Funeral home fiasco - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Funeral home fiasco

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BROWNSVILLE, Tenn. (FOX13) -

In a new case of segregation a controversial picture posted on social media website Instagram by Brownsville Police Chief Chris Lea is making an already tough time for the Lettie Mae Jelks family.

Chief Lea is backtracking after a picture posted on Instagram shows him holding a sign that read "Whites Only."

The Jelks are crying racism.

According to a post Chief Lea made on his Facebook page, the picture was taken about three years ago. However, it surfaced this week on Instagram just one day after the family of Ms. Jelks had her body taken to the funeral home  Lea owns.
 
Family members said on Friday they had to pay extra to have their mother's body moved to another funeral home from Lea and Simmons Funeral Home, where they would feel comfortable saying their final goodbye.

Ms. Jelks passed away Wednesday morning.

As Sandra Boyd and her family were mourning the passing of their mother, Boyd received some surprising and disturbing news from family friends.

"I got calls and they said that you need to pay attention to what's come up and said the chief of police is holding a sign that said 'Whites Only,'" Boyd told FOX13 News.

The family chose to move their mother's body to a new funeral home but ended up having to pay an extra $850 to move her. Boyd said she and her family had no choice.

"We didn't want to be in a place where we feel like she wouldn't be comfortable," she said.

Chief Lea was unavailable for comment at the Lea and Simmons Funeral Home or at the Brownsville Police Department. However, he has posted an apology and explanation on his personal Facebook page that says in part: "The paper that I am holding was found wadded up at the funeral home laying on the floor. If you zoom into the picture you will see the wrinkles in the paper. I showed it to a group of friends that were there, one of them being African- American and we laughed about the senselessness of it and a couple of them took a picture of it and we then threw it away."

Brownsville Mayor Jo Matherne declined an interview on camera with FOX13 News but did say by phone she had no comment for the anonymous picture posted of Chief Lea. Mayor Matherne said she had spoken with the police chief about the picture and was satisfied with his explanation of the situation and that there was no malicious intent.

Though Mayor Matherne said the matter was closed, Boyd isn't satisfied with Chief Lea's online statement. She says he needs to make a better effort to apologize to her family and the African American community in Brownsville.

"Come to the public like I'm doing right now," Boyd said. "Come to the public and speak on his behalf. Don't be hiding behind the Internet."

Ms. Jelks funeral service is Saturday.

Brownsville is 65 miles northeast of Memphis.

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