“Nothing that boy did could ever justify what happened to him,” Carolyn Bryant Donham is quoted as saying in “The Blood of Emmett Till” by author Timothy Tyson.
Till was kidnapped, beaten and shot in August 1955 four days after he allegedly whistled at Bryant, the then-wife of a white Mississippi shopkeeper.
The woman’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Miliam, were charged with murdering Till, whose mutilated body was found in the muddy Tallahatchie River.
Till’s mother insisted on holding an open-casket funeral, leading images of the teen’s disfigured face to spread across the country, galvanizing the Civil Rights movement.
At trial, Carolyn Bryant delivered the most explosive testimony, claiming that Till had grabbed and threatened her inside her husband’s store.
Bryant said that Till used an “unprintable” word as he told her he had been intimate “with white women before.”
“I was just scared to death,” Carolyn Bryant added on the stand in testimony that was never heard by the jury because the judge decided it wasn’t relevant to the murder.
Despite mountains of evidence, Roy Bryant and Miliam were acquitted by an all-white jury.
Carolyn Bryant went into hiding in the years after the trial. She divorced, and twice remarried, all the while never giving an interview.
That changed in 2007 when she agreed to speak with Tyson. In the interview, the then-72-year-old who went by Carolyn Bryant Donham admitted to fabricating her trial testimony.
“That part’s not true,” she says in Tyson’s book, according to Vanity Fair.
Donham added that she couldn’t remember the rest of what happened that night in the country store.
But she did say she “felt tender sorrow” for Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley who died in 2003.
Till’s murder investigation was reopened the next year. But a grand jury declined to indict Donham, whose voice was overheard by some witnesses at the scene of the abduction.
Now 82, Donham’s whereabouts are reportedly unknown.
Credits: RICH SCHAPIRO