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Civil rights flashpoint elects black mayor

May 22, 2009 at 9:51 AM   |   Comments

PHILADELPHIA, Miss., May 22 (UPI) -- Philadelphia, Miss., where the Ku Klux Klan killed three civil rights workers in 1964, has elected its first black mayor, polls show.

Results from this week's Democratic primary runoff showed James A. Young defeated incumbent Mayor Rayburn Waddell, 1,021 votes to 975 votes, the Neshoba (Miss.) Democrat reported Friday. Young got 51.15 percent of the vote.

Young, 53, is unopposed in the general election on June 2 because no Republican has filed to run.

Young is a Pentecostal minister, former county commissioner and paramedic who led the county ambulance service for nearly 20 years.

The community of 7,300 is 56 percent white, 40 percent black and 2 percent American-Indian, U.S. Census Bureau demographics indicate.

On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers -- one black and two white -- who were registering voters in Philadelphia were murdered, an event that captured headlines across the country and was depicted in the 1988 film "Mississippi Burning." In a 1967 trial, seven of 18 defendants were convicted of conspiracy. In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen, an 80-year-old former Klansman, was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

"This shows a complete change of attitude and a desire to move forward," Young said.

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