Even the normally critical New York Times observed about us recently that the June 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen was "a redemption for the small town of Philadelphia, Miss."

Redemption, indeed.

After 40 years, business and civic leaders here called for justice because it was the right thing. Soon there was a statewide chorus that crossed racial, political and religious lines.

Mr. Killen was sentenced to 60 years in prison last year for orchestrating the 1964 murders of James Earl Chaney, Michael H. Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, young men who had been organizing a black voter registration drive.

To the whole world Philadelphia was long a symbol of hatred, yet now has become a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

The Legislature has authorized a study to determine where to put a state civil rights museum.

Such a museum could be another spoke in our tourism-driven economy while telling a story that much of the world wants - and needs - to hear.

Although not fully realized here, Philadelphia was the Pearl Harbor of the civil rights moment. People from all over the world come here. This is "hallowed ground." And we don't have to be ashamed anymore.

Successfully lobbying for the museum would benefit this entire region of the state as we embrace our rich cultural heritage, from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to the Jewish influence in Meridian and beyond statewide.

This is a real opportunity for East Mississippi.