James Ford Seale, now in federal prison for the 1964 murders of two black teens in Mississippi, admitted to the FBI in 1967 that he was a member of the Silver Dollar Group (SDG) and had attended an SDG fish fry in Concordia Parish in 1965 where a bombing may have been planned.
He also identified some of the Klansmen who were in the SDG.
Seale's admission is found in the Wharlest Jackson case file known as WHARBOM, a compilation of thousands of pages of documents in which the militant and deadly Silver Dollar Group -- known by Klansmen as "a Klan within a Klan" -- comes to life. Jackson, who died in the car-bombing of his pickup on Feb. 27, 1967, in Natchez, was the second victim of a bombing at the Armstrong Tire Plant.
The first bombing was on Aug. 27, 1965, in which George Metcalfe survived but not without suffering lifelong injuries. Metcalfe and Jackson were each officers of the NAACP and best friends. The FBI believed Jackson was murdered because he took a position at the Armstrong plant formerly held by white men only. Metcalfe was targeted two years earlier because he was active in Civil Rights and a proponent of desegregation, according to records.
The FBI believed that the SDG fish fry held in Concordia in June 1965 was for the purpose of experimenting with explosives and to plan the Metcalfe bombing, which occurred two months later. Seale's decision to talk with the FBI and discuss his SDG membership came just eight months after the Wharlest Jackson bombing.
No arrests were ever made in either bombing.
On August 3, 1967, just five days before the Franklin County, Miss., sheriff's election, FBI agent Reesie Timmons spotted Seale, a candidate for sheriff, standing on the side of U.S. 98 three miles east of Meadville. Timmons reported that Seale and another man were "preparing a pickup truck for use in Seale's campaign...."
Timmons pulled his car over and approached Seale, identified himself and said he wanted to talk.
Seale responded angrily, "I will not talk to the God damn FBI now or ever."
Timmons said Seale turned his back to the agent and "walked toward a house some 70 to 80 feet from the roadside..."
Three weeks later, Jack Seale told the bureau he was thinking about talking his little brother into cooperating with FBI agents. By this time, Jack Seale had been an FBI informant since March of 1967. Additionally, James Ford Seale had placed fifth out of six candidates in the Franklin County, Miss., sheriff's election and was, according to Jack Seale, "mentally depressed because of his defeat in the 8/8/67 primary."
FBI records don't indicate whether James Ford Seale was aware his brother, Jack, had become an FBI informant.
A month later, on September 20, the FBI reported James Ford Seale "appeared" at its Natchez office and said he understood the FBI wanted to talk to him. He said he was willing to talk but couldn't at the moment because he had a doctor's appointment, a follow up to surgery on his left shoulder.
The FBI surmised that it "was a matter of great emotional strain for him to agree to talk to an FBI agent. His mistrust with law enforcement in general is so intense that by preference, he would never talk to anybody in the law enforcement business."
A short time later, Seale called FBI agent Benjamin F. Graves, the man who handled Jack Seale as an informant, and told Graves to meet him at the Medical Arts building parking lot in Natchez. At Seale's request, Graves got into Seale's car and the two men rode around Natchez and the surrounding countryside for an hour and a half and talked.
During the ride, Seale criticized the FBI for "harassing him during the past few years and causing him to lose some of his jobs." Graves told Seale that "he (Seale) had not lived an exemplary life and he had caused his own problems and should not blame the FBI for his shortcomings."
In fact, the Seale brothers and their father were among seven Klansmen who were suspects in the May 1964 murders of black teenagers Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore of Franklin County. James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards, also of Franklin County, were booked in the murders but later released and the charges soon dropped. Four decades later, Seale was convicted on Edwards' testimony and is now in federal prison. The other suspects, including Jack Seale, are dead.
James Ford Seale said he attended the June 26, 1965, fish fry in Concordia Parish held at the home of James Frederick "Red" Lee, located about four miles south of Wildsville along Hwy. 565 near Lismore across the road from Black River. Lee's home was next door to the old Forman Grocery, which was situated on the east side of the road just north of Ames Road.
Seale said he had also attended an SDG meeting on a sandbar on the Homochitto River in Franklin County previous to the Concordia meeting at Lee's residence. This Concordia SDG meeting was significant not only because the Metcalfe bombing may have been planned there, according to FBI documents, but also because it was the only time more than four or five SDG members met in one place at one time, records show.
Seale also recalled that he was given his silver dollar, a symbol of membership in the SDG, by Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover. An Armstrong Tire employee who lived in Vidalia, Glover was identified by the FBI as a result of the WHARBOM probe as the head of the SDG who hand-picked members and was considered the lead suspect in the Jackson and Metcalfe bombings.
Some of the men Seale identified as Silver Dollar Group members in addition to himself and Lee were Jack Seale, Tommy Lee Jones and Thore Lee Torgersen, all of Natchez, Charles Falvey of Wesson, Ralph Day of Brookhaven, and E.D. Morace and James Lee Scaroborough, both of Ferriday.
Seale said he did not know a number of men in attendance at the fish fry, although other FBI informants placed Glover, Norman Head of Vidalia and James Horace "Sonny" Taylor of Harrisonburg at that meeting as well as others.
Seale said he never heard George Metcalfe's name mentioned at the gathering but acknowledged that "materials used to try to make explosives at the fish fry were ineffective."
Informants told the FBI that during the afternoon "someone got out charcoal, saltpeter (potassium nitrate, an explosive), and some other ingredient and ground them up in a coffee grinder in an effort to make an explosive powder. There had been general talk that the government was going to restrict the sale of guns, ammunition and powder. Some of this mixture was put in some container and Jack Seale threw it toward the trees, in the back side of the yard, but it did not explode."
The son of Silver Dollar Klansman Earcel Boyd Sr., who died in 1988 in Ferriday, said he recalls attending several Klan fish fries with his father where explosives were used but can't recall if he attended the June 1965 meeting. One of Earcel "Sonny" Boyd Jr.'s brothers has in his possession Earcel Boyd Sr.'s silver dollar. Sonny and his brothers learned how to make bombs and detonate them by watching their father and other Klansmen experiment with bombing techniques at Klan fish fries.
Sonny said the men at the June 1965 fish fry were apparently "trying to make black powder, but they did it wrong. Black powder is a mixture of charcoal, potassium nitrate and sulfur, but it cannot just be mixed. To be effective it must be ground into a fine powder, then ground together for a fine, powdery mix. If the granules are not ground small enough, the mixture will not burn properly. In addition, the mixture will not explode without a catalyst or hot flame, so they would have had to use some form of detonation cord to have been hot enough to set off the reaction."
Sonny added that "during this period of time Daddy started collecting gallon jars of pelletized gun powder which is more powerful than black powder. Some of it was smokeless. When I left the house in August of 1967, there were still two gallons of the gun powder in the attic, just to the right of the hall fan."
An FBI document reports that informants said of the June 1965 SDG fish fry:
"During the afternoon, several of the men went to Forman's Grocery, which is next door to the Lee's residence, and when they left, they placed UKA (United Klans of America) cards on the counter.
"Wives of some of the men were there as were some of their children. They were inside Lee's residence part of the time. The group talked about integration and related subjects..."
(Editor's Note: The Sentinel and the Syracuse University Cold Case Justice Initiative (CCJI) were granted access to the WHARBOM file through the Freedom of Information Act. CCJI provided The Sentinel copies of the file.)