Obituary 5/3/2006




PHILADELPHIA — Florence Mars, 83, author, died April 23, 2006, at her home.

Services were held April 27 at McClain-Hays Funeral Home with Bishop Clay Lee and the Rev. Fred Britton officiating.

Miss Mars, who suffered from Bells’ palsy and other ailments, was a native and longtime resident of Philadelphia. She worked as a reservationist for Delta Airlines during World War II. She was a cattle farmer, tree farmer, stockyard owner, landlord, photographer and author of three published books. Miss Mars was a member of the First United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.

Miss Mars was most noted for her 1977 book, Witness in Philadelphia, about the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers that made her a target of the Ku Klux Klan. She helped the FBI investigate the deaths at a time when most residents of the town refused.

Mars “had guts enough to stand up against the Klan,” longtime friend Boots Howell told the Associated Press.

“She was even asked to leave the Methodist church. They had a strong Klan element here that did not want her to teach (Sunday school),” he said.

Lee served as pastor of the church at the time and was among those calling for justice in the killings.

Howell said the Klan set fire to Mars’ barn in the late 1960s after she became publicly supportive of the civil rights movement.

“She was kind of the outspoken conscience of Philadelphia, Mississippi, in the turbulent times,” Mark Howell said. “She never backed down from her principles.”

In 2005, Edgar Ray Killen was tried in state court for the murders. He was convicted of three counts of manslaughter and is serving 60 years in prison.

Miss Mars was preceded in death by her parents Adam and Neva Mars.

Survivors include numerous first and second cousins and their families.