The late Rev. E.W. Higginbottom was just 4 years old when he, his siblings and his mother had to flee Lafayette County in 1935 following the lynching of his father, Elwood Higginbottom.
E.W. went on to become a U.S. veteran serving in the Korean War before becoming the pastor at New Abundant Life Church in Memphis for three decades.
He hadn’t returned to Oxford until 2017 where he became involved in the creation of a memorial marker for his father’s death and took part in a community ceremony in 2018 honoring Elwood Higginbottom and his descendants.
The Rev. E.W. died on April 20, 2020, from COVID-19.
Elwood Higginbottom was killed on Sept. 17, 1935, at the age of 28 while he was being held in the Oxford jail for the murder of landowner Glen Roberts.
According to records by the Equal Justice Initiative, Roberts led a posse to Higginbottom’s house over a property dispute where Higginbottom defended himself by shooting and killing Roberts. During Higginbottom’s trial, a group of 50 to 100 white men gathered outside the jail, breaking in eventually and dragging Higginbottom to a wooded area near what is now the Three-Way intersection.
No one was ever charged for Higginbottom’s death.
The Lafayette Community Remembrance Project wants to honor Higginbottom’s son, E.W, by purchasing a bench through the city of Oxford’s Memorial Bench Program. The bench costs $2,500. So far, the group has raised about $500, according to Gail Stratton, who serves on the bench steering committee.
“When we knew (E.W. Higginbottom) had died, we wanted to do more for the family who had lost so much when they had to flee Oxford,” Stratton said. “They lost land, they lost property, they lost their livelihood.”
Stratton said E.W. played a key role in his father’s memorial ceremony in 2018.
“His story is so powerful,” Stratton said of E.W.
The Lafayette Community Remembrance Project was formed after the continuation of meetings following Elwood Higginbottom’s memorialization ceremony. Their goal is to help the community acknowledge the history of racial terrorism and discrimination in Lafayette County.
The bench will have a plaque honoring E.W. and his father and will be placed somewhere on city property.
The group is currently working on a marker that will list the names of all seven lynching victims in Lafayette County that will be placed on the lawn of the Lafayette County Courthouse. The Remembrance Project is also participating in soil collections, where soil close to where the men were lynched is collected in two, 1-gallon containers. One container is sent to the Equal Justice Initiative for its display and the others will soon be on display in Oxford at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center.
Donations for The Rev. E.W. Higginbottom memorial bench can be made by writing a check to LCRP with “bench donation” in the memo line. Mail or deliver it to Oxford University Bank, 1500 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Donations are also accepted via PayPal to email@example.com.