The suspicions of FBI agents were aroused in December 1964 when they learned that the owner of a used car lot had moved all of his vehicles to a new location just days before a fire destroyed Frank Morris' shoe shop on Fourth Street (Hwy. 84) in Ferriday.
Eyebrows were raised higher when days after the fire, the cars were moved back to their former location -- right next door to the rubble of Morris' shop.
FBI agents read the car lot owner his rights before interviewing him. In no other document released by the FBI through the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) was it stated that someone was read his rights.
This car lot was located adjacent to Morris' shoe shop, which on Dec. 10, 1964, was set on fire by two white men. Morris, sleeping in the back of the store which was also his home, heard glass breaking, went to investigate and was confronted by a man holding a shotgun, who forced Morris back into the store.
Another man lit a match, threw it on an area freshly soaked with gasoline and that, when mixed with chemicals Morris kept in the store for his shoe and leather trade, quickly exploded. Morris ran out the back door, in flames, begging for help. He died four days later at the Concordia Parish Hospital in Room 101.
The fire raged for only a few minutes before the building collapsed on itself.
Did the owner of the used car lot know something? Was he privy to information that Morris' shoe shop would be torched and advised that his vehicles should be moved so they would not be damaged from the inferno?
The FBI quickly pounced on this possibility. The bureau took over the case within hours of the fire and it was believed by the agency that the Ku Klux Klan and law enforcement were involved.
One document made public by the FBI in the voluminous Frank Morris case file offers tantalizing information on one direction the bureau's agents were taking on Jan. 21, 1965, less than a month after the deadly blaze.
Names of most every individual interviewed by the FBI are left blank in the documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. But the name of the car lot and other nearby businesses are named in various documents. The names of the FBI agents involved in the case 43 years ago are not listed either and the FBI will not provide the names of those agents today.
Interviewed at the used car owner's place of business, the bureau noted that at "the outset of the interview (BLANK) was advised of the identity of the interviewing Agent and of the fact that he did not have to make a statement and that any statement he did make could be used against him in a court of law. (BLANK) was further advised by SA (special agent) (BLANK) that he had the right to consult with an attorney prior to making any statement.
Of the 151 pages of FOI documents made available by the FBI, this is the only page where the FBI mentioned specifically that someone was read his rights. In all, Morris' case file is believed to exceed 800 pages.
"(BLANK) advised that he is (BLANK) along with one (BLANK) the Huffman Used Car Agency, Ferriday, Louisiana. He advised that about 10 days prior to the fire at Frank Morris's shop, which is adjacent to the used car lot, he moved his business to a different part of town. The reason for this move was to acquire garage space because the agency hoped to get a Chrysler dealership.
"While situated at the Huffman Shell Service Center which is across the street from Ferriday High School, they were advised by a state road official, namely (BLANK) that they could not keep their used cars parked in front of the station. Because of this they were forced, more or less to return to their old place of business.
"(BLANK) insisted that it just happened to work out that during the time that the business was moved, Morris' shop burned down. He stated he had no knowledge of the fire until the day after it happened, and he could not think of any suspects nor any reason why this incident occurred."
Agents first learned about the cars being moved from an informant who advised that "up until about a week before the fire, a '(BLANK)' had a used car lot right next to Morris' shop. But, as of a week before the fire he moved all his cars off the lot and put them in a different part of town."
Several scenarios exist over why Morris was killed and some informants revealed that the decision to set the shoe shop on fire was made within a day or two of the fire due to a dispute involving a sexual matter.
The owner and an employee at a nearby fruit stand were also interviewed by the FBI.
"(BLANK) advised that he is (BLANK) of Joe's Fruit Stand, 406 South Fourth Street, Ferriday, Louisiana. This fruit stand is located across the street from Frank Morris's shoe shop.
"(BLANK) stated that he was not home the night of the fire at Morris' shop and knew nothing about it, therefore, he could not furnish any information."
The employee said "he knew nothing about the fire, who set it or anything about it. He would not furnish any other information."
In yet another report, the FBI spoke to "(BLANK)" of Haney's Hotel and Cafe, 514 Fourth Street.
"'(BLANK)' advised that he was a friend of Frank Morris and was both shocked and surprised that he had been the victim of some unknown arson's torch.
"He advised that Morris was not involved in any civil rights activities, nor was anyone else in town. He advised that there have not been any civil rights groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), etc., active in the Ferriday, Louisiana, area for the past five years.
"He advised that as far as he knows Morris was not engaged in any illegal activities."