“They had come for Bobo,” the Clarion-Ledger quotes Simeon Wright as writing in his memoir. “No begging, pleading, or payment was going to stop them.” Wright, cousin of Emmett Till, died Monday in Illinois at the age of 74 following a battle with cancer, the Chicago Tribune reports. According to the Washington Post, Wright—12 years old at the time—was with Till, who family called Bobo, when the 14-year-old whistled at a white woman in 1955 in Mississippi. Wright has said Till, who was visiting from Chicago, was probably trying to make the cousins laugh, but they were horrified due to the Ku Klux Klan’s presence in the state. Later, Wright was sleeping next to Till when two white men pulled him from bed. It was the last time Wright saw his cousin, who was tortured, killed, and dumped in a river.
The men who dragged Till from bed were acquitted, later bragging of his murder, and Wright’s family fled Mississippi. “That incident changed him as a person,” a family spokesperson says. “He became bitter and angry.” Wright’s wife, Annie, tells the Tribune religion helped Wright work through his anger, and he eventually forgave his cousin’s killers. Wright spent most of life living in the suburbs of Chicago, only recently starting to talk about his final memories of Till. “He really wanted people to know what happened that night,” Annie says. “He wanted people to know the injustices and indignities.” Wright published a memoir in 2010 and had recently been speaking on civil rights to groups around the country.