A 22-year-old man has been arrested in the apparent slaying of Marco McMillian, a promising black Mississippi politician who was openly gay. McMillian, 34, was running for mayor of Clarksdale, Miss., until his body was found along the Mississippi Delta on Wednesday.
Lawrence Reed, of nearby Shelby, was pulled from a wrecked car belonging to McMillian on Thursday. The accident happened about 30 miles from where McMillian’s body was found, according to ABC News. Reed was airlifted to a local hospital and is expected to be jailed for McMillian’s murder once he’s out of the hospital.
News of McMillian’s death has shocked his supporters and those around the country who admired his tenacity to seek office in such a conservative state. From all accounts, McMillian was a dedicated, accomplished young politician who stood a real chance to win elected office in a traditionally red state and worked toward changing the landscape of the state’s politics.
McMillian, a 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, 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.
In addition to his role at the fraternity from 2007 to 2011, McMillian previously worked to raise funds as executive assistant to the president at Alabama A&M University and as assistant to the vice president at Jackson State University, according to his campaign. He was also CEO of MWM & Associates, described on its website as a consulting firm for nonprofit organizations.
A statement from the fraternity said he secured the first federal contract to raise awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities of color. It noted that Ebony Magazine had recognized him in 2004 as one of the nation’s “30 up-and-coming African Americans” under age 30.
After news of his death, McMillian’s campaign published this note to fans on its Facebook page:
Words cannot describe our grief at the loss of our dear friend, Marco McMillian. The shocking news of Marco’s death is beyond difficult for us to process. We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life. Tragically, that life has been cut short. At this time of loss, we ask that you keep the family and loved ones of Marco in your prayers.
“The loss of Marco is a huge one,” said Dr. Ravi K Perry in a statement released by the National Black Justice Coalition. Perry is assistant professor of political science at Mississippi State University, and was a friend of Marco McMillian and an adviser to his political campaign.
“He was the most viable LGBT candidate for public office in the history of politics in the state of Mississippi,” said Perry. “We need more ‘Marcos’ to boldly stand up for what they believe and to serve the greater good. His untimely death is tragic and also a reminder that we need to better engage and equip openly gay candidates of color running for office.”
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