Biloxi Wade-In protesters honored in Biloxi

Biloxi Wade-In protesters honored in Biloxi

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - They risked their very lives to earn the right to swim on the beach.

Those who participated in the Biloxi Wade-Ins in the 1950s and 1960s were honored in Biloxi Thursday night.

It's frightening to look at archived images now.

It was even more frightening to be there in person.

Among those there was Le'Roy Carney. He was 11 during the 1960 demonstration on the beach when he heard the voice of a law enforcement official.

"He told the crowd, 'I can't get them off, but you can'," he said. "And when he said that, people raised their trunks, open their cars. They came out with everything they could find. Sticks, bats."

He made it out safely with the help of others. But one person, he said, defined why it was called Bloody Sunday.

"He was on the ground as we were running by and he was being kicked in the face."

Clemon Jimmerson was also there in 1960. He was 14 and wasn't fearful.

"I was thinking that the only thing possibly would happen was that we would be arrested," he said. "I didn't know that we would be attacked."

The events of that day haven't left him.

"I live it every day, but it's been a blessing to me because of the sacrifice that me and the entire community made."

Willie Jean McSwain drove a bus full of protestors. But she had to do it under the radar.

"I had to be low profile, because I needed my job," she said. "And I knew I would lose it, if it became that it was known that I was down there."

The second annual memorial tribute included a musical celebration and reading of the 159 people who participated.

The Wade-Ins were led by Dr. Gilbert Mason, whose son, Dr. Gilbert Mason, Jr., wants to continue his legacy. The planned Mississippi Civil Rights Museum would be a start.

"This is finally institutionalizing this story at a state level," he said. "So people will be able to go to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and see our story."

Special speaker, former Governor William Winter, agreed.

"It's a very important part of the larger civil rights activity that took place in the 1950s and 60s," he said. "And nowhere I think was there demonstrated more courage."

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