On February 28, 1964, 37-year-old Clifton Walker worked a late shift at International Paper in Natchez and was on his way home to his wife and five kids in southwest Mississippi when he decided to take the shortcut that others had cautioned him against. It was dark and near midnight.
According to a PBS story, Walker was discovered dead the following afternoon on Poor House Road south of Woodville, Mississippi, with his upper torso thrown across the passenger seat and his feet on the floorboard underneath the wheel.
Walker’s keys were hanging from the open glove box door of the car, which was still in high gear and displayed a chrome-plated Smith & Wesson.38. He had been shot numerous times in the head from close range with a shotgun. According to findings from Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) investigators in 1964 that are cited in a DOJ file on the case, the automobile windows had been blasted out, and Walker’s vehicle had sustained significant shotgun blast damage,” PBS stated.
Cops believed the assault took place late on February 28 or early on February 29. Years after the murder, Catherine Walker, the victim’s daughter, told reporter Ben Greenberg, “I vividly remember running under the tape, gazing at the automobile.” “Every single window was shot out. Blood was all over the carpet.
After reporting Walker’s body to the police, a local white guy named Prentiss Mathis became one of numerous suspects in the case. In addition to being a known racist, Mathis had passed Walker’s damaged automobile several hours before the police were notified, according to the police.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol stated in a report that it was “impossible for this man, or anybody else, to pass by a car in this condition, with all the windows blown out and a large hole in the side of the door, without stopping to investigate what was wrong.”
Also suspected were the relatives of a white woman who claimed Walker had proposed to her. One of them served as a founder member of the newly formed Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Two additional males were described as suspects by November 1964. The first was a well-known Klansman, while the second was a county constable. The district attorney, who allegedly attended Klan meetings himself, insisted that he had “insufficient evidence” to charge the suspects.
About two weeks prior to Walker’s murder, 200 members of the Ku Klux Klan met in Brookhaven, a hamlet in southwest Mississippi, and made the announcement that the White Knights of the KKK would become a statewide organization. In response to the burgeoning civil rights movement at the time, they participated in cross burnings and decided to eliminate Blacks.
The Mississippi Highway Patrol declared that its inquiry was “at a standstill” in December 1964. Additionally that year, an FBI inquiry that had been opened was closed. Regarding Walker’s murder, no one was detained.
According to PBS, the FBI began investigating Walker’s case in 2009 and discovered that all those mentioned in 1964 who “may have had any motivation to hurt Walker” were now deceased.
According to a 2013 Justice Department report obtained by the site, “it became evident that ongoing investigation would not lead to a plausible prosecution of a living suspect.” In 2013, the Department of Justice once more declared the case to be closed due to a lack of witnesses and known surviving suspects.
Walker, the ninth child, was born in Woodville, Mississippi, in 1927. He went by the moniker “Man” and was the youngest. Five children—Catherine, Shirley, Rubystein, Clifton Jr., and Brenda—were born to him and his wife after their 1945 wedding. Walker served in the US Army during the Korean War. He was African-American.