The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

February 28, 2013

Miss. town stunned by slaying of mayoral candidate

— JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Whatever his prospects for winning the coming mayoral election in his hometown of Clarksdale, Miss., Marco McMillian was considered by many to be a man on the rise. So word spread fast when his SUV was involved in a wreck this week, and he was nowhere to be found.

The discovery of the openly gay candidate's body near a Mississippi River levee Wednesday stunned residents of Clarksdale, a Blues mecca in the flatlands of the Mississippi Delta.

Authorities were investigating McMillian's death as a homicide, and said a person of interest was in custody, but released few other details.

"There's a lot of people upset about it," said Dennis Thomas, 33, who works at Abe's Barbeque.

"Why would somebody want to do something like that to somebody of that caliber? He was a highly respected person in town," Thomas said.

The 34-year-old Democrat wasn't running what many would consider a typical campaign for political office in Mississippi, which is known for its conservative politics.

Campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said McMillian's campaign was noteworthy because he may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in the state.

McMillian, who was black, had also forged ties while serving for four years as international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. Photos on McMillian's website and Facebook page show him with a younger Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat.

Coahoma County Coroner Scotty Meredith said McMillian's body was found Wednesday morning near the levee between Sherard and Rena Lara. It was sent to Jackson for an autopsy.

Meredith said the case is being investigated as a homicide, but he declined to speculate on the cause of death.

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