Tuesday, April 28, 2009
April 6, 1938–September 11, 1999
Alton "Wayne" Roberts was the triggerman who killed Civil Rights workers Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney on Rock Cut Road on the night of June 21, 1964. He was identified at trial as the killer by fellow Klansman James Jordan, Roberts was convicted, and sentenced to only ten years in prison for killing three people by Federal Judge William Harold Cox. Roberts served only six years of his ten year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas.
Roberts was a rough and rowdy twenty-six-year-old ex-marine in 1964. He was dishonorably discharged from the marines for fighting, drunkenness, and being absent without leave. He was, by many accounts, "as mean as a junkyard dog." When he returned to Meridian he worked as a car salesman for awhile before opening up a nightclub dancehall called "The Other Place" which he operated in Meridian for several years until his death in 1999.
Roberts began loudly calling for Schwerner's execution soon after joining the Lauderdale County Klan. Roberts was among the Klan members who participated in the beating of blacks at the Mount Zion Church on June 16. He seemed especially proud of his brutal deed, raising his bloody fist in the air as proof of his work.
Even after his arrest as one of nineteen conspirators in December, 1964, Roberts was a man to avoid. After a hearing in 1965, Roberts raced across a courthouse yard to kick a CBS camerman in the groin, then slug him in the head.
by: Douglas O. Linder, Professor
University of Missouri at Kansas City - School of Law