During the mid-1960s, the King Hotel in Ferriday was the hangout of choice for local Klanmen, just as the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia was a favorite gathering spot for Vidalia Klansmen.
One former Klansman -- O.C. "Coonie" Poissot -- told the FBI in 1967 that the majority of Klan projects in 1965 either began or ended (or both) at the King Hotel,
Poissot died two decades ago, but his association with Klansman Doug Nugent, the manager of the King Hotel, sheds light on the operation of the Ferriday-Clayton Klan from 1964 until Nugent's death in March 1966.
When in March 1967 the FBI asked special agent John Pfeifer to find Poissot, who left Ferriday in December 1965, Pfeifer knew just where to look. He went to the corner at the main intersection in town, the location of King Hotel.
"I just dug up one of those guys from around the King Hotel who use to know him," said Pfeifer. "I got a lead that Coonie (Poissot) was in Texas."
Within days, Pfeifer's lead paid off and Poissot was located. He would go on to become one of the FBI's leading informants on Klan-related crimes in Concordia Parish, Natchez, Jonesville and Tallulah, including the 1964 arson of Frank Morris' shoe shop in Ferriday and the 1965 car bombing of George Metcalfe at the Armstrong Tire plant in Natchez.
Morris, who was inside the shoe shop when it was torched, died four days later. Metcalfe survived the attack on him but suffered lifelong injuries.
Poissot told FBI agents in 1967 that he was with Concordia Parish deputy Frank DeLaughter in the deputy's patrol car the night before the arson and that the deputy, a leading suspect in the murder, was furious with Morris over a dispute involving a pair of cowboy boots.
Last year, a Minden woman, Brenda Rhodes, a longtime friend of Poissot's, informed The Sentinel that Poissot told her in the early 1970s that he and a Rayville man were two of four participants in the arson. Poissot never admitted to the FBI any involvement in the crime, according to bureau documents.
The FBI reopened a probe into the Morris arson in 2007. A parish Grand Jury convened on Feb. 8, 2011, to begin an investigation into the 46-year-old murder.
KING HOTEL & THE KLAN
John Pfeifer had discovered soon after arriving in Ferriday in 1966 that the King Hotel was Klan headquarters in town. He said he and fellow agent Ted Gardner were sent from the FBI's New Orleans' division to help put a plug in Klan violence and to help close a number of pending cases being investigated by agent Don McGorty, who was being transferred to another position.
"While we were up there, we got word that they were having a Klan funeral for somebody at the King Hotel," said Pfeifer. "We assumed he was a member of the Old Original Knights because that was the main organization that was in Ferriday at the time. But we never really looked into whether to try to find out because at that time I was not really assigned to the parish."
In fact, the Klan funeral was for Nugent, 46, an officer in the Ferriday-Clayton unit of the Original Knights, also known as the Old Originals. Nugent served as manager for the King Hotel before he was killed in a traffic accident in Jonesville in March 1966.
Just weeks earlier, in December 1965, Nugent's friend Coonie Poissot left Concordia Parish for Texas. Poissot, a Louisiana native, was considered a drifter by the FBI in 1967, a trucker by trade and a man prone to violence who was addicted to speed. According to FBI documents, Poissot told the bureau in 1967 that he "became acquainted with one Doug Nugent of the King Hotel in Ferriday," and that he joined the Ferriday-Clayton Unit of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan on the invitation of Nugent. Poissot said he and Nugent also worked together as roofing contractors on occasion during that period.
Earcel Boyd was a Concordia Parish Klansmen and state officer in another Klan group, the United Klans of America. Boyd was interviewed by the FBI in 1967 and told agents that he was also a member of the Silver Dollar Group (SDG), a Klan cell dedicated to the violent opposition of civil rights. Each Klansman carried a silver dollar minted in the year of his birth as a symbol of membership and unity.
Boyd and other Klansmen identified Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover of Vidalia as the head of the SDG, according to FBI documents provided by the Syracuse College of Law Cold Case Initiative. He also showed agents a silver dollar given him by Glover. One of Boyd's sons has that silver dollar today.
Boyd additionally told agents that "he knew Glover also gave Doug Nugent a silver dollar" and that he first learned of Nugent's Klan affiliation when "he was buried at a Klan funeral."
While still a teenager, Earcel "Sonny" Boyd Jr. accompanied his dad, Earcel, to the King Hotel on occasions.
"The King Hotel was used for many of the local meetings or for regional events when they got members from Clayton, Jonesville, Gilbert, Ferriday, and Vidalia together for anything," says Sonny Boyd, who graduated from Ferriday High in 1965, joined the Navy in 1967 and now lives in Corbett, Ore. He is retired from Tektronix, Inc.
He said Klansmen often met for "short powwows" at the hotel "anytime there was a discussion about anything planned for the area."
Sonny Boyd said his father often met DeLaughter, Glover and James Scarborough at the King Hotel. Scarborough was the Exalted Cyclops of the Ferriday-Clayton unit of the Original Knights until December 1965.
Sonny Boyd said Nugent was buried "in a red robe. Red robes were significant of regional ranking, such as a Titan or Cyclops. Daddy wore red robes to signify his regional ranking, but his robes had green stripes, green lapels, and a green tab to signify his state ranking as Grand Titan. He also had a gold stripe in recognition of his national significance."
The King Hotel was once a showpiece in Ferriday. According to now defunct Ferriday Enterprise, visitors rode trains to Ferriday for the grand opening of the 50-room, $75,000 hotel in January 1927. The paper reported that each of the rooms contained a bath with hot and cold running water, steam heat, a bell for room service, electric fans, "comfortable beds," and a "wash basin in every" room.
But months later the 1927 flood inundated the grand hotel. The owner renovated, but the hotel's service and appearance began to decline in later years.
Pfeifer said the hotel in the 1960s was also infamous for its prostitutes, whose primary customers were oilfield workers.
"I saw some of the rooms at the King Hotel and I think cheap would be a good description," said Pfeifer. The hotel was condemned by the Ferriday Town Council and demolished in 1984.
In 1965, however, according to Poissot, the hotel was Klan central. He told the bureau that he participated in Klan wrecking crew projects including:
-- Vandalizing a black man's car in Natchez in a search for guns.
-- Attempted intimidation of a construction company for hiring blacks near Jonesville.
-- An aborted attempt to shoot Moses Williams, a black man and civil rights activists who owned a tire shop in Tallulah. Williams' shop was torched in the fall of 1965.
-- Traveling to a football game on Oct. 8 in Tallulah when Klansmen believed blacks would attempt to enter the stadium during a contest between Tallulah and Vidalia. According to FBI reports, a number of Klansmen showed up but there were no confrontation.
-- Attending the Klan trial in Clayton of James Scarborough, who was removed as head of the Ferriday-Clayton Klan unit after being accused of divulging Klan secrets.
Poissot said each of these projects began or ended (or both) at the King Hotel.