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Sat, 04.24.2004

A Black Man is Lynched in 21st Century America

On this date in 2004, a Black man was found hanging from a tree in Mississippi.

Roy Veal had returned to the state to fight for his family's land in Woodville, Miss. The State Department of Public Safety discovered the body of 55-year-old Veal in Wilkinson County.   Doris Gordon, Veal’s sister, also a Woodville native now living in San Francisco, said her brother, Roy lived in Washington State.   Thelma Veal, the man's mother, also confirmed the identity.

"They found my brother hanging from a tree with a hood over his head and some papers burned at his feet," Gordon said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press from San Francisco. "It's awful. We don't know who did it." Oliver James, one of the men who led authorities to Veal's body, said there appeared to be a blue-flowered cover over Veal's head. James said one of the investigators said it appeared to be a pillow case; Veal's truck was parked about 50 feet away.

Gordon said her brother had returned to the family home in Wilkinson County "to help with a lawsuit pending against our family." "There are people trying to take part of our land because they apparently think there is oil on the land." At the time, county coroner Travis Sharp had not been contacted, and the Sheriff's Department declined any comment. FBI spokeswoman Deborah Madden said agents were available if needed, but at this point, the investigation was being handled by local authorities. Officials at the chancery clerk's office in Woodville said a lawsuit pending in chancery court names several members of the Thelma Veal family, including Doris Gordon and apparently Roy Veal, as defendants.

Chancery Clerk Thomas Tolliver Jr. said the case involved title to land in the county and damages. Thelma Veal (79) said the lawsuit sought portions of land owned by her late husband and his brothers. She said her son had obtained a property map and was collecting documents to prove the family owned the land. "Now they have found my son hung back there on a tree." She said her husband owned more than 40 acres in the area southwest of Woodville and that it was being sought because it might have oil deposits. There is oil production in that area of the state. "My husband's daddy bought this land in 1926, and I've been here ever since I was 18," she said. "It's our land."



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