Mississippi police have confirmed the death of 34-year-old Marco McMillian, a Democratic candidate for mayor of the town of Clarksdale, and said they are treating his death as a homicide. McMillian was reported missing on Tuesday, after his car was crashed by another person and McMillian was nowhere to be found. Police eventually located his body in the woods near the Mississippi-Yahoo levee, and the driver has been taken into police custody as a person of interest, according to the Clarion Ledger.
McMillian, who was black, was not your average candidate for political office in conservative Mississippi. According to the Associated Press, he "may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in the state." In 2004, he was was included in Ebony magazine's list of "30 up-and-coming African Americans" under 30.
Police are reportedly not treating McMillian's death as a hate crime. Members of his campaign say his sexuality had never come up as an issue, with McMillian focusing on crime and high unemployment. Still, his death has come as a blow to the gay rights groups. "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly LGBT candidates in Mississippi," tweeted the Victory Fund, which supports such candidates.
Residents of Clarksdale are also reportedly stunned. "The town is well known to Blues fans," says the AP, "as the home of the crossroads, where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil for skills with a guitar."
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