Miss. civil rights era FBI agent dies at 83

Published 3:29 pm Thursday, November 12, 2009

Former FBI agent Reesie Luttrell Timmons, who worked in McComb during Mississippi’s turbulent civil rights era, has died. He was 83.

Timmons died Sunday at his home in the Friendship community. Services are scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.

Timmons became a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in 1950, serving in New York City before he was transferred to McComb in 1964, the same year hundreds of college students converged on the state to help black people register to vote.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Retired Circuit Judge Joe Pigott of McComb, who served as local district attorney when Timmons arrived in Mississippi, remembers working cases with him.

“Reesie Timmons was a good FBI agent who came here as a Yankee and stayed to be a Southerner,” Pigott told the Enterprise-Journal . “Frankly, everybody in law enforcement had to make a decision, ‘Am I going to be on the side of strict law enforcement or play one side or the other?”’ Pigott said.

Pigott said Timmons chose to adhere to the law. “Really, when he first came down here, Timmons had a hard time understanding the attitude of Southern people. … It was just different,” Pigott said. “He got so he could go and talk to members of either race. They knew he was fair, right down the middle.”

Pigott said that during summer 1964, there were as many as 24 FBI agents in McComb.

Timmons was a World War II veteran, serving in the Pacific Theatre, Okinawa and Korea. He was one of only 23 survivors of his company.

After retiring from the FBI, Timmons joined the Homelite Jacobsen division of Textron in Brookhaven as the safety/security and personnel director until his second retirement in 1990.

Survivors include his wife, Estelle Hamilton Timmons of McComb and eight children.