Agent Coley would have been arriving in an unfamiliar place. Most likely he came up from Mobile, say current law-enforcement investigators, who added that what he did when he arrived in the county seat of Hayneville was typical of a law man then and now.
He stopped by the sheriff’s office to ask for directions.
That the sheriff offered up one of his deputies as an escort that day shouldn’t have been unusual either. Coley would not have known how to get to the property of the landlord, George McCurdy, and surely wouldn’t have known how to find a sharecropper’s shack penned up against the pine forest on the farm’s far side.
That he took a deputy named Joe Jackson along, however, is significant, say law-enforcement agents and family members more than half a century later.
Joe Jackson was well-known during the civil rights movement. But it was his brother, Lux, also a deputy, who could be defined as notorious.
Older people around Lowndes County variously described him as mad and deranged, as a hopeless alcoholic, as well as harmless.
Ted Bozeman, a longtime lawyer and retired judge from Hayneville, remembers a cluster of men around the courthouse in the late ’60s and early ’70s, some of them lawmen, some of them hangers-on. They played dominoes, smoked cigarettes, talked about the matters of the day.
But he said they were all, Lux Jackson included, known more for what they didn’t do: work hard.
“They mostly just sat around,” said Bozeman. “I can’t say they did much at all. They mostly just sat around.”
Drewry Aaron, on the other hand, remembers Lux Jackson working up a sweat once. It was about 1954, when Aaron, who is black, was out working for his father, driving a truck. As he approached a stop sign outside Hayneville, he was stopped by Jackson, who claimed he was speeding.
“I couldn’t have been speeding,” said Aaron, 74. “I was approaching a stop sign. But he said I was. When I argued with him, he attacked me with a club, beat me over the head. When he got through beating me, he took me to jail. ... I was humiliated and I was hurt and sad. Back in that time, black folks didn’t have the right to vote or anything.
“He had a terrible reputation,” Aaron continued. “The man was vicious, cruel, mean, especially to black folks. He was a terrible man.”
Son Hollingshead, a Hayneville resident, played dominoes or, as some would might say, sat around, with Lux Jackson a lot.
But Hollingshead remembers him as harmless, saying he never saw him engaged in violence. He did, however, acknowledge Jackson was prone to drink.
It was Hollingshead who accidentally backed his car over Jackson in a convenience store parking lot off the town square in the early 1980s.
“He was a good fellow,” said Hollingshead, “but he later became a drunk, and he passed out in the parking lot of my store across from the courthouse back in the ’80s and I ran over him. He was already dead, but I ran over him.”
Attempts to locate survivors of Lux Jackson in Lowndes County were unsuccessful.
One former law-enforcement official who grew up in Lowndes County, says he remembered having a brush with Jackson when he was a teen. The man was riding, he said, with a couple of white friends in the early 1970s, when Jackson, standing in the road, waved them down.
Jackson, the official said, started making demands that they get out of the car and asking why the whites were riding with blacks. But, the official continued, Jackson was so drunk he eventually wandered far enough away from the car that the boys simply drove off.
Members of Rogers Hamilton’s family have a thing or two to say about Lux Jackson as well.
Namely, that they believe he was the man who killed Rogers.
Rogers’ mother “always said it was ‘that Lux Jackson’ who killed her boy,” said Elizabeth Welch, first cousin to Rogers who, at age 9, was in the house the night Rogers was taken away and killed.
Beatrice Christian, who was 14 at the time and also in the house, also said her mother had often said Deputy Jackson was responsible for Rogers’ death.
Until recently, family members had never seen Coley’s report on the murder. Their memories of the incident are remarkably similar to those recited by Rogers’ mother, Beatrice Hamilton, the day after he was killed.
But there were other things in the report they didn’t know about, specifically that the brother of Lux Jackson was present during the interview with Beatrice Hamilton.
After reading the report, Beatrice Christian said she understood immediately why her mother didn’t say anything about the identity of the killer to the ABI agent.
Speaking to an Anniston Star reporter during a trip to Atlanta from her home in Cleveland, Beatrice Christian got right to the point.
“Lux Jackson killed him,” she said. “That’s what mama always said. Now you have your answer right there about why she never said anything to the police about it. That agent is standing right there asking her these questions and right beside him is Joe Jackson. You think she’s going to say, ‘Well, Lux Jackson killed my son,’ right there in front of that man? She wasn’t going to do that, no way. Saying that would have gotten her killed and probably us, too.”
Members of her extended family say essentially the same thing after reading the report.
As do law-enforcement officials who have knowledge of the case.
That explains a lot, of course, but it doesn’t seem to get the family any closer to what they really want in the case: justice.
Every family member interviewed for this story expressed frustration with not knowing why Rogers was killed and who killed him. They all said that, until recently, with the exception of Coley’s visit the day after, no one from law enforcement had ever come to ask the family about what happened.
Neither state officials in Montgomery nor the FBI will say if Hamilton’s case is being actively investigated. But members of the extended family, as well as some individuals in Lowndes County, confirm they have been contacted by state law-enforcement officials.
Additionally, the case appears on an FBI list with about 60 others as being open.
The most obvious hurdle in seeking prosecution in this 53-year-old case is that the man the family insists was responsible is dead.
But it is some comfort, family members say, that at least his case is apparently being looked at again.