Ernest Withers’ sons prepared to defend father's legacy - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Ernest Withers’ sons prepared to defend father's legacy

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Son's Joshua "Billy" and Andrew "Rome" Withers say their father is being mis-portrayed in media reports. Son's Joshua "Billy" and Andrew "Rome" Withers say their father is being mis-portrayed in media reports.
The late Ernest Withers photographed some of the most memorable images of the civil rights era. The late Ernest Withers photographed some of the most memorable images of the civil rights era.
This is one of Withers' iconic photographs. This is one of Withers' iconic photographs.
Ernest Withers captured this image of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Ernest Withers captured this image of a Martin Luther King, Jr.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The sons of famed civil right photographer Ernest Withers are "lawyered up."  They are prepared to defend their father's legacy in a courtroom, if necessary.

Joshua "Billy" and Andrew "Rome" Withers say their father is being mis-portrayed in media reports that claim Ernest Withers doubled as a civil rights photographer and FBI informant.

"What is being portrayed is a 180 degree difference than what we actually know," said Billy.

"Find me one person in the community that he informed on that can come back and say, he set me up," said Rome. "You won't find anybody."

Ernest Withers photographed the most memorable images of the civil rights era.

"To structure his whole activities for the FBI is a discredit to his career because most of what he had to cover were deep, dark, dangerous assignments," explained son Billy.

The sons say recent news reports calling their father an informant are embellished.

"They said Martin Luther King was a communist," Billy said. "This was in the FBI files, based on an agent."

Rome Withers specifically addressed one FBI file now posted all over the Internet.  It says Withers tipped the feds that the Invaders, the Memphis chapter of the Black Panther Party, planned an armed takeover of LeMoyne Owen College.

One son calls it a sensationalized student protest.

"This story was about black history being taught at LeMoyne," said Rome.  "They tuned the story around and made it appear that The Invaders were doing something out of the ordinary."

They say it adds insult to injury that the files came out after their dad died.

"They would always question him.  He was beaten by local police here and there," Billy stated.  "I know one incident where they came in, disrupted his studio asking for information."

The brothers' attorney, J. Stephen Toland, has a warning for any entity disseminating information about Ernest Withers.

"To the extent this changes that legacy and prevents these gentlemens' good works in the community, absolutely we would address all those grievances in court and seek those remedies we're entitled to," Toland stated.

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