• Trinity Episcopal Church

"This is an article I wrote in 2004 and a video Myra Williams made of Mom and me , a clip from her documentary Mississippi Remixed. She was in my Girl Scout troop. A poignant memory."

Nancy Schutts McCorkle

Click above to watch the video


Jane Schutt defied race hatred

to do good

Ashley Elkins, Tupelo Daily Journal, Aug 3, 2006


JACKSON - Predictably, after a 1959 Clarion-Ledger front page story reported Jane Schutt would serve on the newly-formed Mississippi Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, the hate began.


Then-U.S. Rep. John Bell Williams said participation of any white on the committee was "tantamount to collaboration with the enemy." The Citizens Councils' Bill Simmons said any white on the committee was a traitor and faced "contempt and ostracism."


A night or so later, a menacing message arrived at the Schutt doorstep. A stick of dynamite was tossed into the yard of the family's home in a middle-class white neighborhood in West Jackson.



The blast shattered their front windows. Luckily Jane and her husband, Wallis, a civil engineer for a big Jackson construction company, escaped injury, as did several of their five children who still lived at home.


Faith drove her


Jane Schutt, driven by a deep religious faith, became a rare white person in Mississippi to be publicly identified with racial reconciliation in those tense times. The dynamite episode was just the beginning of other hateful acts she (and her family) would endure, always in her gentle, forgiving manner, and with even a touch of humor.


At age 93, Jane Menefee Schutt passed away at the home of her daughter in Maryland on July 23. She was buried here in Jackson last week following Episcopal services at the Church of the Creator in Clinton.


Congress had passed the 1957 civil rights act creating the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that called for each state to have its own advisory committee to hear complaints and report its findings to the commission.


In Mississippi, because of segregationists' opposition, it took two years to organize a state advisory committee of four whites and two blacks. Schutt was the only one from Jackson.


Publicity of her activities in Church Women United and statements on racial reconciliation, brought a call from Washington asking her to serve on the state committee, she says in her 1994 interviews for USM's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage.


A member of St. Columb's Episcopal Parish in Jackson, Schutt had quietly begun to form interracial worship groups, based on her religious conviction that all persons were created by God as part of one body. She recalls in her oral history that when it became known she was having black prayer groups in her home, her son told her: "Mother, you really are ruining my social life."



She had opened her home to take in some of the "Freedom Riders" who began coming to town in the early 1960s. Not infrequently Jackson Police patrol cars would come by the house, sometimes with officers trying to barge into the house just to "look around."


When she was made chairman of the Mississippi CR committee in 1963 and her name began appearing more frequently in the paper, her husband's job was put on the line by his longtime employer: Either Jane must step down as chairman, or Wallis was out the door. She stepped down.


Meanwhile not long before Christmas in 1963 while Jane was out of town, a cross wrapped in kerosene-soaked rags was set afire in the Schutts' front yard. She told her husband not to get rid of the charred remains of the cross before she got home.


So what did Jane do with the cross? She draped it with ivy and stood it up behind her Nativity scene in the yard, with a floodlight illuminating it at night, casting its shadow under the pecan tree.


"I wanted so desperately before Christmas to turn it into a sign of love," she had told an interviewer. The rugged cross thereafter was hauled out every year at Christmastime and given its prominent spot in the Schutt yard.


Breaking shackles


Such was the immaculate role of Jane Schutt in the historic struggle of blacks to break the shackles of racial oppression. A daughter, reflecting on Jane's burned cross episode, said: "At last, I understood what mom had been working and praying for...the power of God's love to change peoples' hearts, to transform a message of hate into a promise of hope."


The Schutts had moved some years ago from their home at 955 Pecan Blvd. to Hoover Lake in Florence, and Walley meanwhile has passed away.


But 955 Pecan Blvd. and its place in the history of the turbulent civil rights era is not forgotten. The house stands as one of the significant sites on Jackson's Civil Rights Movement driving tour.



Nancy and husband Ken McCorkle