O.C. 'Coonie' Poissot

In 1967 an itinerant trucker who was a Concordia Parish Klansman in 1965 told FBI agents that he was present when another Klansman, Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover, admitted planting the bomb that seriously injured a Natchez NAACP leader in late summer 1965.

George Metcalfe, 55, a black Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company employee and president of the Natchez NAACP, had just turned the ignition of his car at the Armstrong parking lot when a bomb planted under the hood exploded on Aug. 27, 1965. Metcalfe took months to recover and suffered lifelong injuries.

FBI documents show that O. C. "Coonie" Poissot told agents that in November 1965, three months after the explosion, he was a passenger in Red Glover's car when he heard Glover brag about being the man "who planted the bomb in the nigger's car." Poissot said that when he responded that Metcalfe had survived, Glover snapped, "If I had wanted to kill him, I would have put the thing under the dashboard instead of under the hood."

Poissot spoke to the FBI in 1967. He was 36, living in Tucson, Ariz., and had been brought to Natchez by the bureau to assist in the murder probe of Wharlest Jackson, another black Armstrong employee and NAACP leader. Jackson, who had just been promoted to a position held previously by white men only, was killed on February 27 of that year by a bomb planted beneath the floor frame on the driver's side of his pickup.

By this time, Poissot had been living outside of Louisiana and Mississippi, had been unaffiliated with the Klan for two years and was consequently unable to provide information on the Jackson murder.

But Poissot knew about the Metcalfe bombing and told agents that in 1965 another man riding with he and Glover in Glover's early 1960s-model Oldsmobile was Kenneth Norman Head of Vidalia, who identified himself as a "lookout" in the Metcalfe bombing. Poissot said there was a fourth man in the car, but he did not know that man's name. The four were riding to Vidalia after having attended an Original Knights Klan meeting in Clayton.

Poissot's comments are found in the FBI's Wharlest Jackson case file, known as WHARBOM. The Sentinel was provided the case file by the Syracuse University College of Law Cold Case Justice Initiative, which, like The Sentinel, obtained access to the material through the Freedom of Information Act. This, coupled with a 31-month Sentinel investigation into the rash of Civil Rights-era violence in this region, paints a picture of great civil strife throughout eastern Louisiana and southwestern Mississippi when terrorists in the form of the Ku Klux Klan were on a bloody rampage of violence and challenged by few.

The records show that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was briefed daily on the Wharlest Jackson probe, agreed that Poissot had the potential to help solve the case. Born in Urania in LaSalle Parish, Poissot also provided the FBI information on the arson/murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris in December 1964.

New investigations are presently underway in both the Jackson and Morris cases, U.S. Attorney Donald Washington of the Western District of Louisiana said this week. He urged anyone with information on either murder to call the New Orleans' FBI office at 504-816-3000 or the Jackson FBI office at 601-948-5000.

Forty-two years ago, Poissot provided the bureau intelligence on a small group of violent Klansmen, led by Glover, who were involved in break-ins, thefts, intimidation, beatings and murder. He detailed actions of "wrecking crews" for the Concordia chapter of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which were made up of "action units" of three Klansmen who committed secret acts of violence, some in cooperation with other Original Knight klaverns in northeastern Louisiana.

INSIDE THE LOCAL KLAN

With Poissot's inside details on Klan operations in Concordia Parish and Adams County, Red Glover, an Armstrong employee like Metcalfe and Jackson, emerged as the FBI's lead suspect. Glover was identified by agents as the leader of the Silver Dollar Group (SDG), a secret, underground Klan force dedicated to the violent opposition of segregation. The SDG roster, records show, included some of most violent Klansmen in the region who held memberships in at least one of three well-established Klan organizations -- the White Knights, the Original Knights and the United Klans of America.

Glover died in Adams County in 1984 at the age of 62. He was described by the police chiefs of Vidalia and Natchez, by Klansmen and by Armstrong employees as an ardent segregationist and a "radical on the race issue." Neighbors on Lee Avenue in Vidalia, where Glover lived in the mid-1960s, told the FBI during the Jackson murder investigation that Glover was a loner who in almost every conversation expressed his hatred of black people.

Poissot, the man who said Glover admitted to the Metcalfe bombing, had been an informant to police departments in the past, records show, and spoke to the FBI in 1966 and in 1967 about Klan crimes. In early 1966, he told FBI agents in San Antonio, Tex., about "many acts of violence allegedly committed in the Natchez, Miss.-Vidalia, La., area."

When Poissot spoke to the FBI in 1966, agents reported then that Poissot indicated a man named "Red Blubber" had admitted to the Metcalfe bombing. But for reasons unclear, the FBI apparently didn't connect the dots -- "Blubber" with "Glover" -- at that time. After Jackson's murder, the FBI tried to determine why the connection wasn't made, but there is no resolution found in documents reviewed thus far.

After the Jackson bombing, Poissot's 1966 information on violence here came to light again as the FBI contacted informants across the country. Days after the Jackson murder, an FBI teletype noted that Poissot in 1965 was a "vagabond...associated with gamblers, thieves and pimps," and at the time a "tough talker who was associated with rowdy, vicious Klansmen in the Vidalia, La., area."

Poissot had an arrest record, was known to be constantly on the run, hopped from job to job, was attracted to "action-type" Klansmen and "probably was used by Klansmen on projects involving racial violence," FBI documents say. In fact, FBI sources in Vidalia at the time confirmed Poissot's association with known Klansmen.

Poissot's background made him an ideal source, the FBI surmised, because it had given him a six-month, daily inside view of the Klan structure, of individual Klansmen, including Glover, and of criminal acts, at least during the six months he was associated with the Klan.

Because the FBI could substantiate some of Poissot's claims about Glover and the Klan, the bureau felt confident Poissot was being truthful. Poissot also agreed to testify in court if charges were brought in any case in which he had knowledge, records show.

"Sources of Poissot's potential are extremely difficult to come by," noted a March 17, 1967, FBI teletype marked "urgent." It continued: "If we are able to develop background information in regard to the Klan, the Metcalfe case, and information concerning suspects in the WHARBOM case through interviewing Poissot, we would make great strides forward in Natchez, Miss."

On June 12, 1967, at a secret location in Natchez, Poissot told FBI agents William E. Dent Jr. and Frank B. Watts that in July 1965 he lived in Ferriday and met Douglas Nugent, who operated the King Hotel, a known Klan hangout, according to FBI records.

Poissot told FBI agents that Nugent asked him to join the Klan and on a Thursday night at Clayton in June 1965, Poissot was sworn into the Ferriday-Clayton Unit of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He said at that time James L. Scarborough of Ferriday, an employee at International Paper Company in Natchez, was the Exalted Cyclops of the unit, the top leadership post for the klavern.

OLE MISS RIOTS & KKK MEMBERSHIP

By this time in 1965 only the most ardent segregationists and violence-prone Klansmen remained involved in the Klan. Membership had skyrocketed from 1962 through 1964, especially during and following the Ole Miss riots at Oxford beginning in late September 1962. Gov. Ross Barnett had spent months defying the federal government's efforts to insure the safe admittance of the first black to enroll at the university -- 29-year-old Mississippi native James Meredith.

After President John F. Kennedy sent the National Guard and U.S. Marshals to protect Meredith on campus, violence broke out. By the time Meredith was physically admitted as a student, the riots had taken a great toll – a French journalist was killed, 48 guardsmen were injured and 28 U.S. Marshals were wounded by gunfire.

The son of Earcel Boyd Sr., a Klansmen from Concordia during those years, says his father and Red Glover were among a group of local Klansmen at Oxford. Earcel "Sonny" Boyd Jr., who now lives in Oregon, says his father was an SDG member and records show Boyd was a leader in the Louisiana United Klans of America. Sonny recalled his father and Glover discussing the riots and coming home with "bumps and bruises" but boasting that they "got in a few blows." Sonny says his father and Glover later returned to Oxford "to try to face down the National Guard when Meredith finally made it to class."

In Concordia the local Klan's support for segregation and Barnett was made known when The Sentinel in its October 5, 1962, edition ran a front page photo (SEE ABOVE) of six hooded, fully-robed Klansmen -- five in white robes, one in a dark robe -- surrounding a five-foot cross.

The photo was sent anonymously, according to the paper, and in open letters to the editor the Klan in one commended Barnett "for your fight against integration" and apologized for the "lack of interest" shown by Louisiana politicians. In the second letter, addressed to Gov. Jimmie Davis, the Klan expressed "disappointment by the lack of interest that you are showing during the grave situation in Mississippi in view of the fact that your campaign promise was to go to jail to prevent integration."

Throughout the South, segregation was so entrenched that the admission of Meredith made possible by federal troops sent by a U.S. President shook the ground. Some 15,000 white men, many political and business leaders, had previously joined the White Citizens Council during the 1950s, many at Barnett's urging, solely to oppose racial integration.

On Oct. 16, 1956, three years before he was elected governor of Mississippi, Barnett came to Ferriday and led a White Citizens Council rally at the Ferriday Elementary School.

Several ex-Klansmen told the FBI in 1967 during the WHARBOM probe that they had joined the Klan when Meredith gained entrance into Ole Miss. Some said they were shocked that Barnett as governor didn't have the power to prevent Meredith's admission.

LOOKOUTS IN METCALFE BOMBING

But many Concordia and Adams County Klansmen interviewed by the FBI also said they got out of the Klan when violence broke out in this region in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was enacted. The most predominant Klan group in Concordia by 1965 was the Original Knights with the Ferriday-Clayton unit being the most active -- described by informants as a "nasty group" -- while the Silver Dollar Group was by this time also growing strength.

Poisott, the Klan informant whose information gave the FBI the insight to zero in on Glover and the Silver Dollar Group, said he attended Klan meetings at the Clayton klavern every week from June 1965 until the third week of December 1965 when he moved to San Antonio, Tex.

Poissot said Glover and other Vidalia Klansmen sometimes attended the Original Knights' meetings held weekly on a Clayton man's property. He told the FBI that the group's survival was aided in part by local businessmen, members of the Citizens Council, who provided funding but did not attend any Klan functions.

In a sworn statement given the FBI in the summer of 1967, Poissot said that in November 1965 he along with Klansmen Red Glover, Kenneth Norman Head of Vidalia, and a third person whose name Poissot didn't know, left a Klan meeting in Clayton and drove to Vidalia in Glover's Oldsmobile. Along the way, he said Glover began "bragging" about the Metcalfe bombing and "about the good job done."

Poissot said he told Glover that since Metcalfe survived "it wasn't a good job," to which Glover responded, "If I had wanted to kill him I would have put the thing (bomb) under the dashboard instead of under the hood."

Poissot said Kenneth Norman Head, who has since died, told him that Glover was "an expert in explosives." Head also said "he and another Klansman" acted as lookouts while the explosives were placed in Metcalfe's car, Poissot told the FBI. The identity of that second lookout wasn't revealed, said Poissot.

Why no one was ever arrested in the Jackson or Metcalfe bombings isn't clear. Why Poissot was never asked to testify in court isn't clear either, based on documents reviewed thus far. Records do show, however, that although the Justice Department feared Poissot would make a "poor witness," officials believed the information he provided was of "substantial investigative value."

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