By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
A young, openly-gay politician was found dead near a levee in the Mississippi Delta on Wednesday. Marco McMillian, age 34, was considered to be a up-and-coming political force in his home state of Mississippi. A Democrat candidate vying to become mayor of Clarksdale, McMillian sought to be the first openly gay person to hold such office in the state. Advocates in Mississippi and worldwide were stunned to discover that McMillian's body was found on the Mississippi River levee at around 8:45 AM on Wednesday. The Clarksdale Press Register reports that the body was found when 22-year-old Lawrence Reed got into a head-on collision while driving McMillian's car and then gave police the details of where to locate the corpse, causing the man to be held as a person of interest:
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, recently hired Public Information Officer for the Coahoma County Sheriff's Department Will Rooker said one man is in custody. However, Rooker said the sheriff's department would not release the man's name or his age or whether he had any prior relationship with McMillian. Rooker also said he didn't know McMillian's cause of death. However, other avenues have identified the suspect in custody as 22-year-old Lawrence Reed of Clarksdale. Reed as behind the wheel of McMillian's SUV when it was involved in a head-on collision Tuesday morning on Highway 49 near the border of Coahoma and Tallahatchie counties. County Coroner Scotty Meredith said McMillian's body has gone to Jackson for an autopsy, and the cause of death and the time of death and other details could be available as soon as Thursday. The sheriff's PIO also said he didn't know the motive for the murder or whether the murder happened near here the body was discovered or somewhere else. County and state emergency and law renforcement personnel had been searching for McMillian, who the sheriff's office listed at 34 years of age (his Facebook page says 33), since the accident occurred. Reed was in critical condition on Tuesday and reports given by those close to the investigation said he provided law enforcement with the general location of McMillian's body. Reed was reported to be in good condition on Wednesday afternoon.CBS News reports on McMillian's background and achievements:
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, had 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 Clinton and with U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat... McMillian was CEO of MWM & Associates, described on its website as a consulting firm for nonprofit organizations. In addition to his role at the fraternity from 2007 to 2011, McMillian had 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. A statement from the fraternity said he had 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. Supporters say McMillian â€” a 1997 graduate of Clarksdale High School who graduated magna cum laude from Jackson State and held a master's degree from St. Mary's University in Minnesota in philanthropy and development â€” had big ideas for Clarksdale, a town of about 17,800 people... McMillian was hoping to win the office being vacated by Mayor Henry Espy Jr., the brother of Mike Espy, a former congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary. Henry Espy decided not to seek re-election after more than two decades in office. Espy's son, state Rep. Chuck Espy, and Bill Luckett, a partner in [Morgan] Freeman's club, were among the other well-known candidates in the race. The primary is May 7.According to CBS, McMillian's campaign said in a statement that words cannot describe "our grief at the loss of our dear friend... We remember Marco as a bold and passionate public servant, whose faith informed every aspect of his life."