Springs needs to hear that same message.
once again the link is:

http://www.copiahcounty.org/sheriffsoffice.htm (http://www.copiahcounty.org/sheriffsoffice.htm)

also letters to the editor at Jackson Clarion Ledger can be sent to:

letters@jackson.gannett.com
or
Letters to the Editor
The Clarion-Ledger
PO Box 40
Jackson, MS  39205-0040
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: 78erhortig on February 11, 2013, 09:46:09 PM
I remember back in 1981, while staying in Leland with Son Thomas, we drove back home after visiting friends, when we got into a police blockade after a drug-store robbery. we had been forced
to the Sherrif`s office, cause a young white with a black in a car, what`s more suspect......

regards
mike
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on February 17, 2013, 10:32:05 AM
Tuesday Feb 12th the Clarion Ledger printed a letter to the editor concerning this matter. However it was edited to the point it no longed carried the theme of "the world is watching". Had it been edited for the purpose of saving space, one could understand. But some actual wording was changed. Such as "desecrated" became "disheartening", "destroyed" was now "damaged" along with entire sentences or paragraphs deleted.

All are encouraged to stay on top this issue and continue sending a message to those that need to hear.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: wreid75 on February 17, 2013, 12:48:58 PM
See this is when the devil myth should be real.  Who ever did this would be paying for it had Tommy really sold his soul to the devil >:D  Now if Tommy was to possess this douche bag would he hiss like a snake :) like Tommy is said to do when he sang?
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on March 10, 2013, 07:00:14 PM
Spoke with Vera this evening. She said the man who made the headstone has gathered the pieces to see about repair. Also a donor in Greenville has offered to help replace it if necessary.
Tommy Johnson's 1928 recording "Canned Heat Blues" is part of this years Blues Hall of Fame class.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: frailer24 on March 10, 2013, 10:08:43 PM
I don't generally quote many things, but this calls for a chorus of "Happy Happy Joy Joy!"
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: crawlinkingsnake on October 28, 2013, 05:41:52 PM
the Tommy Johnson Blues Festival is this weekend (Nov 1 & 2) in Jackson. Tommy's niece Vera, has said they hope to have the headstone repaired and replaced by then.

If anybody has any more news of this please let us know.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: mtzionmemorialfund on May 08, 2017, 05:12:49 AM
As I read back through the posts I notice that I'm the first poster that mentions racism. When I heard about Tommy Johnson's grave being vandalized, I immediately thought of James Earl Chaney's grave, and how much it had been vandalized over the years. So at that point my mind was already pondering how hate motivates someone to do such things.

Personally I feel like it was probably nothing more than an act of vandalism by one or more kids that live in that area. A lot of times this seems to be the case. I also seriously doubt race had anything to do with it in this instance.

Jason

This incident was not due to the continuance of Klan mischief.  Julius Harper, the former Copiah County sheriff and #2 man in the Mississippi White Knights of the KKK, was able to avoid prosecution and live out his days until he passed in the 1980s.  While his descendants remain in the area and some folks from time to time enjoy spray-painting racial slurs and the letters "KKK" on campaign signs in the rural part of the county, this ordeal coming to an end was welcomed by everyone who I had to sue or antagonize to finally get a permanent easement to the site.  The clear route to a conclusion, moreover, was always open and available; no one ever went after the absentee landlord, who owned the land and lived in Texas.  Rather than force him to give up the easement for ten years, everyone decided to point fingers at the county board of supervisors in the press and at public meetings, because the attorney general had told them not take the land by eminent domain.  While the county board surely disliked all involved by the time I arrived on the scene, they were most helpful in pointing me in the right direction to end the whole ordeal. 

And you would also be correct in regards to the broken marker designed by Alan Orlicek.  The grave marker broke because it was not installed according to the specifications of the person who designed it.  The TJ foundation decided to hire someone local who clearly had a backwards conception of headstone installation.  The six foot tall, 500 lb. marker was simply supposed to be buried about 2 to 2 1/2 feet in the bare, soft earth of the cemetery floor.  Had we been allowed to do that then no one would have poured a concrete slab in the middle of the forest, which, in fact, was the only thing that could have ever broken the huge monument.  Then for some reason they thought it was good idea to stand it six feet upright with only two small pieces of rebar--each about 6 to 8 inches long--straining to hold up the 500 lb. monster of a headstone.  If it was vandalized, then it was the person hired to install the monument who is responsible. 

In February 2013, according to a sheriff?s report, the headstone ?fell over by wind or accident and broke? off the top portion. The report also noted that ?there were no marks?to indicate that it was hit with a hammer or any type blunt instrument.? The deputy's report ?didn?t find anything to indicate foul play,? and most everyone who examined the marker realized that it ?was improperly mounted on slab pins too small and too short." The marker was poorly attached to a concrete slab with two small pieces of rebar, which all but assured its broken fate. 

The police report was subsequently confirmed upon independent examination. Based on his observations made on-site, engraver and stone designer Alan Orlicek also agreed with the police report, stating that there was "no evidence that a hammer was used to destroy the marker." In his opinion, the "placement of the stone...was 95% of the problem, if not more." To top it off, the slab wasn't even near the grave of Tommy Johnson.  The slab sits underneath a large white oak tree.  Mager Johnson told David Evans very clearly that his brother's grave was at the foot of a cedar.  There are only two in the overwhelmingly pine forest.  Both are at the center of the cemetery.

For the full story, in case anyone wants to know what actually happened, can be read right here: www.mtzionmemorialfund.org/p/tommy-johnson.html (http://www.mtzionmemorialfund.org/p/tommy-johnson.html)

Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jpeters609 on May 08, 2017, 06:39:07 AM
The grave marker broke because it was installed according to the specifications of the person who designed it.

Just to clarify, I believe you meant to write, "The grave marker broke because it was NOT installed according to the specifications of the person who designed it."
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: jed on May 08, 2017, 07:00:37 PM
Thanks to T DeWayne for the comprehensive clarification.  Looks like May isn't working out for me, but hoping to return while weather and foliage are still welcoming.
Title: Re: Tommy Johnson headstone desecrated
Post by: Rivers on May 13, 2017, 07:00:50 PM
I will modify the old saying to "if it walks like a duck it might just be an engineering problem" in future. Fake news, before it became famous.
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