192 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI 192 MISSISSIPPI PERSPECTIVES Vernon Dahmer, after White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan members firebombed his home in the Kelly settlement of Forrest County on January 10, 1966. Samuel H. “Sam” Bowers, the head of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, ordered the death of Dahmer for his role in assistingAfrican American voters to register. In 1964, Bowers had played a crucial role in planning the murder of three civil rights workers near Philadelphia, Mississippi:AfricanAmerican Mississippian James Chaney and two white NewYorkers,Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Trying to ensure the safety of his family, Dahmer received severe burns and died the next day. Bowers would serve time in federal prison for his role in the Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner murders but avoided prison for more than thirty years for ordering the Dahmer firebombing. In 1998, he went on trial again for the murder, and this time the result was a conviction. Bowers died in prison in 2006. During his lifetime, Dahmer encouragedAfrican Americans to vote, stating: “If you don’t vote, you don’t count.”After the passage of the Voting RightsAct in 1965, AfricanAmericans stood up to be counted, and voting registration numbers soared. By 1988, nearly 75 percent of AfricanAmericans in Mississippi were registered to vote, mainly in the Democratic Party. This shift in turnout allowed for the election ofAfricanAmerican officials and would soon initiate the end of one-party dominance in Mississippi. “END OF THE WORLD” NIGHTMARE IN LAUREL The Southern Railway Company had been in existence since 1894 when the wreck of train 154 in Laurel on January 25, 1969, was described as the “end of the world.” The train was moving at about thirty miles per hour with 139 cars and caboose when a wheel broke on the sixty-second car, which derailed fifteen tankers carrying liquefied petroleum gas. The resulting fire and explosion caused two deaths, thirty-three hospitalizations, and extensive property damage, mainly from pieces of the train cars being thrown around. As a result of the horrendous accident, several safety recommendations were implemented for the railroad industry by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). PHOTOS COURTESY OF GENEALOGIST SUSAN BLAKENEY, LAUREL-JONES COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM The Piney Woods, 1970–2017 After 1970, the overall population of the Piney Woods grew steadily. The industrialization begun under BAWI continued, and the service industry expanded to provide more wage labor workers jobs in towns and cities. After 1970, population growth in three counties, Forrest, Jones, and Lamar, increasingly drove the Pine Belt economy. African Americans increasingly located to the cities and towns of the region, while whites moved to the suburbs, imitating nationwide patterns. Last, the Piney Woods changed politically. After a century of Democratic governance, the Republican Party made a resurgence and in the twenty-first century is the dominant party in much of the Piney Woods. In 2010, Mississippi’s total population stood at 2,967,297, up from 2,216,912 in 1970. Mississippi’s population increased nearly 14 percent in the 1970s, the highest decade of growth in sixty years. The outmigration of members of both races to other regions of the country from Mississippi decreased after nearly a century. The population of the Piney Woods increased from 296,589 in 1950 to 408,265 in 2010. While the numerical population increase in the Piney Woods is impressive, the counties in this region still made up the same percentage of Mississippi’s population that they did in 1950, roughly 14 percent. By