Retired FBI agents confirm that the militant Silver Dollar Group was suspected in some of the most heinous crimes in the mid-1960s in Adams County and Concordia Parish, including the murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris in December 1964.
This small group of violent Ku Klux Klansmen is also believed to be responsible for the murder of Wharlest Jackson in February 1967 and the attempted murder of George Metcalfe in August 1965 in Adams County in the months after Morris' death.
Another victim may have been Joe "Joe-Ed" Edwards, a porter at the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia who went missing in July 1964 and hasn't been seen since.
It was during a morning discussion over coffee at the Shamrock cafe in the fall of 1964 that Klansmen formed the Silver Dollar Group, made up of men who were bent on violence, according to author Don Whitehead in his 1970 book, "Attack on Terror: The FBI Against the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi." Each man carried a silver dollar minted in the year he was born as a token of group membership.
The group's number may have once totaled 20, but a handful of these men may have been psychopaths with no second thoughts about harming or killing a man and never feeling a moment of remorse about it. For a four-year period -- from 1964 through 1967 -- these serial killers kidnapped men last seen walking along the highways, fire bombed homes, churches and cars, and killed.
In Adams County, Wharlest Jackson and George Metcalfe had three things in common -- both worked at Armstrong Tire, both were leaders in the Natchez NAACP Chapter and both were victims of car bombs.
A retired FBI agent said some of the most violent Klansmen either worked or were associated with men who were employed at Armstrong.
Metcalfe, 53, housed some of the first Civil Rights workers to visit Natchez in 1964, and actively promoted Civil Rights. This drew the ire of the Klan.
According to John Dittmer in "Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi," in late January 1965 "someone fired a shot through the window of his (Metcalfe's) house. Throughout that summer he received numerous threatening phone calls and was harassed at work....On August 27, as the early shift at Armstrong let out, Metcalfe climbed into his car in the plant parking lot and turned on the ignition. The resulting explosion demolished Metcalfe's car and damaged several vehicles nearby."
Metcalfe was hospitalized for weeks, "suffering from a fractured arm and leg, lacerations, and a serious eye injury."
Wharlest Jackson was treasurer of the NAACP in Natchez. In 1967, he accepted a position at Armstrong Tire previously held by white men.
On Feb. 27, 1967, not far from the plant along Minor Street, his pickup exploded, killing Jackson. The FBI found that the car bomb was similar to the one that had seriously injured Metcalfe 18 months earlier.
Some members of the Silver Dollar Group occasionally held family outings and picnics -- some in Concordia Parish -- to refine their bombing skills. Michael and Judy Ann Newton write that these events "were combined with demolition seminars, including practice on the fine technique of wiring dynamite to the ignition of a car."
The Newtons, in "The Ku Klux Klan: An Encyclopedia," quote an FBI agent concerning the Silver Dollar Group as saying, "Perhaps the perfect crime is one in which the killers are known, but you can't reach them for lack of substantive evidence."
One retired FBI agent told The Sentinel that most of the members of the Silver Dollar Group were "from the Natchez area." But the Newtons note that Vidalia Sportsman's Club was created "as a front for the Vidalia, Louisiana, klavern, Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan."
This information was exposed during hearings held by the House un-American Activities Committee in 1965.
The Newtons write that in 1964 several members of the Vidalia klavern "cooperated with Klansmen from neighboring areas to organize the violent Silver Dollar Group."
While Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris was not believed to have been involved in Civil Rights, his shoe shop at 415 Fourth Street (Hwy. 84) was set on fire by two men on Dec. 10, 1964. Morris, who lived in a room in the back of the store, was severely burned in the blaze and died four days later without identifying his attackers.
Six months prior to the arson of Morris' store, Joe-Ed Edwards was reported missing by his mother. A kitchen worker at the Shamrock was the last person to have seen him alive, according to a confidential report filed by the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol and the FBI.
Morris and Edwards may have been targeted because of alleged associations with white women.
FBI agents were told by some witnesses that Morris allegedly allowed interracial couples to meet in the back of his shoe shop and that he, too, was associated with white women. Men who knew Morris have told The Sentinel that Morris did allow these sexual liaisons in his shoe shop and they say that Klansmen and law enforcement officers were among the participants.
But Morris also had a thriving trade with the black and white community in Ferriday and it is also believed that Klansmen did not like the fact that white women depended on Morris to keep their families in shoes.
Edwards was known to have had white girlfriends and some family members said he was somewhat bold about these affairs. Many warned him that he was asking for trouble. He told his first cousin, Carl Ray Thompson of Clayton, that he was caught with a white women in a room at the Shamrock. His life was threatened and shortly afterward he disappeared.
One week after his disappearance on July 12, 1964, Edwards' 1958 Buick was found abandoned along Hwy. 84 at the site of the old bowling alley.
Family members say they were told that Edwards was held hostage in Mississippi before he was killed. His body may have been dumped in one of four bar pits along the Ferriday-Vidalia Highway.
These attacks on Edwards, Morris, Metcalfe and Jackson have one thing in common. No one has ever been prosecuted for these crimes.