The Jackson Free Press teamed with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to follow an Army vet and Mississippi native on his journey back home, looking for justice for his little brother who was killed by the Klan in 1964. This is his story—and it helped send James Ford Seale to prison.
Thomas Moore got a dose of his home state that he could like last week. After the Jackson Free Press published a narrative of his visit back to Meadville and Jackson last week, his quest for justice for the Klan murders of his brother, Charles Moore, and friend Henry Dee, started gaining steam. JFP bloggers immediately began collecting money to buy new tombstones for both men's graves.
Read the JFP's full "Road to Meadville" blog/archive here
The weekend Katrina hit, Kate Medley and I were in the Natchez area finishing research and art for the package of stories that you'll read in this issue. This time in Adams and Franklin counties, as Kate and I got to know people like Burl Jones, a Klan victim who had never been interviewed about the experience, and then watched burly Wharlest Jackson Jr. bawl like a baby describing his daddy's murder that has gotten so little attention over the years, I was still seething about a little ditty in The New York Times that belittled Southerners who are trying to confront our past.
Photo of Mac Littleton by Kate Medley
On his July pilgrimage back to his native Mississippi, Thomas Moore got his hopes up. With the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Jackson Free Press documenting his effort, Moore went back to his native Franklin County, and over to Natchez, and up to Jackson and Neshoba County, to ask the good people of Mississippi to support his efforts to finally see justice for the murder of his brother, Charles Eddie Moore, and his friend, Henry Hezekiah Dee, by local white men on May 2, 1964.
Photo of Wharlest Jackson Jr. by Kate Medley
When Wharlest Jackson Sr., 36, left his job at the Armstrong Rubber Co. in North Natchez the evening of Feb. 27, 1967, life was looking pretty good for him.
Franklin Advocate, July 28, 2005
This letter appeared in The Franklin Advocate, the weekly newspaper in Meadville, Miss, the week after Thomas Moore's story appeared in the Jackson Free Press. It is reprinted verbatim; below it you can read Thomas Moore's letter to the editor in response, which the Franklin Advocate has never printed.
It's been interesting to watch the national media coverage of the arrest of James Ford Seale for the kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping of Henry Dee and Charles Moore in 1964. In some ways, the story has been a victim of the 24-hour news cycle, with small errors becoming headlines and big errors being completely overlooked or processed away.
Some Jim Crow-era murders have drawn much more attention than others. At the top end of the scale was the high-profile case of the Klan murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner on June 21, 1964—which draws thousands of entries in the Nexis news database (a search will not return more than 3,000 at a time). Several conspirators were tried in federal court in the 1960s and actually served some time for their role. Then the case continued to simmer on the national radar, finally culminating in the arrest and prosecution of Edgar Ray Killen in June 2005.
James Ford Seale was walking tall and chewing on a cigar as he appeared before a subcommittee of the Committee on Un-American Activities on Jan. 14, 1966, at 11:35 a.m. in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
When Mary Geraldine Briggs heard a horn blaring outside her small house, under shady oak trees on Highway 84 in Roxie, Miss., she would go get the shotgun and head to the door to protect her family. The horn was the signal from her husband, Rev. Clyde Bennie Briggs, that a carload of Klansmen was on his tail again. His wife was instructed to do anything she needed to do to protect herself and their six kids, and the one on the way. She was armed and ready.
Klansmen kidnap Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, two African American teenagers in Meadville, Miss., beat them at gunpoint in a Mississippi national forest, and forcibly throw them into a backwater of the Mississippi River to die.
The last time Mazie Moore ever saw her boy, 19-year-old son Charles, he was standing in front of Dillon's gas station on Main Street in Meadville, trying to thumb a ride with his friend, Henry Dee, also 19. Mazie had gotten a ride to the doctor and figured she would pick them up when she came back by there.
It was warm under the mammoth magnolia tree on the north side of the Neshoba County Courthouse, just yards from where the Confederate soldier stood on his marble pedestal until a storm knocked him over and broke his arm off a few years back.
By his own admission in court on Tuesday, it was Charles Marcus Edwards who first fingered Henry Dee. The young man who lived near him had come back to Chicago and was wearing a black bandana around Franklin County. That was a sign of trouble to the members of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Edwards' friends and adopted family.
This morning, Judge Henry Wingate agreed to allow the government to show the jury a racial epithet-filled letter that James Ford Seale allegedly wrote to the Franklin Advocate on July 23, 1964—two and a half months after he is accused of abducting and helping kill Henry Dee and Charles Moore, and six days after then-Franklin Advocate Editor and Publisher David Webb was announced as the publicity director of the Americans for the Preservation of the White Race, a Natchez-based front organization for the Ku Klux Klan, according to Mississippi Sovereignty Commission files.
The first Seale on record was a bodyguard—at 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Solomon Seale guarded King Alfred the Great, who ruled as the "King of the Anglo-Saxons" from 871-899. According to a two-volume, bound genealogical history of the "Seale" name on the shelf in the Franklin County Library in Meadville, the name likely came from the Old English word "seolth," which meant the most important house, or hall, in the village.
Photos by Kate Medley
Little Shirley Seale was in her room at the back of her wood frame house when she saw flames through her window. The Natchez girl, who was 5 in 1968, stared out at the green cow pasture that opened up beyond the window. She could see dozens, maybe a hundred people, wearing mostly whitebut some black and redchoir-like robes with pointy hoods covering their heads. A cross decorated the front of each robe.
U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate denied a motion last Wednesday from prosecutors in the James Ford Seale federal kidnapping trial to admit statements from Ernest Gilbert, a deceased FBI informant who had information linking Seale to the killings of Charles Moore and Henry Dee. Wingate also denied several motions from defense attorneys, including one to suppress Seale's statements made during the two-hour drive from Franklin County to Jackson following his arrest on Nov. 6, 1964.
Make plans to attend "Reconciliation: A Personal Journey" on Thursday, Sept. 27, a JFP "Race, Religion & Society Forum," co-sponsored by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. The panel discussion at Millsaps College will feature Pastor Shirley Beach (the cousin of James Ford Seale), Bishop Stanley B. Searcy Sr. and Pastor Doris Norman of Natchez, who were featured in the June 27 JFP story "We Are Family: A Klan Girl Fans a Different Flame." Joining the panel are Deborah Posey of the Philadelphia Coalition, which called for the prosecution of Edgar Ray Killen, and Dolphus Weary, head of Mission Mississippi, a group that urges people of different races to worship together. JFP editor Donna Ladd will moderate the forum. Local art will go on sale/display at 5 p.m. in the Ford Academic Complex Recital Hall (#16 on map) at Millsaps College, and the forum will run from 5:30-7 p.m. Stay for light refreshment and fellowship until 8 p.m. Free admission. For more info or to submit art for display, call Ronni Mott at 601-362-6121.
This is how the discovery that James Ford Seale was alive transpired
Media folks often ask the Jackson Free Press to clarify why the timeline in the original story, "I Want Justice, Too," published in the JFP on July 20, 2005, about Thomas Moore's July 2005 trip to Meadville varies from the "Mississippi Cold Case" documentary released about that trip back to Meadville nearly two years later. The truth is that that documentary muddles the timeline in some small, but significant ways, that leave out the role of the Jackson Free Press. (The original intent of the documentary was to document Mississippi journalists covering Moore's journey for justice.)
Read full complaint here. (PDF)
Photos by Matt Saldaña and Kate Medley
Shuffling behind a young black woman in an identical orange jumpsuit, James Ford Seale entered the fourth-floor courtroom of the James O. Eastland Federal Building in Jackson on Feb. 22 with shackles hanging loosely around his waist and ankles, and his hands cuffed in front of him. The 71-year-old retired cropduster from Roxie, Miss., wore thin wire glasses, orange sandals and thick white socks. The words "Madison County Jail" were printed across his slight, but well-postured back. He stood no taller than 5'8" and looked to weigh about 125 pounds, but he showed traces of his muscular past with a thick neck that recalled his open-collared mug shot from 1964—the year he was arrested and released weeks later for the murders of two black teenagers in Franklin County.
On Jan. 26, 2007, two days after a federal grand jury indicted former Klansman James Ford Seale with three counts of kidnapping and conspiracy, his defense attorneys moved to dismiss all charges on the grounds that the charges violated the statute of limitations.
<i>A 2005 Jackson Free Press investigation helped spur Seale's prosecution. See JFP Archive of Seale Investigation. Also, see http://www.roadtomeadville.com for full coverage.</i>
Responding to an Oct. 16 request from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case of James Ford Seale, federal prosecutor Tovah Calderon wrote that the Federal Bureau of Investigations "currently is reviewing 22 civil rights related 'cold casesҔ under that Court's jurisdiction, with seven cases being "particularly promising."
In a rare move Nov. 14, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit granted federal prosecutors an en banc rehearing on the court's Sept. 9 decision that overturned the conviction of James Ford Seale. In that decision, the court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on the federal kidnapping charges prosecutors used to convict Seale.
JFP Dee-Moore Coverage
A federal appeals court has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case of James Ford Seale, who was convicted in 2007 for kidnapping and conspiracy for his role in a 1964 civil-rights murder. In a request issued today, a majority of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals asked the high court to decide whether the statute of limitations had expired when prosecutors tried Seale on charges of kidnapping two African-American teenagers, Henry Dee and Charles Moore.
In a statement today, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a plea from the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals to decide whether the statute of limitations had run out in the case of reputed Klansman James Ford Seale, convicted in 2007 of federal kidnapping charges for his involvement in the murders of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964.
Former Klansman James Ford Seale will remain in prison, at least for now. The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to address a question from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether too much time had passed for the case against Seale to proceed. "While we are disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to decide the statute of limitations issue now, we look forward to our opportunity to present the issue to the court again when the remaining issues in the appeal have been finally resolved by the 5th Circuit," Seale's attorney Kathryn Nester said.
James Ford Seale, 76, has died in prison in Terre Haute, Ind., where he was serving three life sentences on federal kidnapping charges in 2007, the Associated Press is reporting. In 1964, he was a Ku Klux Klansman who helped kidnap and murder two teenagers, Henry Dee and Charles Moore. The Jackson Free Press accompanied Moore's brother, Thomas, and a cameraman from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in 2005 back to Meadville and Roxie, Miss., where the team discovered that Seale was still alive and living openly next to his brother in a trailer in Roxie. Other media, including the Associated Press and The Clarion-Ledger, had reported him dead.