Louis Till Biography – Obituary
Louis Till (February 7, 1922 – July 2, 1945) was a soldier from the United States. He was the father of Emmett Till, whose murder at the age of 14 in August 1955 galvanized the civil rights movement.
Louis Till, a soldier during WWII, was executed by the United States Army in 1945 after being found guilty of sexually assaulting two white women and murdering a third.
Even his family was unaware of the circumstances surrounding his death until the trial of his son’s murderer ten years later.
Louis Till Age at Death
Louis was only 23 years of age when he was executed, he was born on February 7, 1922, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the United States.
Louis Till Cause of Death
Till was arrested in Civitavecchia by military police who suspected him and another soldier, Fred A. McMurray, of the murder of an Italian woman and the rape of two others.
In exchange for testifying against McMurray and Till, a third soldier was granted immunity. He and McMurray were court-martialed, found guilty, and sentenced to death by hanging after a brief investigation.
On July 2, 1945, the sentence was carried out at the United States Army Disciplinary Training Center north of Pisa. Both soldiers had pleaded not guilty; their defense team provided no evidence to support their innocence, and Till remained silent throughout the trial.
Till was imprisoned alongside American poet Ezra Pound prior to his execution for collaborating with the Nazis and Italian Fascists.
Louis Till Grave and Aftermath
Till was laid to rest in the Naples Allied Cemetery. His ashes were moved to the Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in 1948.
Till’s family was not informed of the circumstances surrounding his death; Mamie Till was only told that her husband died as a result of “willful misconduct.”
Her attempts to learn more were completely thwarted by the US Army bureaucracy. The full extent of Louis Till’s crimes and execution was not revealed until ten years later.
Emmett Till, 14, was murdered in Mississippi on August 28, 1955, after allegedly whistling for his own purposes near Carolyn Bryant, a local white woman, which was misinterpreted as flirting.
(Years later, a historian claimed that Bryant told him she fabricated testimony that Till made verbal or physical advances towards her in the store. Bryant’s family, however, has denied this claim.)
Her husband and brother-in-law kidnapped Till and tortured him to death before throwing his body into the river.
Both were arrested a few days later, charged with and tried for first-degree murder, but were acquitted in September 1955 by an all-white jury.
Mississippi senators James Eastland and John C. Stennis uncovered details about Louis Till’s crimes and execution and released them to reporters in October 1955, after the murder trial and acquittal gained international media attention.
Despite the fact that the two abductors admitted to kidnapping Till in a magazine interview, a grand jury declined to indict them for kidnapping Till in November 1955.
The story was extensively covered in the Southern media, with various editorials claiming that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the “Yankee” media had covered up or lied about Emmett Till’s father’s record.
Many of these editorials specifically cited a Life magazine article in which Louis Till was depicted as having died fighting for his country in France.
According to historians, Life magazine was an outlier rather than the norm, as no other “northern” media lionized or embellished Pvt. Till’s record; additionally, Life later published a retraction.
However, some southerners were left with the impression that the erroneous Life article was representative of the Northern media in general.
Several other Southern editorials went so far as to link Emmett Till’s crimes to those of his father. They suggested that Emmett may have attempted rape in the manner of his father, thus justifying his murder.
In 2016, notable African-American novelist and essayist John Edgar Wideman examined the events leading up to and including Louis Till’s military conviction.
Wideman examined the trial record in his partly fictional book, Writing to Save a Life – The Louis Till File, and suggested Louis Till’s conviction and punishment may have been racially motivated.
Louis Till Parents, Early Life
Louis Till was an orphan who grew up in New Madrid, Missouri. He was an amateur boxer and worked at the Argo Corn Company as a young man.
Louis Till and Mamie Till Relationship, Wedding and Son
Till began courting Mamie Carthan, a 17-year-old girl, when he was 17. Her parents disapproved, believing Till was “too sophisticated” for their daughter.
Mamie ended their courtship at her mother’s request, but Till persisted, and they married on October 14, 1940. They were both 18 years old.
Emmett Louis Till, their first and only child, was born on July 25, 1941. Mamie divorced her husband soon after discovering he had been unfaithful.
Louis, enraged, choked her until she passed out, to which she responded by hurling scalding water at him.
Mamie eventually obtained a restraining order against him. After repeatedly violating this order, a judge forced Till to choose between enlisting in the Army and incarceration. He chose the former and enlisted in 1943.