Woodie Davis

By Stanley Nelson & Chelsea Brasted

When the head of the United Klans of America in Mississippi needed help getting a fellow Klansmen and murder suspect out of jail in Louisiana in 1966, he turned to deputy Frank DeLaughter of the Concordia Parish Sheriff's Office, a notorious cop known for his brutality and also a card-carrying KKK member.

But DeLaughter's influence carried little weight with Mayor Woodie Davis of Ferriday, who in 1962 had fired the patrolman from the town police force for misconduct. Davis told DeLaughter that the bond for Natchez Klansman Myron Wayne "Jack" Seale on a charge of driving under the influence was $250, a hefty sum in 1966 which would equal more than $1700 today.

The deputy asked the mayor to release the 37-year-old Seale without bond.

The mayor said no.

Klansmen interrupted the mayor's sleep three times that night, but he refused to give them what they wanted and they finally paid the bond.

FBI documents indicate Davis stood up to the Klan often and cooperated with the FBI during its intensive effort to break up the KKK during the 1960s. A World War II veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart, Davis died last year at the age of 93. He told the Sentinel in 2008 that he hoped the 1964 arson murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris would be solved. That case was reopened by the FBI in 2007 and became the subject of a parish Grand Jury investigation last year.

Davis said he knew Morris well and visited him in the hospital with law enforcement officers at his side. He tried unsuccessfully to get Morris to identify his attackers or tell him who was responsible for the attack. In hindsight, Davis said he should have visited Morris alone.

"It's one of my greatest regrets," he said. "I believe today that if I had gone to see Frank by myself that he would have told me."

Retired FBI agent John Pfeifer, who spent more than a decade in Concordia Parish beginning in 1966, believes that DeLaughter was the engineer of the arson but that others physically committed the act.

The arrest of Jack Seale in 1966 in Ferriday, and DeLaughter's attempt to get him out of jail free, is found in recently released FBI documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by journalism students from the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication.

Seale was arrested by Ferriday police during the early morning hours of Feb. 14 on the DWI charge. Davis told the FBI in 1967 that Seale's car was searched because arresting officers had a tip that the trunk of his 1965 Chevelle Super Sport was filled with stolen typewriters.

But inside officers found something quite different and lethal: A cache of weapons and ammunition, including a .38 snub nose pistol, a Colt AR-15 .223 caliber modified automatic rifle, a .30 caliber carbine rifle and more than 635 rounds of various types of ammunition. Additionally, police found two bayonets, two traffic blinker lights and two walkie-talkie radios.

Following the arrest, Seale was booked in the Ferriday jail. A short time later, Davis received a visit from James Scarborough, who was head of the Ferriday-Clayton unit of the Original Knights. When told the amount of the Seale's bond, Scarborough told Davis he didn't have "that kind of money" and left, according to FBI records.

Later, Mississippi United Klans of America (UKA) leader E.L. McDaniel and DeLaughter knocked on Davis' door. DeLaughter did most of the talking, but his attempts to persuade Davis to allow Seale to walk out of jail without bond failed.

Thirty minutes later, McDaniel returned with the $250, paid the bond and Seale was released.

Seale had an arrest record dating back to the 1940s beginning when he was in the Navy. He was also arrested along with other Klansmen for the 1963 beating of two Civil Rights workers in Port Gibson, Miss., and authorities later confiscated an arsenal of weapons from his home. Additionally, he was a suspect in the 1964 murder of two Meadville, Miss., African-American teens -- Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Moore.

Seale's brother, Klansman James Ford Seale, died in federal prison last year after his conviction in 2007 for the deaths of the two black men. Dee and Moore were beaten in May 1964 in Franklin County, Miss., and later transported to Louisiana and thrown into an offshoot of the Mississippi at Davis Island (also known as Parker's Island/Palmyra Island).

According to David Ridgen, a Canadian filmmaker whose investigation into the Dee-Moore murders helped lead to the arrest and conviction of James Ford Seale: "Jack Seale was a member of the White Knights at the time of the murder, but switched soon thereafter to membership in the United Klans of America, acting as a lieutenant to Grand Dragon E.L. McDaniel in Natchez."

Before the two teens were thrown in the river, Ridgen -- citing testimony, FBI documents and witness statements -- said Jack Seale asked one of them, “Do you know what is going to happen to you?”

Ridgen said, "Then, Jack and brother James rowed Henry Dee, bound with twine and chained to heavy weights, into the middle of the Old River and threw him overboard." He says James Seale and Klansman Ernest Parker of Natchez, who owned the island, then chained Moore and dumped him in the water.

Others were involved, but only James Ford Seale convicted.

Two years after those murders, Jack Seale was arrested in Ferriday in 1966.

Davis told the bureau in 1967 that the materials confiscated during Seale's arrest were in storage at the police department but would likely have to be returned to Seale because no fully automatic weapon was discovered and the other items on their own were not illegal to carry.

Later in 1966, Seale was indicted by an Adams County Grand Jury in Natchez -- but never convicted -- for "willfully and unlawfully placing a bomb at or near" Oberlin Jewelers in downtown Natchez "to harm or destroy the contents therein."

Around the same time, Seale, unemployed and financially strapped, became an FBI informant, according to bureau records. Documents also show that Seale was considered a good informant and vital in providing the FBI inside information on the operations of the Silver Dollar Group, a militant Klan cell dedicated to opposing civil rights and integration with violence.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.