JACKSON, Mississippi: A town in conservative Mississippi that is famous for its blues music has been stunned by the discovery of the body of an openly gay candidate for mayor.
The black man, 34-year-old Marco McMillian, was considered by many to be a man on the rise, even though the Democrat wasn't running what many would consider a typical campaign for political office.
McMillian may have been the first openly gay man to be a viable candidate for public office in the Southern state, campaign spokesman Jarod Keith said.
Word spread fast when his SUV was involved in a wreck this week, and he was nowhere to be found.
His body was discovered near a Mississippi River levee Wednesday. Authorities were investigating McMillian's death as a homicide and said a person of interest was in custody, but they released few other details.
Photos on McMillian's website and Facebook page show him with a younger Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. He met them while serving for four years as international executive director of the historically black Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.
A statement from the fraternity said he had secured the first federal contract to raise awareness about the impact of HIV and AIDS on communities of color. It noted that Ebony Magazine had recognized him in 2004 as one of the nation's "30 up-and-coming African Americans" under age 30.
Supporters say McMillian had big ideas for Clarksdale, a town of about 17,800 people.
The town is well known to blues fans as the home of the crossroads, where Robert Johnson is said to have sold his soul to the devil for skills with a guitar. Academy Award-winning actor and Mississippi native Morgan Freeman is part owner of the Ground Zero Blues Club in town.
Clarksdale is also hounded by the poverty typical of the Mississippi Delta.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and Institute tweeted: "Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Marco McMillian, one of the 1st viable openly (hash)LGBT candidates in Mississippi."
Authorities had been looking for McMillian since Tuesday morning when a man crashed the candidate's SUV into another vehicle. McMillian was not in the car.
Will Rooker, a spokesman for the sheriff's office, declined to release other details.