Gov. Haley Barbour will be honored next month by a national civil rights organization in recognition of the state’s progress in race relations, citing specifically Philadelphia and Neshoba County for its “shining example of the progress.”

Barbour has been named the honoree for the 2006 Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday Celebration by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in recognition of the state’s progress in race relations.

Three young men who were mudered here 41 years ago registering blacks to vote were CORE volunteers.

A jury convicted a man of manslaughter in the case in June.

The indictment of the ex-Ku Klux Klan leader in January followed a community-wide call for justice which the governor and other elected officials embraced here in June 2004 at an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of the slayings.

At the commemoration the governor said it was a complicit sin to ignore evil.

“We have invited Gov. Barbour as a representative of all of the great people of Mississippi in recognition of the state’s progress in race relations after the successful prosecution of the 1964 murders of CORE volunteers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner,” said CORE national spokesman Niger Innis.

“America looks upon Philadelphia, Mississippi’s bi-racial jury holding Edgar Ray Killen responsible for those murders as a shining example of the progress our nation has achieved since the Civil Rights era.”

In observance of the King federal holiday, CORE hosts an annual Ambassadorial Reception and Awards Dinner in New York City. This event has grown to become one of the largest events in the country honoring Dr. King with more than 2,000 people from all walks of life attending each year.

This year’s 21st annual black tie event will be held at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 16, 2006.

Gov. Barbour was in Philadelphia and joined in the call for justice at the event which drew about 1,800.

“We know that when evil is done it is a complicit sin to ignore it, to pretend it didn’t happen even if it happened 40 years ago. You have to face up to your problems before you can solve them,” Barbour said at the time.

One year later, on June 21, 2005, a Neshoba County jury found Edgar Ray Killen guilty of three counts of manslaughter in connection with the murders.

He was sentenced to three 20-year sentences. His case remains on appeal before the state Supreme Court.

CORE uses the King celebration to bring together the most diverse elements, internationally and domestically, to reflect on how far America has come and commit to even greater progress in the areas of world peace, justice and brotherhood. The dinner also recognizes individuals, who through their words and actions, have helped to further the cause of racial equality.

Past honorees have come from the business, diplomatic, entertainment, civil and labor communities including: First Lady Laura Bush, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Justice Janice Rogers Brown, Nobel Laureates Norman Bourlaug and Elie Wiesel, Muhammad Ali, Charlton Heston, Frank Sinatra, Don King, James Earl Jones, Ted Turner, Hank Aaron, Rosa Parks, and many more.

Gov. Barbour joins past Mississippi honorees Charlie Pride, Morgan Freeman and B. B. King.