By Brian Sebille
Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation spent tens of thousands of hours investigating the Klan-directed murder of Wharlest Jackson in Natchez in 1967 alone, according to recently released FBI documents.
A report from the Jackson FBI field office to the federal agency’s national headquarters dated December 19, 1967, records that 47,385 were logged by agents investigating the Jackson’s February 27, 1967, death when a bomb went off in his truck exploded.
His unsolved murder, still under investigation by the FBI 45 years later, was believed to be the result of his accepting a supervisor’s job position in the Armstrong Tire plant, a position never before held by an African-American.
More than a third of those agent hours were overtime, according to the records unearthed recently under the Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Unsolved Civil Rights-Era Murders Project student team at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.
The report includes hours worked both by special agents and clerical employees. Special agents, however, accounted for 80 percent of the total hours.
The investigation followed murder suspects after it was determined a bomb had been placed beneath the driver's side of Jackson’s pickup. The explosive device was detonated by some sort of trigger, most likely an activated turn signal.
Jackson was an employee at Armstrong Tire plant in Natchez and was a leader in the local NAACP unit.
In the first month, more than 10,000 investigation hours were logged. No one was ever arrested.
While the Jackson field office accounted for most of the recorded hours, agents from the New Orleans, Memphis, Houston, Los Angeles, Detroit and Chicago FBI offices were involved.
The Jackson investigation continued throughout the 1960s until the case went cold at the turn of the decade. It was reactivated in 2007 following passage in Congress of the Emmett Till Act in 2007, authorizing the Department of Justice to make another attempt at solving some 123 cases involving 132 victims.
Jackson’s murder is now among some two dozen cases still open under the act.