In early 1966, a Congressional subcommittee took a peek at gambling and prostitution in Concordia Parish during a hearing on the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States.

When the hearing was being held -- just 14 months after the murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris -- a famous prostitution and gambling den 13 miles south of Vidalia was in full operation. Despite the fact that just a few months earlier the Internal Revenue Service had raided the place and seized and destroyed slot machines, the Morville Lounge expanded instead of closing.

By late July 1966, 13 State Police investigators and two State Troopers raided Morville and other gambling and prostitution establishments in the parish. Gov. John McKeithen said that if more raids were needed, they would come, but said that prosecution was "a local matter."

Gambling and prosecution became the major issues in the race for District Attorney in which W.C. Falkenheiner emerged as the winner. Fueling the debate during the race were a group of ministers bent on cleaning up the parish and its sinful pastimes.

When that July 1966 raid came at Morville, the manager of the lounge -- Curt Hewitt — ran and hid in the woods until authorities left. Hewitt said the two men who supplied the lounge with the gaming devices also used similar devices at their own club along the Ferriday-Vidalia Hwy. Several clubs were raided in the months ahead.

Gambling's roots in Concordia began more than two centuries ago when the Spanish ruled Natchez country. In 1785, Lt.-Col. Francisco Bouligny, who served briefly as governor, said that when "common people" came to the Natchez settlement from the outlying farms, from the wilderness and from the Mississippi River bank under-the-hill that they delivered "themselves up to drink with the greatest excess. This gives rise to disputes and fights, which occasion great injuries..."

Under-the-hill and above town, gambling added to the problems authorities faced in keeping law and order. Men gambled on just about anything -- whether it be with cards, dice, pitching coins, billiards, roulette or faro. During the antebellum days, it was not uncommon for a man to lose his home or entire plantation in a poker game on a riverboat docked under-the-hill.

In Ferriday, a railroad town incorporated in the early 1900s, gambling and prostitution took hold almost immediately after the town was founded. In her 1991 book, "Ferriday, Louisiana," author Elaine Dundy quotes Guy Serio, then 83 and a long time grocer in the community, about Ferriday's rough history.

"When Huey Long became governor in the twenties," said Serio, "slot machines came in. There were one-armed bandits everywhere in Ferriday -- in grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants — and they stayed a long time. With its bad name, a lot of people came into Ferriday just to tear the place up, you know? They'd fight over being drunk, over women or over something personal like their wives, things like that..."

At Morville, a waitress interviewed by the FBI in 1966 said she observed gambling there in several ways -- cards, "shooting craps," and blackjack. The "crowd of customers" at the blackjack table sometimes drew 10 to 15 men watching and playing. A man named "Big Train" was in charge of the gaming tables, said the waitress.

While prostitution was lucrative, gambling was bigger and even more profitable.

In a marathon "head-to-toe card game" between a Catahoula Parish man and Big Train at Morville in 1966, the house won. The game drew a number of spectators and the Catahoula man wrote a check for $10,000 to pay his gambling loss but did not complain. He jokingly said that he'd make up for the loss with a "tax deduction."

While the FBI was investigating the Dec. 10, 1964 murder of Morris, they also were investigating the Ku Klux Klan, law enforcement, gambling and prostitution. Information that agents were compiling in Concordia was fed to the House un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), which on Jan. 14, 1966, interviewed two men well known in Concordia Parish — Edward Fuller and James Ford Seale.

Fuller was subpoenaed to appear before the committee on Nov. 3, 1965, by committee investigator John D. Sullivan, who had previously interviewed Fuller on Aug. 18, 1965, at a Holiday Inn Motel room in Natchez.

The committee was chaired by Congressman Edwin E. Willis of Louisiana. Congressmen John H. Buchanan Jr. of Alabama, Joe R. Pool of Texas and George Frederick Senner Jr. of Arizona also questioned Fuller as did committee investigator, Donald T. Appell.

Fuller refused to answer any questions and cited the Fifth Amendment and others in refusing to respond. He was asked a number of questions, including whether he knew "who bombed the home of Mayor (John) Nosser of Natchez" and whether he knew Seale.

Nosser's home on Linton Avenue, and that of his neighbors, Rawdon and Kathie Blankenstein, were damaged by a bomb planted on Nosser's lawn in September 1964. The explosion shook the Mississippi River Bridge.

Seale was a Klansmen convicted this past summer for the 1964 murders of two Mississippi men. Seale testified before the committee on the same day as Fuller. The press noted that when Seale took the witness stand he was "clenching a cigar in his teeth."

Seale flew a cropduster in Concordia Parish in the 1970s and on Nov. 18, 1970, at the airport near Vidalia his single-engine Cessna collided with a twin-engine Bonanza with five people aboard, all of whom perished. Among the dead were Dr. Charles Colvin, who was Frank Morris' attending physician during the last four days of his life at the Concordia Parish Hospital in December 1964.

Committee questions of Fuller at the conclusion of his testimony was as follows:

MR. APPELL: The club in which you are now employed in Louisiana....

THE CHAIRMAN: Ask that question again.

MR. APPELL: Is the club in which you are presently employed in Louisiana one in which you operate as a gambler?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully...

THE CHAIRMAN: One in which you operate as what?

MR. APPELL: Gambler.

THE CHAIRMAN: What part of Louisiana?

MR. APPELL: Ferriday.

THE CHAIRMAN: Ferriday is right across the river in Louisiana from the Mississippi line; isn't that correct, Mr. Fuller?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question on the grounds previously stated, sir.

THE CHAIRMAN: I say that it is. Go on.

MR. APPELL: The place in which you operate your gambling is at "Blackie" Drane's?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon the grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. APPELL: Mr. Fuller, are you associated while a member of the United Klans of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, in the operation of a house of prostitution?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon the grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. APPELL: Mr. Chairman, the staff has no further questions to ask of this witness.

THE CHAIRMAN: Mr. Fuller, it is our information that in some way you transferred your membership from the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi to the United Klans of America under the titular head of Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton. Is this information correct?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon ground previously stated, sir.

MR. POOL: I just have an observation, Mr. Chairman. It looks like the United Klans of America are no much more selective than the White Knights.

MR. BUCHANAN: Mr. Fuller, evidence would indicate you were first a member of the White Knights and then were accepted into the membership of the United Klans. Would you consider yourself a typical member of the White Knights and of the United Klan membership?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon the grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. BUCHANAN: Are you a member in good standing of either of these organizations?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon the grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. SENNER: Do you have slot machines on this establishment describe by Mr. Appell?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon the grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. SENNER: Do you have any other gambling devices in that establishment?

MR. FULLER: I respectfully decline to answer that question, based upon grounds previously stated, sir.

MR. SENNER: An observation. You have been busy, Mr. Fuller. No more questions.

THE CHAIRMAN: The witness is excused.

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