A Natchez Klansmen became one of the FBI's most productive and effective informants in 1967 and was credited in preventing violence against federal jurors who convicted seven Klansmen for the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Miss.
FBI documents show that Myron Wayne "Jack" Seale talked the head of a Klan offshoot, the Silver Dollar Group (SDG) -- Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover -- out of putting dynamite under the houses of the 12 jurors who had convicted seven Klansmen in the FBI case known as MIBURN (Mississippi Burning.) The Klansmen were among a dozen accused in the murders of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, both white, Jewish and from New York, and James Chaney, a black Mississippian.
The three men -- whose ages were 20 to 24 -- were shot to death on June 21, 1964, the first day of Freedom Summer. Their bodies were dumped into an earthen dam. On October 20, 1967, the federal jury in Meridian, Miss., charged with determining whether the civil rights of the victims had been violated, reached its verdict.
A day later, Jack Seale, 40, was riding to Kentwood, La., with three other Klansmen, including SDG head Red Glover of Vidalia, James Horace "Sonny" Taylor of Harrisonburg, La., and an informant known as NO-1325, a Ferriday mechanic, FBI records indicate agents learned. During the car ride, Glover, furious with the jury's verdict, said "someone should go up to Meridian and help out by putting dynamite under the houses of Jury members." Glover said it wouldn't help the Klansmen just convicted, but it "would make the next jury think."
Seale, according to FBI documents, quickly made another suggestion. He said it would be "better to have someone telephone jury members throughout the night and also have ambulances and fire trucks sent to their houses." Seale volunteered instead to consult other trusted Klansmen before action was taken. Apparently, Glover soon gave up on the idea of the bombings.
While none of the MIBURN jurors were harmed or their homes bombed, some were threatened. Reporter Jerry Mitchell reported in The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Miss.) in 2000 that for six weeks after the verdicts, U.S. marshals guarded the homes of the jurors.
On whether the protection was provided because of Glover's threat, Mitchell said this week, "That matches up with what jurors told me, and certainly makes sense."
In the meantime, the FBI was elated with Seale's quick move to avert violence, an affirmation of its decision in March 1967 to make Seale a paid informant in the aftermath of the carbombing murder of Wharlest Jackson, a 36-year-old married father of five who died just blocks from the Armstrong Tire plant in Natchez. An employee of the plant, Jackson was targeted by Klansman because he had taken a position formerly held by white men only.
In a massive investigation following the murder, the FBI determined that a secret Klan cell known as the SDG was likely responsible for Jackson's murder as well as that of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris and Vidalia Shamrock Motel porter Joseph "Joe-Ed" Edwards. SDG members were also believed responsible for other crimes, including arsons, bombings, beatings and thievery.
Because the FBI lacked jurisdiction in many of these cases, and because the FBI believed the Klan had a safe haven among law enforcement authorities in Concordia Parish, the bureau broadened the scope of the Wharlest Jackson probe -- known as WHARBOM -- in an effort to neutralize violent Klansmen, to infiltrate the SDG and to identify Wharlest Jackson's killers. Jack Seale soon emerged as one of the FBI top informants who, along with other informants, worked to neutralize Glover and other violent Klansmen in what the FBI called "a race against violence."
This information is found in the FBI's WHARBOM file. Copies were provided The Sentinel by the Syracuse University College of Law Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI). Both CCJI and The Sentinel were granted access to the file through the Freedom of Information Act.
Glover was considered one of the lead suspects in the bombing of Jackson in 1967 and the 1965 bombing of George Metcalfe, a NAACP official and Armstrong employee like Glover and Jackson, who survived the attempt on his life. FBI files paint the 45-year-old Glover in 1967 as the undisputed head of the SDG, who hand-picked SDG members and gave his followers silver dollars as a means of identification and unity.
Just days after the Jackson bombing, Glover, known as a diehard segregationist who despised blacks, threatened a black man. Adams County Sheriff Odell Anders told the FBI that when the man was spotted in a parking lot near the Armstrong plant on March 19, Anders' brother heard Glover shout, "Get the hell out of here and don't ever come back."
Another man said Glover was a "hothead" and once exhibited a sawed-off shotgun. When showing the weapon, the man said Glover reported it "would be real good for shooting quail," adding, "It ought to get a lot of niggers too."
Glover died in 1984 at the age of 62.
Under indictment for the 1966 bombing of a Natchez jewelry store, Jack Seale probably wouldn't be convicted, the FBI surmised while pondering whether to bring him on as an informant. While noting that public tolerance of the Klan was diminishing, the bureau concluded that "there is not the remotest possibility that he will be convicted because juries in this county are not inclined to convict in cases which appear to be racially connected."
This assessment is one reason the conviction of the seven Klansmen in the Philadelphia, Miss., murders came as a shock. The trial in Meridian revealed that White Knights' klaverns in Neshoba and Lauderdale counties conspired to killed Schwerner, who was given the nicknamed "Goatee." Unable to locate the busy activist, the Klan decided to lure him to Neshoba County by burning the Mt. Zion Church.
That plan worked, and Schwerner, accompanied by Goodman and Chaney, came to investigate the church burning after which the men were arrested by a Neshoba County deputy on a speeding charge, jailed and later released at night when overtaken by Klansmen and shot to death, their bodies buried in an earthen dam.
In summing up the government's case, federal prosecutor John Doar, the Assistant Attorney General heading up the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, said: "The sole responsibility of the determination of guilt or innocence of these men remain in the hands it should remain, the hands of twelve citizens of Mississippi."
Some of the 12 defense attorneys argued that the "outsiders" were stirring up the locals and said the government had used paid informants to lie against good Mississippi citizens. Said one defense attorney: "Mississippians rightfully resent some hairy beatniks from another state visiting our state with hate," adding that the "so-called (civil rights) workers are not workers at all, but low class riff-raft...misfits in our own land."
Earlier in the trial, defense attorney Laurel Weir asked a black minister this question concerning the civil rights workers: "Now, let me ask you if you and Mr. Schwerner didn't advocate and try to get young male Negroes to sign statements agreeing to rape a white woman once a week during the hot summer of 1964?" This lie and others like it were often spread by the Klan to frighten the white populace, but Judge Harold Cox reacted quickly to the question and lambasted the defense attorney. He warned the others that such baseless questions would be harshly rejected.
Cox sided with the Jury's decision, too, adding, "It would be unthinkable for a jury to bring in any other verdict on the defendants."
Florence Mars, whose family was among the pioneers of Neshoba County, sat through the trial and wrote a book in 1977 called, "Witness in Philadelphia." She said the "convictions were a turning point in Mississippi. This was the first time a jury in the state had returned a guilty verdict in a major civil rights case since Reconstruction, and the convictions marked the end of a long chain of widely publicized and unpunished racial killings that began after the Supreme Court decision of 1954," known as Brown vs. Board of Education. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that racial segregation of public schools was unconstitutional, and that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
The day after the Jury's verdict, Seale thwarted Glover's attempt to use dynamite to send another message to potential jurors in Klan trials. By this time in October 1967, informants were reporting to the FBI that Glover was drinking heavily, was paranoid and feared that he would be arrested and convicted in the Jackson murder, which didn't happen. He was never charged.
"I've lived a full life," he told his closest associates.
Seale, on the other hand, was undergoing a personal transformation, according to documents, as he once persuaded Glover to provide him with explosives, which Seale quickly placed into the hands of the FBI. The FBI also said that Seale, who died in 1974, had gained the complete confidence of Glover who was beginning to confide in Seale.
Seale was "no longer prone to commit acts of violence....has expressed his opinion that acts of violence are not the answer to the problems of the South," the FBI concluded in 1967.
But Seale's background would forever stain his present and future. He was, according to court documents, among a group of both kin and Klansmen involved in the 1964 murders of two black men -- Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, both 19. Seale's brother, James Ford Seale, was convicted in those murders in 2007 and is now in federal prison.
Jack Seale was also questioned in 1966 by the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, which investigated the Klan, about the 1965 murder of a 47-year-old Klansman turned informant, Earl Hodges.
All three victims were from Franklin County, Miss.