January 7, 1861: Tennessee Governor Cites Slave Owner Rights as Reason for Secession
In his pre Civil War speech, Tennessee Governor Isham G. Harris cites the rights of slave owners as justifiable cause for the State of Tennessee to secede from the Union. In his speech, Harris uses the words "slave" and "slavery" a total of 56 times, refuting the popular but false Southern claim that the Civil War was NOT about slavery.
1865: Fayette County Planter Edmund Taylor Loses Slaves
Wealthy landowner and leader of Fayette County Edmund Taylor was forced to give up his slaves after the Civil War was won by the Union Army. Today, Fayette County Mayor Rhea "Skip" Taylor still holds firm to the farming roots set down by his forefather Edmund.
1952: "USA Confidential" is Published
Book accuses Memphis of being a hotbed of "Black Hand" activity controlled by the New Orleans Mafia under Peter and Carlos Marcello. Book is sternly denounced by Memphis Mayors Boss Crump and Overton as well as Italian-American businessman John F Lucchesi. One of the book's authors is eventually assaulted by Frank Sinatra for writing critical info about the crooner.
May 2 - 6, 1961: FBI Investigates Fayette County Election Commission
FBI Special Agents Gaffney and Busch investigate Fayette County Election Commission members J.R. Morton, Whitson Winfrey, and H.C. Sims with regard to their possible involvement in the black voter registration stonewall and land eviction case. All white defendants in the case are named in the report.
JuLY 20, 1963: HOOKS, Lawson, SUGARMON, WILLIS Shot At in Fayette County
As civil rights leaders Benjamin Hooks, James Lawson, Russell Sugarmon, and AW Willis drive together from the Fayette County courthouse toward Shelby County, they are shot at by an unknown sniper from a convoy of pursuing cars. Fayette County Sheriff CE Pattat Jr. promised the men a protective escort out of town, but fell back just before the mob attacked.
1965: Somerville Civil Rights Leader Allen Yancey Jr. Becomes FBI Confidential Informant
In 1965, Somerville resident, school teacher, and eventual local NAACP president Allen Yancey Jr. began secretly spying on his fellow Fayette County civil rights activists on behalf of the FBI. As paid confidential informant "ME 339 - R", Yancey regularly provided his handlers at the Memphis FBI field office with intelligence pertaining to the activities of his black friends and neighbors.
1965: McFerren VS. Fayette County Board of Education
John and Viola McFerren file suit against the Fayette County public school system on behalf of their son, John McFerren Jr. During the multi-year battle, several high-powered men from the opposition become involved, including wealthy landowner and county official Rhea V. Taylor Sr. Today, Rhea "Skip" Taylor continues his family's legacy of political control as the Fayette County Mayor.
April 3, 1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Makes His Mountaintop Speech
On a stormy night, at the Mason Temple in Memphis, MLK makes his last, and perhaps most famous speech less than 24 hours before his assassination the next day.
April 4, 1968, 5:15 PM: John McFerren Overhears Frank C. Liberto
Around 5:15PM on April 4th, while shopping at the 814 Scott St. produce warehouse in Memphis, McFerren overhears organized crime figure Frank C. Liberto order someone on the telephone to "Shoot the son-of-a-bitch on the balcony!". During a second phone call just a few minutes later, McFerren again overhears Liberto tell the same caller to "Go down to New Orleans and get your $5000.00 from my brother!"
April 6, 1968: John McFerren Examines Commercial Appeal Article
On April 6, 1968, the Memphis Commercial Appeal publishes an article describing the suspected gunman along with a sketch. Both John and his wife Viola McFerren examine the article. Afterward, John McFerren believes the description resembles a man he saw working at Frank C. Liberto's warehouse several times from mid to late 1967.
April 8, 1968: John McFerren meets with the MPD and FBI
In the dark morning hours of Monday, April 8, 1968, John McFerren is picked up in Somerville by friend Baxton Bryant and secretly driven to room 561 of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to meet with attorney David Caywood, MPD Director Frank Holloman, MPD Homicide Chief N.E. Zachary, and FBI Special Agent Orville Vernon Johnson.
April 18, 1968, Shortly After 7:00 AM: John McFerren is Confronted by Robert Powers
Former Fayette County resident, Tennessee escaped convict, and current New Orleans truck stop owner Robert Powers makes an unexpected trip north from his Powers Junction business to Somerville just to say "hi" to the McFerrens. John McFerren is asked several strange questions about his plans for the day by Powers, and feels threatened by the odd encounter.
April 18, 1968, Afternoon: John McFerren Meets With William Sartor
After the unnerving encounter with Powers, John McFerren reaches out to Baxton Bryant who then calls TIME Magazine journalist William "Bill" Sartor. Sartor meets with McFerren in Somerville to investigate the Liberto, Powers, and New Orleans connections. While Sartor is at McFerren's gas station, two FBI agents also arrive to interview McFerren.
April 18, 1968, Afternoon: John McFerren Again Meets with the FBI
FBI Special Agents Robert Fitzpatrick and Andrew Sloan interrupt McFerren's meeting with Bill Sartor. As Sartor watches from a distance, Fitzpatrick and Sloan conduct a follow-up interview by questioning McFerren about Frank C. Liberto.
August 12, 1969: Julian and Gerald Pulliam Beat the Hobson Women
Store owner Julian Pulliam and his son Gerald drive to the home of the Hobsons and brutally beat three of the family's women in their own frontyard.
(The oral narratives below are taken from the book "Our Portion of Hell" written by Robert Hamburger)