Mississippi native Trent Brown was born in McComb, a town of 10,000 he calls “a remarkably violent place in the 1960s.” It’s also where a 12-year-old named Tina Andrews was murdered in 1969. After two extensive murder trials that ended in a mistrial in 1971 and resulted in an acquittal in 1972, her case remains unsolved today.
Brown, a professor of English at S&T, chronicles the first comprehensive examination of the case in his book Murder in McComb: The Tina Andrews Case. After three years of research and writing, his investigation sheds new light on the impact of the prejudices of whites against whites during and after the tense, uncertain civil rights era.
Brown presents documented evidence and proceedings of the case, as well as recent interviews with people involved. He says the book doesn’t try to solve a cold case, but to explain why the arrests after the murder didn’t result in a conviction.
Andrews and her friend, Billie Jo Lambert, the state’s key witness, were considered “girls of ill repute” and “trashy” children by many people in McComb.
“If they had come from so-called ‘better’ families, I can imagine a different outcome for the case,” he says. “With witnesses reluctant to testify, a skilled and aggressive defense attorney, and some local residents who didn’t wish to see the two arrested law enforcement officers convicted, the story became one about social class and taking sides.
“I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the values of the place where I grew up,” says Brown. “With Tina Andrews’ story, I’ve tried to explore part of the Deep South’s history in the years beyond the civil rights movement, and at the same time, give her short life and the lack of justice that ensued the recognition it deserves.”