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Survivors lay wreath to commemorate 48th anniversary of Gibbs-Green deadly tragedy

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Several people attended the 48th anniversary of the deadly tragedy at JSU that occurred May 15, 1970. Standing in front of Alexander Hall, which was struck by gunfire, are survivors Lee Bernard, left, Eddie Jean Carr and James “Lap” Baker. They’re accompanied by Aeneas Bridges, who is learning about JSU’s past so he can be part of its future.

Several people attended the 48th anniversary of the deadly tragedy at JSU that occurred May 15, 1970. Standing in front of Alexander Hall, which was struck by gunfire, are survivors Lee Bernard, left, Eddie Jean Carr and James “Lap” Baker. They’re accompanied by Aeneas Bridges, who is learning about JSU’s past so he can be part of its future. (Photos by Charles A. Smith)

The Margaret Walker Center, along with a few survivors, laid a wreath Tuesday on the Gibbs-Green Memorial Plaza in front of Alexander Hall to commemorate the 48thanniversary of the deadly shooting tragedy that rocked Jackson State’s campus.

JSU junior Phillip Lafayette Gibbs, and Jim Hill High School senior James Earl Green were mortally wounded on May 15, 1970. Also, a dozen JSU students were injured when local and state law enforcement officials unleashed a barrage of gunfire that pelted Alexander Hall after claims of a sniper on an upper floor of the residential facility. However, a subsequent probe by the FBI dispelled that notion.

Survivor James “Lap” Baker said he still gets emotional just by mentioning May 15. He remains troubled by the circumstances leading up to the assault.

Aeneas proudly absorbs the history of JSU, where he hopes to make a difference on day.

Aeneas proudly absorbs the history of JSU, where he hopes to make a difference one day. (Photo by Charles A. Smith)

“If there’s a sniper … on the fifth floor, why were you shooting on the first, and why were you shooting on the B.F. Roberts side of the campus?” he asked. “A bottle bursts and then all hell breaks loose.”

“A bottle bursts and then all hell breaks loose.” — Survivor James “Lap” BakerDubbing May 15 as a flashback, Baker warns that “history has a way of repeating itself. This is why students who come to this university must know their history of this university and everything that happens here because it can happen again.”

Dr. Robby Luckett, director of the Walker Center, told the group that he’s submitted a proposal to JSU officials to establish a 2020 commission to begin planning for the 50thanniversary of the tragedy.

Luckett said Kent State University, which experienced deadly shootings 11 days before JSU’s crisis, wants to partner with JSU. In the past, the two schools have participated together in other events. The current idea is to sponsor joint programming and exhibitions on both campuses, with delegates from JSU visiting Kent State and vice versa, along with many other activities.