Hope for Emmett Till Memorial Lost

Hope for Emmett Till Memorial Lost

A proposed museum for Emmett Till is now on hold because the woman who promised the murdered 14-year-old’s mother that she would build a museum for her son is now behind bars for stealing from the cemetery.

Published July 11, 2011


(Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Over the weekend Carolyn Towns, the former director of Burr Oak, the historic Black cemetery south of Chicago, was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for her role in stealing more than $100,000 in a scheme involving digging up bodies and reselling plots.


 Sadly, with her sentencing the proposed idea for an Emmett Till memorial was also lost.


Before her death in 2003, Towns had promised Till’s mother, Mamie Till Mobley, that a memorial would be built on the grounds where she and her son are now buried. During the Cook County sheriff investigation, however, it was not clear that any money for Emmett Till’s memorial was ever collected, but Deborah Watts, co-founder of the Emmett Till Legacy Foundation and a member of the Till family, confirms with BET.com that money was in fact collected by Towns.


Instead of honoring the teen, Town essentially dumped his original, glass-topped casket, in which his body did not lie, in a shed full of possums. It is now, at the request of his family, housed in Washington D.C. at the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture.


Till was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi at the age of 14 after allegedly whistling at a White woman. He was from Chicago, Illinois, and was visiting his relatives in the Mississippi Delta when he was beat and shot and left to be found in the Tallahatchie River three days after his death.


There are only a few memorials in the Chicago area remembering the teenager: his grave and second casket at Burr Oak cemetery where his body lies, a street named after him in the Southside of Chicago and an elementary school named in his honor.


There has been no further mention by the cemetery if a memorial will be built.



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Written by Danielle Wright


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