Grapevine Feedback: Richard Vivian

Lifetime member Richard Vivian (1952-1978) wrote a five-plus-page handwritten letter to the Grapevine. The letter begins, “I have just completed reading your story of “Mississippi Burning 52 Years Later. Let me add to that story (excuse the writing I am now 90).”

The following is an edited version of retired SA Richard Vivian’s letter. (Passages that are in quotation marks are word-for-word from SA Vivian’s letter.)

In June 1964, I was assigned to the Columbus Georgia RA when I was instructed by the Atlanta SAC to pick up another Agent, Declan Hughes who was assigned to the Macon, GA RA and proceed to Philadelphia, MS. There we were “to investigate the burning of a negro (that’s the word used then) church.” (Mt. Zion Church in Longdale, MS, a rural community near Philadelphia.)

After arriving in Philadelphia, we rented a motel room, but remained only a night or two because of threats. For the duration of the investigation, we stayed in Meridian, MS and drove back and forth each day. “We interviewed numerous black people, but didn’t get anywhere for about 1-2 weeks. There we were – two white guys trying to get info from blacks in probably the #1 racial prejudiced town in the S.” We slowly gained the trust of potential witnesses and had identified 10-15 of the Klansmen involved in the burning of the church. 

While we were investigating the church burning, the three civil rights workers were reported missing. FBIHQ initiated an investigation of the disappearance, and the church burning case was combined with it. “We naturally assumed that the Klansmen we had identified (as being involved in the church burning) were involved in the disappearance of the three civil rights workers.” That later proved to be true.

“Many Agents were brought from other divisions to work the case. (maybe 20-30 Agents – I don’t recall exactly).” Numerous searches were conducted to locate the civil rights workers, but nothing was found. Eventually, a source divulged where the civil rights workers’ bodies were buried. According to the source, they were “buried in the core of the earthen dam being built on the property of Glenn Burridge.”

A search warrant was obtained and earth digging equipment was brought in to excavate the dam. As the dam was excavated, I was in the “pit,” which had reached a depth of 15-20 feet and nothing was found. Since the bodies didn’t seem to be in this part of the dam, it was decided the equipment would be moved to a different spot.

“I was the only one in the pit, watching for any evidence of the three bodies. At this moment, an audible voice right next to me on my right side spoke plainly, ‘DON’T MOVE – DIG A LITTLE DEEPER.’ Note: I was alone in the pit.”

“I yelled up topside, ‘don’t move – dig a little deeper.’”

“After a couple more feet, the odor of decaying bodies was evident, and a piece of body was seen. We then proceeded to dig all the bodies out by hand.”

“Of course, nowhere in the report will one find out how the bodies were actually found. The Lord wanted this case solved, and the spirit spoke to me in the pit. Had they moved the digging equipment, the case would never have been solved.”

“I hope this adds something to the story and while there may be skeptics, I swear and would do so under oath, that what happened in the pit is true.”


Edited by Greg Stejskal (1975-2006)












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