Remembering the Biloxi Beach Wade-Ins

May 14th, 1959 began a series of wade-ins on Biloxi Beach that would eventually lead to racial equality on the Mississippi shoreline. Today, Clemon Jimerson, a man who was just 14 at the time he participated in the movement, told his story to the Pass Christian Historical Society. News 25’s Kristen Durand has more.
As a young boy growing up in 1950’s Biloxi, Clemon Jimerson knew something wasn’t quite right with society, often wondering why black people were limited to only certain stretches of beach. “It was very uncomfortable. It wasn’t a good feeling at all.”
Today, he spoke to the Pass Christian Historical Society about what happened on April 24th, 1960 when Jimerson, 14-years-old at the time, found himself on the beach near the small craft harbor in Biloxi defying local laws and entering the wrong side of the water. It was the third wade-in, a movement led by Dr. Gilbert Mason fighting for racial equality on Biloxi beaches. “The most I expected that would happen would be the fact that they would come down and arrest us or either make us go off the beach,” said Jimerson.
But a calm protest in the tranquil waters was met with a storm of violence. “When I actually turned around and looked, I could see this little mob coming down and they had bats and clubs and chains and brass knuckles and all these weapons and we didn’t have any weapons.”
A chase ensued. Jimerson ran into a nearby neighborhood, stopping short of a nearly 10 foot wall. With nowhere else to go, Jimerson turned around and confronted the man. “ At this juncture it was survival of the fittest. So, I had to ball my fists up and as I balled my fists up and this young man came toward me, I swung and I swung at his chin. As we got up, I went my way and he went his way and I just said, ‘thank you, Jesus.’”
In 1968, a law went into effect following a 1965 court case, U.S. VS Harrison County, integrating the beaches. Jimerson now watches his kids and grandkids enjoy any section of the 26 miles of Mississippi Coast they prefer. “I guess one of my rewards to that was the fact that my son, before he got married, proposed to his wife on the beach in Biloxi. That was a highlight of my life,” said Jimerson.
A wade-in memorial ceremony will be held on May 12th at 5 p.m. in front of the Biloxi Visitors Center.

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