Weather and time are now damaging the tank, which once roamed the streets, and the vehicle also serves as a shelter for spiders and large ant mounds that surround the tires. Green grime and patches of rust cover some spots on the vehicle, and traces of its white body peek through the now-faded matte-black paint.
Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center Manager Charlene Thompson says that the City of Jackson donated the vehicle to the museum around 2014 or 2015; however, the museum cannot currently hold the vehicle.
"We want for there to be a particular place for it, where people can come inside and look at it, and understand the story and the narrative behind the Thompson Tank," she explains.
The tank will continue to live in the parking lot of the JPD firing range until the museum is able to develop an addition to accommodate the artifact. The museum has received grants in the past to fund smaller exhibits, but Thompson says this is "something far greater."
"We think it's going to give us a greater story to tell and give us more of a connection to the Jackson community, and we know that it was used mainly here," Thompson says. "It would be an opportunity for us to go more in-depth into the story of the movement and some of the actual things that happened during the movement."
The Thompson Tank was first used in the summer of 1964, known as Freedom Summer or the Mississippi Summer Project, to disrupt African Americans registering to vote in the South. A short clip of Mayor Thompson unveiling the tank was shown in the 1990 TV movie "Murder in Mississippi," which highlighted the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in Neshoba County in 1964.
JPD also rolled out the Thompson Tank at dawn on Aug. 18, 1971, to raid the Republic of New Afrika compound near Jackson State University. A police officer was killed in the surprise attack on activists who fired back.
"It is an artifact," Charlene Thompson says of the tank with a brutal history. "It's not being used, and it'll never be used again. And we know primarily why it was used, which will make it have a greater connection to the African American community."