Final suspect in 1965 civil rights slaying dies in Alabama

The last of three men tried and acquitted in an infamous civil rights slaying in Alabama has died.

Namon O’Neal Hoggle of Selma, Alabama, died Tuesday, according to an obituary released by the funeral handling arrangements for the family. He was 81. A service was scheduled for Thursday.

Hoggle was among three men acquitted in 1965 in the beating death of the Rev. James Reeb of Boston. Reeb’s killing was investigated as recently as four years ago by federal authorities, but no one was charged after the initial trial.

Reeb was a Unitarian minister who went to Selma in response to a call for help by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement. Reeb was white, and he was attacked by a group of white men after eating in a black-owned restaurant on March 9, 1965.

Reeb, 38, died in a hospital two days later, leaving behind a wife and four children. His death, coupled with other civil rights slayings and the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march, is often credited with helping build momentum for passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Hoggle, his brother and a third man were acquitted in the killing months later. All three defendants were white, as were all the jurors.

Known around town by the nickname “Duck,” Hoggle remained in Selma and was well known as a car dealer. The FBI closed an investigation of Reeb’s killing in 2011 without filing any charges against Hoggle or anyone else, records show.

Honorary pallbearers at Hoggle’s funeral included the current Dallas County sheriff and a judge. District Attorney Michael Jackson, who didn’t know Hoggle, said his death highlights the difficulty of resolving civil rights death cases that are now decades old.

“These civil rights investigations are going to get more and more difficult to investigate and prosecute as the steady hand of time moves forward at a rapid pace,” Jackson said. “But it is still important for state and federal agencies to try and bring closure to the victims’ families. Reverend Reeb’s case is another in a long line of civil rights cases that will be left unresolved, (and) that is very unfortunate.”

The other two suspects tried in Reeb’s death, Hoggle’s brother William Stanley Hoggle and Elmer Cook, died previously. A fourth man, R.B. Kelly, was charged but never went on trial. He is also dead.

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