CMG July Book Of The Month Show Me Justice: The Happy Life Journey of Alvin Lee Sykes: An Autobiography

Category: Books Of The Month

Show Me Justicetracks the life and career of the late civil-rights advocate and pioneer Alvin Lee Sykes, who used his self-taught legal knowledge to reopen the dormant murder case of Emmett Till. He was also tenacious in his investigation of other unsolved murder cases of African Americans from the civil-rights era.

Typically, the people Sykes represented were as poor as he was—“poor as a church mouse,” to quote former United States senator Tom Coburn, who worked with Alvin on the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crime Act.

In this book’s foreword, Ronnique Hawkins, co-producer of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till and founder of The ALM and Learn My History foundations, writes: “From jazz singer Steve Harvey to the monumental case of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, Alvin championed for victims like they were family.”

Sykes was born to a fourteen-year-old girl and placed by relatives in the care of another woman who worked as a domestic and a beautician. She recognized his strong curiosity about the world around him and stretched her meager budget to supply books and musical instruments. She mortgaged her home to pay the bills to treat his epilepsy and other childhood illnesses.

As a young teenager, he spent time at Boys Town in Nebraska, but his formal education never extended beyond the eighth grade. Instead, as he says, his secondary and higher education took place in public libraries, often among shelves of law books.

In Sykes’s hometown of Kansas City, and nationwide, he remains a legend among the downtrodden whom he helped and also among the powerful who admired his efforts. He marshaled his facts, framed his arguments persuasively, and acted patiently and resolutely. Always, his goal was justice. Typically, he reached that goal.

“Documents the extraordinary story of the self-taught legal scholar from Kansas City. Sykes fought tirelessly to re-open several unsolved civil rights cold cases, including the murder of Emmett Till.” – KCUR (NPR in Kansas City)

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