Simeon Wright, Emmett Till Witness and Former Bellwood Resident, Dies at 74

Monday, September 4, 2017 || By Local News Curator || @maywoodnews

Simeon Wright, who witnessed the abduction of his cousin Emmett Till in 1955, died on Sept. 4 from cancer, according to a report by the USA Today Network. He was 74. Wright’s death was confirmed by his friends, the network noted.

Wright was born in Mississippi and started picking cotton at the age of eight, he said during a visit to an Oak Park school last year.

“At the age of 8, we got a seven-foot [cotton sack]. At the age of 11, we got a nine-footer,” said Wright, a retired pipe fitter who moved to Countryside after living in Bellwood for two decades.

Wright described his martyred cousin as a rambunctious city kid who loved to laugh and had a lifetime of ambitions ahead of him before he was tortured and lynched on Aug. 28, 1955 by Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam for allegedly whistling at the former’s wife, 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, in a grocery store.

Till’s body was found several days later in Mississippi’s Tallahatchie River, where it was tied with barbed wire to a metal fan. After his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, insisted that his body be brought back to his hometown of Chicago and displayed in an open casket, the image of the boy’s swollen, mutilated corpse appeared in a Sept. 2, 1955 issue of Jet Magazine. The moment, many historians believe, helped spark the modern Civil Rights movement.

Wright had dedicated his post-retirement to correcting what he said was an erroneous version of events related to Till’s abduction and lynching that was captured in schoolbooks or watched in films, like the now-canonic “Eyes on the Prize” series of documentaries.

“So much stuff out there is not true,” Wright said last year. “You’ve seen ‘Eyes on the Prize?’ My [nephew is] in there talking about what happened at the store? He said my brother and I dared Emmett to go in the store. I said, ‘Get out of here!’ We’d have been just as guilty as the people who killed him if we’d done that. But that’s in history and I’m trying to correct it.” VFP 

2 thoughts on “Simeon Wright, Emmett Till Witness and Former Bellwood Resident, Dies at 74

  1. It was an honor to host him at the Maywood Public Library a couple of years ago. His presentation was both moving and riveting!

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