Cecil Ray Price was the deputy sheriff of Neshoba County and the man in the center of the conspiracy to murder Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. Price was the man who stopped the blue Ford station wagon on the afternoon of June 21, the man who placed the three in the Neshoba County Jail, and the man who, around 10:30 at night, sent the three civil rights workers on their way to meet their murderers.
In 1964, Cecil Price, at age 27, was "a younger and less formidable copy" of Sheriff Rainey. The former dairy supplies salesman and then fire chief was said to lack Rainey's friendliness. He was tight-lipped and suspicious of everybody.
Price, a Klansman, seemed to derive great pleasure from terrorizing Neshoba County blacks. One night he showed up at a roadhouse popular with young blacks, drew his six-shooter and shouted "All you nigger men get your hands on the wall, and all you nigger women do the Dog!"
On Sunday, June 21, Price spotted the CORE station wagon on Highway 19 and pulled it over, allegedly for speeding, just inside the Philadelphia city limits. Price locked the three civil rights workers in the county jail, denying their requests to make a phone call. Sometime that afternoon Price met with his fellow Klansman to work out the details of the planned evening release and executions. After releasing them at 10:25, Price sped again to catch up with the station wagon before it crossed the border into the relative safety of Lauderdale County. Price ordered the three out of their car and into his, drove them to deserted Rock Cut Road, then turned them over to his Klan buddies for the actual task of murdering them. Price returned to Philadelphia and resumed his duties.
Price declared himself a candidate for sheriff in 1967, at the same time he was facing trial with his fellow Klan conspirators. Price lost the election to Hop Barnette, one of his co-defendants.
Price was found guilty at trial and sentenced by Judge Cox to a six-year prison term. He served his time at Sandstone federal penitentiary in Minnesota. After his release in 1974, Price returned to Philadelphia where he worked as a surveyor, oil company driver, and as a watchmaker in a jewelry shop.
Price has refused to speak publicly about the events of 1964 to 1967. In 1977, however, he told a reporter for the New York Times magazine that he enjoyed watching the television show "Roots." On the subject of integration Price said, "We've got to accept this is the way things are going to be and that's it."
Price died on May 6, 2001, three days after falling from a lift in an equipment rental store in Philadelphia, Mississippi. He died in the same hospital in Jackson where thirty-seven years earlier he helped transport the bodies of the three slain civil rights workers for autopsies.
At the time of Price's death, Mississippi's attorney general, Mike More, and Neoshoba County prosecutor, Ken Turner, were considering bringing state murder charges against some of the surviving defendants in the 1967 federal trial. Attorney General Moore saw Price's death as a harmful to the ongoing investigation: "If he had been a defendant, he would have been a principal defendant. If he had been a witness, he would have been our best witness. Either way, his death is a tragic blow to our case."