Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused 14-year-old Emmett Till of whistling at her and making sexual advances leading to his lynching, has died at the age of 88 without ever facing prosecution.
This was made known by the Calcasieu Parish Coroner’s Office in Louisiana.
In 1955, the 21-year-old Bryant Donham accused Till, who was visiting from Chicago, of whistling at her after leaving a store in Mississippi. Till was later abducted from his great-uncle Moses Wright’s home by Bryant Donham’s husband Roy Bryant and his half brother J.W. Milam.
Till’s brutalized remains were found days later in the Tallahatchie River. Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to have photos from her son’s open casket funeral published in Jet magazine helped catalyze the Civil Rights Movement.
Roy Bryant and Milam were charged with Till’s murder. The two men were acquitted by an all-white jury and later confessed to the killing in a paid magazine interview.
The U.S. Justice Department reopened the investigation into Till’s murder in 2018, after a book alleged that Bryant Donham had lied in her testimony to the FBI about Till’s actions, however, the DOJ was unable to uncover sufficient evidence to federally prosecute her.
Advocates pushed for Bryant Donham’s arrest in 2022 after an unserved arrest warrant for kidnapping, an attached affidavit from Wright and court minutes from 1955 were found in the basement of a Leflore County, Mississippi, courthouse.
However, a grand jury in Leflore County declined to indict Bryant Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter in connection with Till’s death.
Emmett Till’s cousin and advocates for justice in the decades-old case expressed disappointment in a grand jury’s decision not to indict the woman who accused Till of making advances at her.
A grand jury in Leflore County, Mississippi, determined there was insufficient evidence to indict Carolyn Bryant Donham, 88, on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter, Dewayne Richardson, the country’s district attorney, said.