The Burial

First Look: Jamie Foxx and Tommy Lee Jones in The Burial

The Burial is set to tell the story of the landmark court case involving well-known Mississippi Gulf Coast funeral home owner and former Biloxi mayor the late Jerry O’Keefe.

Jamie Foxx, who is also one of the movie producers stars as high powered attorney Willie Gary and Tommy Lee Jones stars as O’Keefe.

In the 1990’s O’Keefe hired Attorney Willie Gary to help hm fight Canadian funeral home giant, the Loewen Group. Back then the Loewen Group would set up shop in small towns causing the mom and pop funeral homes to go out of business. O’Keefe wasn’t having it!

In a Jackson, Mississippi courtroom, Attorney Willie Gary told a jury of 8 blacks and 4 whites that Loewen preyed on Black Americans through the National Baptist Convention.

Loewen had cut a deal with the convention to open a new market. As part of the deal, NBC president Henry J. Lyons endorsed the white conglomerate as the “death care provider of choice” for millions of black Americans, in exchange, NBC pastors and other officials would get a share of the profits from the burial plots they sold.

During the trial a Rev. Eddie Jones, an “executive administrative” assistant for the National Baptist Convention took the stand. His testimony was short but it sealed a win for O’Keefe:

Q. Tell us something about the National Baptist Convention USA?

A. National Baptist Convention USA is the oldest, largest Afro-American religious organization in the country

Q. Are the 8-million members of the National Baptist Convention, are their considerations included in this (deal with Loewen)?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Did the idea of the economic development and marketing plan, did that come from Loewen?

A. No, the idea of economic development and economic empowerment came from Dr. Henry J. Lyons. He’s always stressed the importance and significance of our participation as a group of people to share in the profits.

O’Keefe’s lawyers said the deal was set up in a way that would allow Loewen to exploit the Baptists and reap huge profits.

Loewen had committed the oldest of sins _ greed, said Florida lawyer Willie E. Gary.

“This is money they’re going to get off 8.2-million African-Americans,” Gary said, “a contract that was clearly, without question, unfair to those members, and you know it.”

The jury agreed and O’Keefe was awarded $500 million, the highest in state history. They ended up settling for $175 million.

The film also stars Jurnee Smollett. 

The Burial
Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx in The Burial (2023). Photo: SKIP BOLEN/PRIME VIDEO
The Burial

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