The son of a Concordia Parish Klansman says his father threatened a Richland Parish Klansman in 1964 over the arson murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris.
Earcel "Sonny" Boyd Jr., 64, the son of the late Earcel Boyd Sr., said his father was so angry over the murder of Morris that he spent days after the arson trying to find out who was responsible by contacting Klan associates in Louisiana and Mississippi.
One of the men Boyd Sr. contacted, according to Sonny Boyd, was Douglas Spencer, a Klan leader in Richland Parish.
"Daddy was in an absolute rage when he spoke to Mr. Spencer," recalls Sonny Boyd, who was 17 in 1964. "Daddy questioned Spencer about the arson and was in an absolute rage."
He said his father quizzed Spencer about who authorized the Morris arson and "threatened heavy reprisals if the klaverns in Rayville and Tallulah were involved with any other activities in Concordia Parish."
Sonny Boyd said he "was pretty shaken by the whole thing because it was the only time I ever heard Daddy make a direct threat with the implication of death to anyone. That stuck with me."
Morris, 51, died four days after the arson of his shoe shop 47 years ago. The FBI investigated the arson intensively in the 1960s and reopened the case in 2007. Two Concordia Parish grand juries have heard testimony concerning the murder during the past year and a third grand jury is expected to hear the case in 2012.
Douglas Spencer, a Klansman from Richland Parish, is dead. His nephew, Arthur Leonard Spencer, has been implicated by other relatives in the Morris arson. Leonard Spencer's son, ex-wife and ex-brother-in-law say Leonard Spencer and a former Klansman named O.C. "Coonie" Poissot, who is dead, admitted in the past to having been involved in the arson.
The Sentinel interviewed Leonard Spencer in June 2010. He denied any involvement in the Morris arson and also denied knowing Coonie Poissot. But Leonard Spencer said his uncle, Douglas Spencer, was the Klan leader in Rayville, adding that the local Klan met in a barn at the end of McKnight Road in Richland Parish.
Spencer, 71, said last year that he attended about a dozen Klan meetings in the 1960s; he also discussed the existence and function of wrecking crews -- Klan hit squads -- that carried out attacks.
Now living in Oregon, Sonny Boyd and one of his brothers, Leland Boyd of Texas, grew up going to Klan meetings with their dad, attended large Klan rallies in open fields when crosses were burned and were present at fish fries with other Klan families where Klansmen experimented with explosives. The Boyds say their father stored bombs in the attic of their home on Crestview Drive and in a shed in their backyard.
Yet despite their father's core Klan beliefs, the Boyd brothers say Earcel Boyd Sr. was a good friend of Frank Morris, who operated a shoe shop in Ferriday for almost three decades until his murder in 1964. In fact, the Boyd brothers said Morris was an occasional guest in their home, and joined them for meals at the family dinner table.
Leland Boyd recounted for the Sentinel in 2009 the morning of December 10, 1964, when he first spotted the charred rubble of Morris' shop through a window of his school bus. Then 12 years old, he was so upset that his father had to check him out of school.
Sonny Boyd and Leland Boyd said they accompanied their father separately to visit Morris at the hospital. Leland Boyd said he stood at the doorway of Morris' room while his father tried unsuccessfully to get Morris to identify his attackers. Sonny Boyd said he accompanied his father later and also stood at the doorway. He said Morris didn't speak during that visit.
"Dad was livid over Mr. Frank's murder," Leland Boyd recalled.
Sonny Boyd said that for days his father embarked on an obsessive search for the men responsible for Morris' murder. He recalls Earcel Boyd Sr. speaking to E.L. McDaniel, a Klan leader from Natchez, about the arson. Both McDaniel and Boyd Sr. were members of United Klans of America (UKA), which became the largest Klan group in the country in the 1960s.
McDaniel became head the UKA in Mississippi, while Earcel Boyd Sr. became a local UKA leader and was elected to the state position of Grand Titan in Louisiana. McDaniel told the FBI in 1967 that he had been contacted prior to the arson by the Ferriday-Clayton Original Knights unit about authorizing Mississippi Klansmen to beat Morris for flirting with white women at his shoe shop.
The Boyd brothers say their father suspected Concordia Parish deputy Frank DeLaughter was involved in the arson. The notorious deputy, who was convicted for police brutality in the 1970s, was considered the engineer of the arson, according to retired FBI agent John Pfeifer of Ohio, who arrived in Concordia in 1966 and spent a decade working in the parish.
One FBI informant who pointed to DeLaughter was Coonie Poissot, who told the bureau in 1967 that he was with the deputy hours before the arson and that DeLaughter was furious with Morris. Poissot and another informant told the bureau that Morris refused to continue providing shoe repair work for the deputy because DeLaughter had stiffed him for work in the past. They said Morris' stance infuriated DeLaughter.
Antonne Duncan of Ferriday, a 72-year-old African-American, told The Sentinel he became friends with Earcel Boyd Sr. in the late 1960s and the two helped each other on projects around their homes.
"He (Boyd Sr.) told me that DeLaughter was in the group responsible for Frank Morris' murder," Duncan said. "Earcel told me that Frank Morris wouldn't shine DeLaughter's boots for nothing and that was one of the reasons for the fire."
A number of rumors circulated as to the motive of the arson, but Pfeifer, the retired FBI agent, believes the arsonists' intention was not to kill Morris but to destroy his business as part of DeLaughter's desire to teach Morris a lesson for being "uppity."
At the Boyd household, Sonny Boyd said his father spent hours contacting other Klansmen about the fire.
"Whether he was talking to someone on the phone or talking to someone in person at the house, me and my brothers were able to overhear the conversations," he said. "Even if Dad was on the phone we could figure out who he was talking to most of the time."
"That house had paper thin walls," Leland Boyd said.
Sonny Boyd said he and his brothers were so knowledgeable about the Klan and Klan leaders that they could often figure out what was going on at any given time. He said he was certain his dad's conversation with Douglas Spencer 47 years ago was important because his father threatened Spencer.
"I could hear the voice on the other end of the phone, but not enough to understand what he was saying," Sonny Boyd said. "Daddy was questioning him about what he knew about the arson of Mr. Frank's shop. I could only infer what he was saying from Dad's reaction. The shouting went on for several minutes before Daddy hung up the phone in a rage.
"I knew the name Doug Spencer already....I know that the call was to Doug Spencer because Daddy specifically asked for Mr. Spencer. Afterward, he made references to Doug Spencer in several of the calls that followed."
Sonny Boyd said months afterward he saw Douglas Spencer at a Klan rally near Ruston.