Obituaries

Carolyn Bryant Donham, Emmett Till's accuser, dead at 88

In 1955, Emmett Till was tortured, lynched and thrown into a river after Carolyn Bryant Donham said he whistled at her and accosted her.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, Emmett Till's accuser, dead at 88
Carolyn Bryant Donham
Gene Herrick / AP

The White woman who said Emmett Till whistled at her has died, Calcasieu Parish Coroner's Office Deputy Chief Investigator Megan Clement told Scripps News. The death report states Carolyn Bryant Donham died Tuesday, while living in hospice care in Westlake, Louisiana. The 88-year-old reportedly had cancer.

Grand Jury declines to indict woman in Emmett Till killing
Grand Jury declines to indict woman in Emmett Till killing

Grand Jury declines to indict woman in Emmett Till killing

It is now increasingly unlikely that Carolyn Bryant Donham will ever be prosecuted for her role in the events that led to Till's lynching.

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Donham has been at the center of Till's lynching and death. In 1955, 14-year-old Till was visiting family in Mississippi when he encountered the White woman at Bryant's Grocery Store. She said Till whistled at her and made sexual advances towards her. Donham's then-husband Roy Bryant and brother in-law J.W. Milam tracked down Till, tortured him and lynched him, before tossing his body into the Talahatchie River. An all-White jury acquitted Bryant and Milam, who later admitted to killing Till in an interview.

Emmett Till's family seeks arrest after finding 1955 warrant
Emmett Till's family seeks arrest after finding 1955 warrant

Emmett Till's family seeks arrest after finding 1955 warrant

The unserved warrant was for Carolyn Bryant on a charge of kidnapping in the Till murder.

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Till's family and prosecutors found an unserved arrest warrant in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse for Donham, Roy Bryant and Milam in Till's abduction. Donham also wrote an unpublished memoir where she described details of the encounter, according to one of the prosecutors. In August, 2022, a grand jury in Mississippi declined to indict Donham.