Murder With Southern Hospitality:
An Exhibition of Mississippi Mysteries

Exhibit Home » Segregation & Civil Rights » Shepard Rifkin & John Armistead

Segregation & Civil Rights

Shepard Rifkin
& John Armistead

During the first weekend of Freedom Summer 1964, three civil rights workers – Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman – disappeared. Authorities ultimately discovered their bodies outside of Philadelphia, Mississippi. Shepard Rifkin’s 1970 novel The Murderer Vine is loosely based upon these three murders. In this fictional version, the wealthy father of one of the victims offers a New York detective one hundred thousand dollars to execute each of the five suspected killers, including the local sheriff.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, John Armistead received his B.A. from Mississippi College in 1963 and a Masters in Divinity from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary three years later. For fifteen years, he served as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Tupelo. In 1994, at the age of fifty-two, Armistead published his first book, A Legacy of Vengeance. When someone driving an old white Pontiac kills four local men, Sheriff Grover Bramlett of “Chakchiuma” County suspects a connection to civil rights events thirty years earlier, and race relations in the community become strained yet again. Told by a deacon that another such book would cause him to lose his pulpit, Armistead resigned his pastorate and took a position as religious editor of the Tupelo Daily Journal. He has since published two other Sheriff Bramlett mysteries as well as two novels for juveniles.

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