Retired FBI agent John Pfeifer, who investigated the Klan and corruption in Concordia Parish in the 1960s and 1970s, died Easter Sunday in Bay Village, Ohio.
He was 79-years-old.
Pfeifer was a familiar face in Concordia Parish for more than a decade. His investigation in the 1960s into the Morville Lounge, a mob-backed gambling and prostitution operation located at Deer Park, resulted in the arrests and convictions of law enforcement officials, pimps and prostitutes. His investigation into the failure of the Delta Security Bank & Trust Company in Ferriday in 1973 also led to convictions.
During the last years of his life, Pfeifer kept up with the developments in the FBI's new probes into several local Civil Rights-era cold case murders. On Saturday, the day before he passed away, Pfeifer told the Sentinel that solving the murders of Frank Morris (Ferriday, 1964), Joseph Edwards (Concordia, 1964) and Wharlest Jackson (Natchez, 1967) and others are important in many ways.
“The worst thing you can do to a person is kill them,” he said. “The second worst thing is to badly injure them. That's basically what these cases were all about.”
Before coming to the South to investigate Klan violence and murders, Pfeifer said agents “knew that you have got to get law enforcement on the right track doing honest work, trying to prevent crime and if you can't prevent it to try to solve it. That was really the thrust of our activities of the whole bureau as far as I could see was to do that -- be a preventive force and a force for gathering evidence that you could use in trials.”
He said agents faced a problem of mistrust from some in the white community who felt these federal employees – especially "Yankees from the North" – were out to “push down everybody’s throat” Civil Rights-legislation designed to protect and provide equal rights to African-Americans.
“We didn't look at it that way,” Pfeifer said. “We looked at it as a mission to save people's lives and property and make sure that laws were enforced. Let's face it, our whole system, unlike many countries in the world, is based on the law where everybody supposedly has a reasonable chance to be treated fairly. The wrongs of people in a society are to be righted.”
He said the unsolved Civil Rights-era murders “really got under my skin...it’s a real blot to everybody’s record, including everybody decent...”
In 1966, Pfeifer conducted one of the first interviews of Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover, the man the FBI says was the head of the violent Klan cell known as the Silver Dollar Group. The group was believed responsible for the attempted murder of Natchez NAACP President George Metcalfe in 1965 and the carbombing murder of Wharlest Jackson in 1967.
Pfeifer's investigations led to the arrest of notorious Concordia Parish deputy Frank DeLaughter, who was convicted for corruption and police brutality in the early 1970s. Pfeifer believed that DeLaughter was the engineer of the Morris arson murder and that he was involved in the disappearance and apparent murder of Joseph Edwards.
Despite the dangers he faced from Klansmen and violent criminals, Pfeifer said he was never fearful and found the work satisfying.
"I knew what I was doing was right," he said. "You've got a certain amount of confidence when you know you're doing the right thing."