“White Lies” digs into Civil Rights homicide with Wyoming connections | Native

ROCK SPRINGS – Nobody was convicted of the Rev. James Reeb’s murder, but that doesn’t mean its story or impact has come to an end. The true crime podcast, White Lies, follows the Wyoming-born civil rights activist whose ordeal was noted by President Lyndon Johnson and the Rev. Martin Luther King. The journalists behind the podcast are visiting Western Wyoming Community College to give a person and virtual presentation on “White Lies,” the civil rights movement and its repercussions today.

The free event begins April 21st at 6:30 p.m. on the Rock Springs campus in room 1302 or via Zoom.

In 2019, National Public Radio (NPR) released White Lies, a podcast covering a murder so significant that President Johnson noted Reeb’s death while enacting civil rights legislation. Dr. King gave a laudatory speech at Reeb’s funeral.

On the podcast, journalists Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley are investigating the 1965 murder. Reeb was from Wyoming and graduated from Casper high school and college in the state. He became a Unitarian minister and lived in Washington, DC, but traveled to Selma, Alabama after deciding to give his voice and support after witnessing the violence that occurred there. Shortly after arriving in the south, he was murdered and no one was ever held accountable.

Amy Galley, Western’s director of wellbeing and accessibility, has been working to bring the podcast hosts to Wyoming. Grace and Brantley were supposed to speak in Rock Springs and Laramie last year. The 2020 events have been canceled due to the coronavirus, but Galley said they are still “determined to bring this important story to westerns”.

Galley also works as an additional social work instructor and has taught about social justice in modern cultures. She said when she heard the podcast and heard of Reeb’s roots, she saw an opportunity to connect Wyoming to Selma from 1965.

“The Rev. James Reeb, unknown to me, was from Wyoming. He is a character in the movie “Selma” and his murder is the subject of “White Lies”. When I heard the podcast, I was shocked, shocked that I never knew, ”said Galley. “When I heard this story, I felt that it was an interesting story and something that connects Wyoming with something that feels so far removed from our communities.”

She hopes to make the story accessible to more people. Galley said her husband is from Casper and was unaware of Reeb’s civil rights efforts and sacrifices.

“Marie, Jim’s wife, immediately brought the children back to Wyoming, where both their parents and Jim’s parents were,” said Grace. “I know how the Wyoming natives are doing who can claim Wyoming, but I think the Reebs can claim it pretty well.”

Grace and Brantley once visited Casper, where a memorial wall was unveiled, and took part in a panel discussion.

“We always thought that doing events in Wyoming about the show made a lot of sense because it’s interesting that this man who wasn’t in Wyoming when he was killed has this deep bond with Wyoming,” Grace said .

Reeb’s story relates to the current movements in the land today. Grace said, “Feeling that these connections between the injustices of the past and contemporary life are important to our show.”

“The ‘White Lies’ story is a prime example of how systematic racism hurts us all,” said Galley. “After George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin and many others whose deaths were unjustified.”

The organizers said Reeb’s story shows that your race doesn’t matter. You can still make a difference in the world years later. This story that, regardless of your background, shows that people can gather behind something they believe in.

The presentation is made possible by NPR, Grace, Brantley, the Wesswick Foundation, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Western Performing Arts, and the Student Government Association.

To register to attend the event through Zoom or for more information, contact Galley at [email protected] or 307-382-1645.

– Chase Galley contributed to this story.

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