Herbert Lee (1912 – 1961) Herbert Lee, born on this day in 1912, was an American civil rights activist who fought for voting rights in Mississippi, where black people had been disenfranchised since 1890. In 1961, Lee was assassinated by a state representative. Lee was a charter member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Amite County and had sought to enfranchise black Americans by encouraging voter registration.
In 1961, Lee assisted Bob Moses, a field secretary with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), in his efforts to persuade locals to register. His activities were met with threats of reprisal by the white community, and Lee became one of the movement’s earliest victims to white violence. On September 25th, 1961, Lee was murdered by Mississippi state representative E. H. Hurst (1908 – 1990) in broad daylight at the cotton gin while delivering cotton near Liberty.
Hurst killed Lee with a single shot to the head, but later claimed in court that he was defending himself after Lee attacked him with a tire iron. An all-white jury ruled that the killing was a justifiable homicide. In 1964, civil rights activist Louis Allen was killed after he informed federal investigators that his testimony in the case had been coerced on threat of violence.