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Juanita Milam (2nd from the left)
*Juanita Milam was born on this date in 1927. She was a white-American clerk and widow of one of Emmett Till’s killers.
Born Mary Juanita Thompson in Greenville, MS, she was the fifth of six children of Albert and Myrtle Thompson. She married World War II veteran John William Milam on Dec. 10, 1949, her 22nd birthday. They had two sons, Horace William, born in 1951, and Harvey, born two years later. They made their home in Glendora, Miss., where her husband ran a store. It burned down in 1954, and after that, he helped out in other family stores, did trucking, and worked on local plantations.
Her husband was one of the accused in the murder of Emmett Till in 1955. The trial concluded with him being found not guilty. During the proceedings, as the wife of J. W. Milam, and as she watched her husband's trial and sat on the stand as one of his character witnesses, she wanted to be anywhere but a courtroom. Later, Clark Porteous of the Memphis Press-Scimitar said that Juanita appeared "shocked by the proceedings" and described her as a "sad-faced woman." Like Carolyn Bryant, Juanita said next to nothing publicly in the six decades after the trial. Juanita's only known public statements about the Till case following the trial occurred when the FBI came knocking after the federal government reopened the case in 2004.
During the 1955 trial, Carolyn Bryant said Juanita had been in Bryant's apartment behind the store the night Emmett Till came in, where she was babysitting the Bryant and Milam children. When asked about this, Juanita denied being there. "I thought I was in Greenville," she said and insisted that "I would not have been babysittin' for her."
Milam accused Carolyn of fabricating the entire story. "The only way I can figure it is that she did not want to take care of the store. She thought this wild story would make Roy take care of the store instead of leavin' her with the kids and the store. … the only thing to me would upset her would be if she wanted Roy to stay at the store more." That night at the store, however, Carolyn went to a car that she said belonged to Juanita to get a gun. The Bryant’s didn't own a car; the Milam’s did. If Juanita was not there, who was? Juanita Milam died on January 14, 2014.