For Vera with the butterfly tattoo, and the other girls of Morville, mid-summer 1966 was the end of their working days in Concordia Parish.

On the afternoon of Saturday, July 30 -- 19 months after the murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris -- 13 State Police detectives checked into three different hotels in Natchez.

At 10:30 that night, however, instead of sleeping in their beds, the detectives were 13 miles south of Vidalia -- joined by two local State Troopers -- raiding a whorehouse better known as the Morville Lounge.

While this raid was an attack on gambling and prostitution and the criminals associated with that activity, it was also an attack on much more. Watching this raid from a distance were agents with the FBI, who were in Concordia Parish investigating the Dec. 10, 1964, murder of Morris and the July 12, 1964, disappearance of Vidalia Shamrock Motel porter JoEd Edwards, who has never been found.

The FBI saw a connection.

Some of the same men operating in the shadows of Morville were also believed to have been involved in Morris' death, and in Edwards' disappearance.

The connection was through a loose network of criminals and law officers who were Ku Klux Klansmen operating through an organization called the Silver Dollar Group, organized at the Shamrock Motel cafe in Vidalia in 1964. These men were said to be as mean as cottonmouths.

In a 1999 unauthorized biography of Jimmy Swaggart, author Ann Rowe Seaman quotes Frank Rickard, a former Natchez Police Department captain who died in 2000, as saying the men in the Silver Dollar Group "were violent, nothing but trash...The Klan was not violent until this bad element got in."

The Silver Dollar Group was also believed responsible for the car bombings which maimed Armstrong Tire & Rubber Company worker George Metcalfe on Aug. 27, 1965, and killed another company employee, Wharlest Jackson, on Feb. 27, 1967. Both bombs were planted in the men's vehicles parked outside the Natchez plant while the men were inside working.

When State Police detectives entered the Morville Lounge in late July 1966, four or five men were drinking at the bar while one man and a woman emerged from the back. Said a State Police detective at the time: "There were 10 bedrooms -- all ready for business." Through a peep hole and a "clever light system," the bartender knew that when "a room is in use, a light goes on."

The raid came during a slow time for prostitution. The biggest months were during hunting season, according to court records, when men from throughout the region descended to scope the fertile hunting grounds of southern Concordia.

Court records also show that the manager of the bar was asked to close Morville for a day or two in the winter of 1966 because Otto Passman of Monroe would be in the area on a hunt and it was feared that the congressman would be offended by the whorehouse. But the girls kept working.

In the beginning in 1965, according to hundreds of pages of documents obtained by The Sentinel in recent weeks, only three or four girls worked at Morville. An expansion project began that summer and when the Internal Revenue Service raided the place a short time afterward one arrest was made and several slot machines destroyed. But rather than shut down, the bar continued the expansion and brought in more gambling devices.

Air conditioners were purchased at Wisdom's Tire Service in Ferriday

Lumber was bought at Concordia Lumber.

Staple groceries, mostly canned goods, were purchased wholesale from Russell Company in Natchez for resale, especially to hunters and fishermen.

From super markets in Vidalia, the lounge purchased food for its employees, which included a manager, bartenders, and the working girls, whose services drew the interest of so many high school boys that they drove to Morville just to see the lounge and say they'd been there.

Although Morville operated for only about two years, it employed girls from all over Louisiana. At first, only two or three rooms were in operation before demand dictated the expansion to 10 rooms, each with a bed and plumbing.

Some of the girls included Margie, also known as Tammie, from Crowley. Shirley was also from Crowley and also had another name -- Faye.

Mary worked only one week in 1965 and left.

Samantha, who weighed only 90 pounds, recalled that sometimes men would show up at the lounge with one or more girls in their vehicles. The men walked to a trailer connected to the lounge and talked to the manager. Sometimes, the girls would go right to work. Sometimes they'd leave.

In the early months, girls paid a $3 room rental fee when turning "a trick." They also paid $3 per day for room and board and this increased in the second year to $5.

Something known as a "short trick" cost the client $10. Girls could also negotiate their own fees for "buy out" dates, where they left the premises. One girl, Betty, went on a "buy out" date to a ranch in Catahoula Parish. But the $3 rental fee still had to be paid at Morville.

These funds were collected by the bartender and put away for settlement later, usually by daybreak when a long night's work came to an end.

If the girls weren't brought to the lounge by their pimp, they'd come through arrangements still not clear today.

Lisa, 24, came to Vidalia on a bus from Lake Charles then took a Yellow Cab to Morville.

Sandy, 5-ft. tall, with a "stocky build," took the bus from Lafayette.

Jody and June came from Shreveport on busses. June, who was just three inches shy of 6-ft., worked three months, left, and then returned. Jody was 5 ft.-2 in. tall and had dark hair.

In 1966, when FBI agents were seen outside Morville, Vera, Diane and Sam left. Vera, a brunette in her early 30s, was from New Orleans.

Morville not only drew the attention of the State Police and the FBI, it also drew the ire of a group of ministers in Concordia Parish who also wanted the gambling stopped.

While gambling and prostitution became the focal point of state and federal investigations as the 1960s came to a close, the probes into the attack on George Metcalfe, the murders of Frank Morris and Wharlest Jackson, and the disappearance of JoeEd Edwards were all but forgotten. Now the FBI is giving Morris' murder one last look.

And the girls of Morville left Concordia never to return. Only Vera, who would be in her 70s today if she still lives, possessed a mark which would still identify her. According to documents, she had a butterfly tattooed on one thigh.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.