Thomas Moore

 

Thomas Moore, a retired Army Command Sargeant Major, and former Meadville, MS, resident, traveled to Syracuse, N.Y., to consult with Syracuse University Law College faculty and students who are working on the Frank Morris murder investigation.

Morris, a shoe shop owner in Ferriday, was murdered in 1964.

Thomas Moore's 19-year-old brother, Charles Edward Moore, and his friend, Henry Hezekiah Dee, were tortured in the Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi on May 2, 1964. They were thrown into the back of a truck and driven across the Mississippi River, through Ferriday, to Parker's Landing near Davis Island, then owned by Ernest Parker and his family in Louisiana.

The two young men were chained to heavy weights, including an engine block, and, one by one, taken out to the middle of the Old Mississippi River, and drowned. Moore told the law students that "what you are doing is extremely important. You should never give up because, in the end, some kind of justice can happen."

He told the students that he started to feel healing, for the first time in 43 years, when he was told that James Ford Seale had been indicted by a grand jury in January of this year.

The bodies of the Charles Moore and Henry Dee were discovered by Navy Seal divers called in to search for the three Freedom Summer Civil Rights workers, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, who disappeared six weeks later. Their bodies were discovered in August after a nationwide manhunt.

Despite the discovery and information from an informant within the Ku Klux Klan, Ernest Gilbert, neither the FBI nor the states of Mississippi or Louisiana pressed charges against individuals identified as perpetrators. In 2000 Ernest Gilbert appeared in an interview by Connie Chung of ABC's "20/20" news hour and described in detail his earlier report to the FBI of the involvement of James Ford Seale, some of his relatives and others.

Thomas Moore never abandoned his quest for justice. Local Mississippi newspapers reported that James Ford Seale and all of the others, except Charles Marcus Edwards, were no longer alive. Moore focused his attention on bringing Edwards to justice.

However, in 2005, when he joined forces with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary film maker, David Ridgen, the two discovered that James Ford Seale, age 71, still lived openly in Meadville, MS. Moore convinced U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton to move toward an indictment of both of the former Klan members still alive.

Eventually Charles Marcus Edwards accepted an offer of full immunity from prosecution in exchange for his testimony against James Ford Seale. A trial proceeded in May and June of 2007 resulting in a conviction against Seale on federal charges of kidnapping leading to the deaths of Charles Moore and Henry Dee and conspiracy to violate their civil rights. In August of 2007 Seale was sentenced to three life sentences.

"I attended the entire trial against James Ford Seale," Syracuse University law professor Janis McDonald told The Concordia Sentinel, "I listened to Charles Marcus Edwards admit that he fingered Henry Dee as a target, claiming that the black rag he wore on his head must mean he was a member of the black power movement."

McDonald said, "I thought to myself 'he's talking about the head coverings that young men used to keep their processed hair to hold its shape. He died for that.' And then he testified, that for Charles Moore, 'it was just his unlucky day'; for being with Henry Dee."

McDonald and Professor Paula Johnson agreed to assist in the efforts by The Concordia Sentinel to get the FBI to reopen the investigation of the murder of Frank Morris on December 10, 1964 in Ferriday. McDonald said the efforts led to the FBI's agreement in early May of this year to reopen the investigation.

As reported by the Sentinel, Morris was forced back into his shoe repair shop at gun point while two white men, believed to be members of the Ku Klux Klan, poured gasoline around the store and ignited a fire. Morris' 10-year-old grandson and an employee escaped the blaze, but Morris succumbed four days later to massive burns that covered his entire body. An eyewitness to the crime was ordered out of town by two sheriff's deputies. Other witnesses saw a dark colored sedan fleeing from the scene, heading toward Vidalia.

Thomas Moore's investigation of his brother's death included extensive information about the activities of Klansmen in Meadville, Natchez and Louisiana. He shared the story of his efforts and the results of his investigation with the law students and faculty at the College of Law in Syracuse on October 23 and 24.

David Ridgen, a renowned documentary film maker, showed his new documentary, "Mississippi Cold Case," which chronicles the two years he and Thomas Moore traveled to Mississippi and uncovered key evidence leading to Seale's conviction.

Through the years James Ford Seale occupied himself in various activities, including serving for a time in the 1970s as a law enforcement officer in Vidalia in 1975. He was arrested on various occasions in the 1960s alleged by law enforcement to be involved in a number of bombings and beatings of black individuals in the Natchez area.

The Mississippi Sovereignty Commission often listed him as one of the 'suspects' in Klan activities, beatings and acts of intimidation in the area. They failed to take any action to thwart his activities.

During his trial last summer witnesses testified that Bunkley, a community near Meadville, MS, about 20 miles from Natchez, consisted of numerous members of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, some of whom lived on property owned by Archie Prather. Charles Marcus Edwards testified that he moved to the "safety" of Bunkley the day after the murders of Charles Moore and Henry Dee.

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