Incident at Ashton: A Novel

Incident at Ashton: A Novel

Incident at Ashton: A Novel

Incident at Ashton: A Novel


Republished with a foreword by John Tisdale, director of TCU's School of Journalism, the late Jay Milner's novel is a riveting portrayal of a scenario that unhappily mirrored real-life incidents throughout the South in the mid-twentieth century.

In Ashton, a fictional town in the deep South, an elderly black man walks into the courthouse one day and makes a simple request. He wants to register to vote. At first the clerk is confused. Never before in the town's history had a Negro displayed such arrogance. The clerk tries to discourage him, but the old man is adamant. A few days later they pull his body from the river, a gaping wound in his head. Only a few years earlier, this incident would have gone practically unnoticed in Ashton. But that time has passed. Phil Arrow, a young newspaperman, demands a full measure of justice from the people of his town.


Depending on the weather or the traffic, the drive from our home in Southeast Texas to visit relatives in Mississippi took between four and one-half hours to five hours. We visited often. It was our version of vacation. Normally, these visits involved awaking before five in the morning on a Saturday and returning shortly after noon on a Sunday.

As my father steered our green Chrysler Newport across the midsection of Louisiana, we always searched the horizon for the top of the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge, a 1940 Works Progress Administration structure that signaled our arrival at the Mississippi River. For my parents, it meant they were back home.

The final stretch of these quick trips to Mississippi routed us through the town of Fayette on Highway 61 (the famous Blues Highway). The first town of any size located north-northeast of Natchez was Fayette, where I was introduced to the civil rights movement.

Medgar Evers served as the first field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi. A World War II veteran who served in Europe, Evers had experienced a Europe that treated him more nearly as an equal than anything he’d experienced growing up in the United States. He returned home and felt the continuing sting of racism when he and his older brother, Charles, tried to register to vote after the war. That experience, coupled with the encouragement from the NAACP and its legal team headed by Thurgood Marshall, persuaded Medgar to apply to the University of Mississippi School of Law. The . . .

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