Ten months before Frank Morris died as a result of the arson of his shoe shop in December 1964, black men in Adams County — 15 or more — were kidnapped at night, held at gun point, beaten, whipped and in some cases robbed.
Authorities believed that four to five groups of Klansmen, some employed at the industrial plants in Natchez, were to blame for the attacks although no arrests were ever made. On the night of Saturday, Feb. 15, 1964, 39-year-old James C. Winston was the target of one of these groups.
An employee at International Paper Company, Winston completed his work in the plant cafeteria at 8:45 p.m. and shortly afterward began walking to his home at 10 Beech Street. He didn't own a car, but everyone knew him and almost always someone picked him up and gave him a ride home.
At around 9:15 p.m. as he approached the triangle at the intersection of the IP and Cloverdale roads, he wasn't at all surprised when a car stopped near him. He walked toward the car thinking it was a ride home when he realized something was wrong.
According to a report filed with the Adams County Sheriff's Office the next morning, Winston said he "noticed three men in the car, two in the back seat and the driver."
One of the men in the back seat got out of the car and pointed a rifle at Winston while ordering him inside.
All three men, said Winston, were wearing masks "similar to the ones used during Halloween," and all three had rifles. He said all were white and he identified the car as an "old model, painted in a dark color."
Winston was forced to the floor board of the front passenger side of the car. As the car drove away one of the men put "some kind of a hood" over his head. On several occasions, the men "touched him on the head...with the barrel of a rifle."
One of the men reached into Winston's back pocket and pulled out his wallet, which contained "some papers, including his Social Security Card and two dollars in currency."
Winston told police that he sensed the car making a right turn and assumed it had turned "at the intersection of the bypass and Homochitto Street, going south on U.S. Hwy. 61." Along the way, the men questioned Winston on whether he was a member of the NAACP.
Winston told his captors that he was not, and that he didn't think the organization had a chapter in Natchez. He said that there was a group of black men who belonged to the Natchez Business and Civic Club and identified some of the members as M.O. Dumas, A.W. Dumas, Richard Station, A.B. Webb and James Mathews.
When asked by the men if he would be in favor of "sending his children to school with white children," Winston replied that he "guessed he would." He also was asked if he had "had any sexual relations with white persons." Winston said he had when he "was a much younger man."
The masked men told Winston they were taking him to the "mountains and either Tennessee or Kentucky," and added that others were waiting at their destination. "After some length of time," Winston said "by the noise made by the car" he could tell it had left the paved highway and entered "a gravel road on which they traveled for several miles" before stopping.
Once outside the car, Winston told police he heard the voices of other men in addition to the three who kidnapped him. He was ordered to strip and "lay on the ground." He was then beaten on his back for more than an hour with bullwhips. Later, he was ordered to lay on his back and "was flogged across his stomach."
During the entire ordeal, the Klansmen cursed Winston and made derogatory racial and sexual comments to him.
Afterward, Winston was told to walk on the gravel road as the men drove away. He was warned not to tell anyone what had happened. Completely naked, he removed the hood once he felt the men had left the area.
In the dark of the February night, he was unsure where he was but said after a walking a while he saw the Mississippi River and "some boats on it." The ground near the river bank was marshy and he saw "some oil storage tanks in the vicinity."
Winston soon realized that he was in the Sibley area.
Exhausted, bleeding, cold and in pain from the beating, he collapsed on the wet ground. Guessing it was around midnight, Winston said he began to search for help and came to a house. He knocked on the door, and a black man answered. Winston explained what had happened and the man took him in, gave him some clothes and allowed him to "sit by the fire and get warm."
At daybreak, one of children "of the tenant of this house" brought Winston to Natchez, dropping him off at the corner of South Canal and the bypass "from which he walked to his home on Beech Street."
A friend of Winston's, Alice Montgomery, reported the incident to authorities.
At 1:30 p.m., two Natchez policemen — L.T. Martin and Patrolman Walker — came to the sheriff's office and informed Deputy D.S. Hernandez of what had happened to Winston and turned his case over the sheriff's office since the incident happened in the county.
The case was never solved.