Federal investigation into 1955 murder of Emmett Till officially closed, family says

Liz Nagy Image
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Feds close investigation into killing of Emmett Till after 66 years
The case of Emmitt Till's infamous 1955 murder is officially closed, federal investigators announced Monday.

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) -- The case of Emmett Till's infamous 1955 murder is officially closed as federal investigators finally seal the decades-old murder case.

Officials with the U.S. Justice Department just announced the conclusion of a second re-investigation, without any significant new information.

His family now knows, for good, that no one will be held criminally responsible for lynching the Chicago teenager more than half a century ago.

The news is a blow to Till's Chicago-based friends and family, as well as the Northwestern University professor who helped trigger the fresh investigation four years ago.

RELATED: Emmett Till's legacy lives on 65 years after Chicago teen killed in Mississippi

Eight years to the day before MLK Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched and thrown from a Mississippi bridge for allegedly whistling at a white woman.

In 2017, a professor said he had come across what he believed to be a break in the case, saying that Carolyn Bryant, the woman Till was accused of making sexual advances at while visiting family in Money, Mississippi in 1955, had recanted her story.

"We have not uncovered sufficient evidence to support a federal prosecution," said Christopher Benson, a professor at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

At just 14-years-old, Emmett Till was dragged out of a bedroom in the dark of night and lynched.

Till's gruesome murder galvanized the civil rights movement.

"For 66 years, we have suffered pain for his loss, and I suffered tremendously for the way that they painted him," the Rev. Wheeler Parker, Jr., Till's cousin, said.

A Northwestern professor, working closely with Till's family tracking this investigation, explained what they were told by federal officials in Chicago earlier Monday about why they are closing the case.

RELATED: Emmett Till's Chicago home in Woodlawn granted landmark status

The family said they are disappointed. While they said they did not expect anything would come of this investigation, they had hoped to at least get an apology, but that did not happen.

"Today's findings came as no surprise. I did not expect that they would have found any new evidence or would be able to provide validation," his family added.

In an interview with ABC News, his surviving relatives take comfort in Till's enduring legacy.

"He had to meet his death in order for change to come in the world. That's that sparked the civil rights movement; and from that, we got a lot more justice and a lot more privilege than we would have had," said Ollie Gordon.

Despite confessions from Emmett Till's killers, no one has ever been charged for the teenager's murder.