Emmett Till Murder Update: What Happened To Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam?


Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were the white supremacists responsible for the murder of black teenager Emmett Till in 1955. Both of them later passed away due to health reasons.

Emmett Till, an African-American boy, was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi in 1955.

The 14-year-old met his tragic end after being accused of offending a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, in her family’s grocery store.

The brutal nature of his murder and the subsequent acquittal of his killers brought widespread attention to the long-standing history of violent racism in the United States. Emmett posthumously emerged as an icon of the civil rights movement in the country.

Emmett’s life and the events surrounding his death have been extensively documented in numerous books, songs, documentaries, television series, and films, including “Till,” released on October 24, 2022.

Emmett Till Murder Update: What Happened To Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam?

J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant have both passed away. Milam succumbed to bone cancer in 1981, while Bryant also lost his battle with cancer in 1994. Sadly, no one faced accountability for the horrific murder of Emmett Till.

Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were the two white men responsible for the killing of Emmett Till, allegedly for harassing Carolyn Bryant. They were apprehended in August 1955, but an all-white, all-male jury acquitted both of them of all charges.

File photos of John W. Milam, 35, his half-brother Roy Bryant, 24, and his wife Carolyn. (Source: Mississippi Today)

The duo later publicly confessed to their guilt, stating their intention was to send a warning to other black individuals. They also sold their story for $4,000 and initially provided detailed accounts of how they murdered the young man.

Roy Bryant, a trucker and former soldier, married Carolyn Bryant. The couple operated a small grocery store called Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market, selling provisions to black sharecroppers and their children. They resided in two small rooms at the back of the store and had two sons.

J.W. Milam, Roy’s half-brother, worked as a trucker alongside him. Standing at an imposing six feet two inches and 235 pounds, Milam prided himself on his ability to assert control over black individuals.

What Happened To Emmet Till?

During August 1955’s summer vacation, 14-year-old Emmett Till visited relatives near Money, Mississippi. He encountered a 21-year-old white woman named Carolyn Bryant at her family’s grocery store.

Accounts of what occurred inside the store vary, but it is alleged that the boy was accused of behaving inappropriately towards Carolyn—possibly flirting, touching, or whistling at her. A few nights later, Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, armed themselves and went to Emmett’s house, where they abducted him.

The two men proceeded to beat and mutilate the boy before fatally shooting him in the head. They then disposed of his body by sinking it in the Tallahatchie River. Three days later, Emmett’s body was discovered and retrieved from the river.

Emmett’s mother, Mamie, insisted on a public open-casket funeral service, which exposed the world to her son’s bloated and mutilated body, sparking outrage and galvanizing the civil rights movement.

Emmett Till’s mother during his funeral. (Source: Los Angeles Times)

She aimed to expose the racism, brutality of the murder, and the flaws and vulnerabilities of American democracy to the world.

The murder of Emmett Till was regarded as a catalyst for the subsequent stage of the civil rights movement. Recently, on March 29, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law, designating lynching as a federal hate crime in the United States.

Who Was Emmett Louis Till?

Emmett Louis Till, a 14-year-old boy, attended McCosh Elementary School. He was born and raised in Chicago.

Emmett was born on July 25, 1941, as the only son of Mamie Carthan (1921–2003) and Louis Till (1922–1945).

Following incidents of infidelity and violence on Louis’ part, Emmett’s parents separated. At the time, Emmett was just a toddler, and he was subsequently raised by his mother and grandmother.

Emmett Till with his mother, Mamie Till. (Source: NMAAHC)

Mamie hailed from the small Delta town of Webb, Mississippi. When she was two years old, her family relocated to Argo, Illinois, near Chicago, as part of the Great Migration. This migration saw many rural black families move to the North to escape violence, discrimination, and limited opportunities under the law.

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