John Earl Reese

Location(s): Gregg County, Texas

Decade: 1950s

On October 22, 1955, John Earl Reese, 16 years old, was shot and killed by Joe Simpson and Perry Dean Ross in Gregg County, Texas. Reese’s teen cousins, Joyce Faye Crockett Nelson and Johnnie Crockett, were shot, but survived. After killing Reese, Simpson and Ross drove to Rusk County, Mayflower, a black community, and fired more shots into homes and a church. Ross, the shooter, stood trial and was convicted of murder. He was given a five-year suspended sentence and released from custody. Simpson was also indicted for murder, but the charge was eventually dismissed. CRRJ represented Joyce Faye Crockett Nelson in a restorative justice initiative. At 67 years old, Ms. Nelson had the opportunity to tell her story to local officials. CRRJ worked to amend Reese’s death certificate from stating the cause of death as an accident to a homicide. CRRJ’s work resulted in a community event with local officials to unveil civil rights markers and a new gravestone and to rename a local street as John Earl Reese Road.

The collection includes: Reese’s original and amended death certificates; news articles; The State of Texas v. Perry Dean Ross court records; commemorative event photographs; the program for October 23, 2010 event; Letter from Judge Donald Ross to Kaylie Simon; Email correspondence and interview notes with Sandra Simpson-Kraft; and CRRJ student Kaylie Simons’ essay “Lost Life, a Miscarriage of Justice: The Death of John Earl Reese” and Simon’s account of the CRRJ restorative justice initiative “Justice Restored;” and CRRJ Student Nataniel Johnson-Gottlieb’s account of an interview with journalist Ronnie Dugger; See also film The Trouble I’ve Seen, an award-winning short documentary featuring the work of CRRJ on the John Earle Reece case and also the cases of Della McDuffy and Malcolm Wright case.

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