RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – A pioneer of the Fannin Community in Rankin County passed away just before Thanksgiving.

I would occasionally see John Adams at the Pelahatchie Bay trading post in our community, where the elite meet to eat and buy bait. I called him the Mayor of Fannin. It wasn’t a jest. It was out of respect. I had no idea how much he deserved that title until a few years ago when there was a Fannin Civil Rights reunion, signifying the anniversary of the march from Pisgah to the Courthouse in Brandon back in 1965.

Know what they were marching for? To register to vote. John told me his safety was threatened as a leader in that movement. People could count on being pulled over and getting tickets after leaving meetings at area churches, including True Vine Church near Northwest Rankin School. True Vine was one of the churches that was burned back then to discourage the voting movement. 

Adams said, “We were holding meetings from church to church and after a while it got burned. It burned Pisgah first and then they came on up down here and burned this church.”

These were pioneers who persisted and won the right to vote, although by law they already could. But 50 years ago, what was law and what was reality didn’t always match. I wish I had more sound bites from John Adams, but I was more interested in the church and the march and how determined people forged their own destiny back then.

Fortunately, threats and burnings went out of style when everybody realized that all of us could vote, and the sun would still rise the next morning. John Quincy Adams settled into living until the Saturday before Thanksgiving when he left his legacy behind and passed from this world.

Here’s the kicker. Fifty years ago, these people were threatened and had their churches burned to be able to vote. Voting, a right that 70% of the qualified electorate in Mississippi didn’t bother to exercise during the recent Midterm Election. Freedom isn’t free. It cost some people too much to take it for granted.