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Collection Title: Fairley (J.C.) Civil Rights Collection

Collection Number: M 340

Dates: ca. 1960-1990

Volume: .50 cubic ft.

Provenance: Donated by Mr. J.C. Fairley.

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Jimmy Carter (J.C.) Fairley was born on a turpentine farm in Greene County, Mississippi on August 11, 1921. He was one of twelve children born to sharecroppers Alex and Viola Fairley, and spent most of his early days in Bassfield and Collins. Forced to leave school in the third grade, Mr. Fairley worked on the family farm until he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC Camp) at Camp Shelby during the Depression. He was drafted in 1942, and served in the United States Army Air Corps in England during World War II.

On being released from the service in 1945, Mr. Fairley farmed his own land near Prentiss, and attended school, via a tutor. He received his GED and completed two years of college at the Prentiss Normal and Industrial Institute. He married Mamie Payton of Prentiss after graduation in 1951, and they had five children. He worked for various trucking companies in Hattiesburg and Jackson in the 1950s, before taking a job with Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula. While at Ingalls, he learned television repair through a correspondence course based in New York. In 1961, Mr. Fairley opened his own television and radio repair shop in Hattiesburg, where he worked until his retirement in 1980.

Mr. Fairley has always been a very active member in the civil rights struggle for equality. He served as president of the Hattiesburg Chapter of the NAACP from 1962 to 1966, during which time local civil rights activists Raylawni Branch and Daisy Harris Wade each served terms as secretary of the chapter. While president, Mr. Fairley organized voter registration drives and helped desegregate public areas around town. After the death of former president and close friend Vernon Dahmer in 1966, Mr. Fairley believed the organization should take an active, rather than a passive role in civil rights issues. To that end, he helped form the Forrest County Action Committee in response to the disagreement with NAACP ideology.

Mr. Fairley led the business boycotts of the late 1960s, and was an organizer and/or member of the Forrest County Voters League and the Hattiesburg Civic Improvement Organization. In addition, he served on the Board of Directors for the Forrest County Head Start Program, and attended the 1964 National Democratic Convention as a delegate of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). In the mid-1970s, he was involved in a legal battle over Hattiesburg redistricting, taking his case before the U.S. District Court. He was also instrumental in getting Hattiesburg native and civil rights supporter Clyde Kennard released from prison. Kennard was imprisoned for misdemeanor charges when he attempted to desegregate the University of Southern Mississippi in 1959.

At this writing, Mr. Fairley continues to support the struggle for African American equality in the Hattiesburg area, despite his retirement. He married his second wife, Lizzie Ruth Harris in 1989, and is an active member of St. James Methodist Episcopal Church in Hattiesburg.

Scope and Content:

This collection is an eclectic blend of materials from the civil rights era. The materials in the collection should be of use to those who are interested in the civil rights struggle in Hattiesburg in the 1960s and 1970s.

Folder one consists of correspondence from 1968 that pertains to Mr. Fairley's involvement with the Forrest County Action Committee and his disagreement with the NAACP.

Folder two contains a commemorative program from Dr. Martin Luther King Day ceremonies at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Hattiesburg on January 17, 1999. Mr. Fairley is honored in the program for his civil rights work, and his biography appears within its pages.

Folder three holds the litigation documents from the court case Fairley v. Patterson. This is a reapportionment case in which Mr. Fairley was opposed to the proposed redistricting of the Hattiesburg area.

Folder four is comprised of issues of the Hattiesburg American, with Mr. Fairley appearing in two of the issues. All of the issues contain references to the murder of Vernon Dahmer. Of particular interest is a partial headline story from March 28, 1966, which pictures twelve of the fourteen men charged in the crime.

Folder five consists of a sample ballot and affirmative action report from the Mississippi Democratic Party in 1975.

Folder six contains newspaper articles from the Hattiesburg American about Mr. Fairley, dated February 1994.

Folder seven holds two federal revenue sharing documents from the city of Hattiesburg, dated June 1975.

Related Collections:

Vol. 375 J.C. Fairley Oral History Interview

M191 Paul B. Johnson Family Papers (State Sovereignty Commission Series)

M250 Dahmer (Vernon F.) Civil Rights Collection

M335 Branch (Raylawni) Collection

M334 Wade (Daisy Harris) Collection

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