Former Xpress Managing Editor Jon Elliston has been awarded a John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation research grant to support his work on a new book, which will tell the full story of the 1963 mob attack on Camp Summerlane in Rosman, N.C. The event was the subject of "Cruel Summer," a four-part series Elliston wrote for Xpress in 2008.
"This year's grant cycle was fiercely competitive," wrote the library's deputy director, James M. Roth, in announcing the award. "There was a large pool of applicants, and the quality of the applications was uniformly very high. The grant committee was faced with some difficult decisions, and I am happy to announce that [Elliston's] project was one that was chosen."
Elliston will use the grant to travel to the library, which is in Boston, and research Kennedy administration records on the attack. "While the FBI has told me that they've either destroyed or can't find their records on what happened at Camp Summerlane, I discovered an FBI memo indicating that JFK's assistant attorney general for civil rights, Burke Marshall, ordered the bureau to investigate. So I'm hopeful that his files, along with other Justice Department records at the library, will shed further light on the federal investigation."
The records could fill important gaps in the story, notes Elliston, because despite the gunfire, arson and physical assaults that occurred at Camp Summerlane, no one was ever charged with any crimes in connection with the incident. "This attack on a biracial children's camp is, in some ways, a classic civil-rights era 'cold case,'" he says. "Documenting the actions of federal law enforcement in the aftermath could provide a measure of justice, at least to history."