Samuel and Carol Nappi establish fund to expand College of Law’s Cold Case Justice Initiative
Pompey, N.Y., residents Samuel (Sam) and Carol Nappi have made a $250,000 gift to Syracuse University that will support the SU College of Law’s Cold Case Justice Initiative. With support from the newly established Sam and Carol Nappi Fund, the CCJI will continue to seek justice for racially motivated Civil Rights Era murders, working on behalf of the victims, their families, local communities and society at large.
Under the direction of SU law professors Paula C. Johnson and Janis L. McDonald, CCJI is an interdisciplinary project that engages College of Law faculty and students in the research and investigation of unresolved cases; offers academic courses, public forums and other special events; and serves as a clearinghouse for sharing and receiving information on active cases. CCJI was founded in response to the 1964 Civil Rights Era murder of shoe shop owner Frank Morris in Ferriday, La., which remains unsolved. College of Law students researched thousands of documents and worked with local investigative reporters, which led to witnesses providing new information, the appointment of a special agent by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a pledge by the U.S. attorney for a full review of the case. The students’ efforts have ignited the law enforcement investigation of additional deaths long suspected by the community to be racially motivated and committed by the Ku Klux Klan.
“It is our honor to serve this important cause for freedom and justice,” says Sam Nappi. “We are proud to call Syracuse University our university. Carol and I are grateful to Paula and Janis and the students of the law school for having the heart, courage and intellect to seek this long-awaited justice. This important work being done by the students will lift the souls of the soldiers of freedom. They, too, are America’s greatest generation. On behalf of the King Center and the King family, who are also victims in America’s march to freedom, we would like to say a special thank you to Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Tom Walsh, executive vice president for advancement and external affairs, for the leadership demonstrated in deeds over a life’s work.”
As part of his life’s work, Nappi has had a strong commitment to the Civil Rights movement. As a young man, he was drawn to the 1980 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy. As a member of the advance staff for Sen. Kennedy, Nappi developed a bond with the senator and with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who served as state coordinator for his uncle’s campaign. Through this work, Nappi met and formed a strong friendship with Martin Luther King III, eldest son of Martin Luther King Jr. Over the years, Nappi has been a strong supporter of the Atlanta-based King Center and is actively involved as the King Center moves into an important new era in its history.
“Sam and Carol’s generosity will help us build on the tremendous momentum of our Cold Case Justice Initiative,” says SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor. “We know the best learning, teaching and discovery often take place in reciprocal partnerships with members of different communities, each one with something to offer and something to learn. The CCJI is such an effort, one that will continue to demand many minds, many hands and many miles on the road to find out what happened to so many victims who were cherished by their families and friends but abandoned by the criminal justice system and overlooked by history. Justice demands that their stories be told.”
“I am so pleased that our professors received such a generous commitment from the Nappis to continue their important work leading the Cold Case Justice Initiative,” says Hannah Arterian, dean of the College of Law. “Such a gift makes a major statement about the critical nature of the CCJI, the leadership of professors Johnson and McDonald, and the ability of our faculty to provide hands-on learning experiences for our students.”
During the weekend of April 23-24, CCJI hosted a series of events in Atlanta titled “Never Too Late For Justice,” at which some 30 families that lost loved ones to Civil Rights Era murders gathered in one location for the first time. Events included a panel discussion at the Ebenezer Baptist Church attended by more than 500 people. During the panel discussion, representatives of family members whose loved ones were victims of still-unsolved murders in Mississippi and Louisiana joined Johnson and McDonald in discussing the social, emotional and historical impact of these unsolved killings; the current effects of the crimes; and the future implications for society in failing to resolve them. The event was followed by a free concert by Grammy Award nominee Mavis Staples. Families were also able to participate in a private, facilitated conversation to share experiences, identify needs and goals, and learn more about CCJI. Bernice King and Martin Luther King III, daughter and son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., attended a number of the events.
“The Nappis’ gift is a major show of belief in the need for justice—no matter how long delayed—and the key role that universities and law schools can and must play in its pursuit,” says Johnson. “We are humbled to be part of this critical work with and on behalf of family members whose demands for answers and justice have long gone unheard. We are deeply honored and grateful for this gift, which supports resolution of these cases and provides accountability that the families and American society greatly deserve.”
“From the moment we took on this task, it was about doing the right thing,” says McDonald. “The families of those who died by the worst acts of racial animosity and violence never wavered in their struggle for justice. The Cold Case Justice Initiative, its students, professors, administrators and alums recognize that the past is never past when justice is denied. Because of the Nappis’ gift, we are able to afford to expand by placing law students in Natchez, Atlanta and Syracuse to conduct investigations in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.”
Nappi is founder and chairman of Alliance Energy Group LLC and Harmony Entertainment. Alliance Energy specializes in producing energy in a safe, reliable and efficient manner while simultaneously maintaining a high level of environmental stewardship. Harmony is a feature film and Broadway production company; its work is focused with a social consciousness.