In 1966 in Ferriday, a bomb intended to harm David Whatley, his grandmother, family and the civil rights workers also inside the Whatley home failed to ignite.
More than a half century later, Whatley was moved to tears when the daughter of one of the Klansmen who meant to kill him apologized for the actions of her father.
The scene was filmed at the Arcade Theater in Ferriday on Friday, Feb. 17, during the taping of the “Dianne Andrews Show in Black and White.”
Baton Rouge talk show host Dianne Andrews did three separate tapings in Ferriday as part of Black History Month and as part of her series on the Silver Dollar Group, the Klan terror cell responsible for eight murders in Louisiana and Mississippi from 1964 to 1967.
Whatley was the first black person to integrate Ferriday High School in 1966.
Debra Taylor, formerly of Catahoula Parish, is the daughter of the late Sonny Taylor, a member of the Silver Dollar Group, one of two men responsible for the attempted bombing of the Whatley home.
During the taping, an emotional Debra Taylor expressed her sorrow to Whatley for her father’s involvement in the bombing attempt.
“Meeting David healed a hurt that I have always had,” Taylor said Monday.
During the taping, Whatley said he bore no hard feelings toward Debra Taylor, who turned 13 the year of the bombing. He said she bore no responsibility for the actions of her father.
“He forgave her right away,” said Drew White, who attended the program taping. White is a member of the Manship School of Mass Communication Unsolved Civil Rights-Era Murders Project at LSU.
David LaPlante, a former Manship cold case team member, wrote a story on Debra Taylor’s life as the child of a Klansman in a story published in The Advocate in Baton Rouge last May.
The director of the LSU program — Jay Shelledy — said LaPlante’s article in The Advocate drew more than 1,200 comments.
In late 2016 Andrews hosted two shows at her studio in Baton Rouge that centered on Ferriday, the Silver Dollar Group and this region.
As the Concordia Sentinel has reported in recent years, Whatley was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in Ferriday during the mid-1960s. His grandmother, Alberta Whatley, made her home a safe haven for many activists, including those with CORE (Congress of Racial Equality), who worked in Ferriday during the summer of 1965.
David Whatley was also a member of the Deacons of Defense, an organization of armed black men who defended black neighborhoods from Klan attacks.
As a result of the activism of Whatley and his grandmother, the Klan attempted to destroy the Whatley home and those inside in 1966 with a bomb, but the device — strapped with dynamite —failed to properly detonate.
In the book, “Devils Walking” (LSU Press, 2016), Debra Taylor’s father —Sonny Taylor of Harrisonburg — is named as one of the men the FBI identified as involved in the bombing of the Whatley home.
Kevin Beard of Jonesville, the husband of one of Sonny Taylor’s nieces, said Tuesday he recalled a conversation with Taylor many years ago during a fish fry.
“He said they had tried to blow up a house in Ferriday near the old sawmill but the dynamite didn’t explode,” Beard said.
Beard said Taylor — who died in 1995 — would occasionally talk about his Klan actions but “never would call the people’s names that were with him.”
Whatley’s enrollment as the first black at Ferriday High came during the desegregation of southern schools following passage of the Civil Rights of 1965. Federal Judge Ben C. Dawkins Jr. ruling required the Concordia Parish School Board to admit Whatley to Ferriday High, where Klansmen and others harassed him for an extended period.
Andrews said the focus of the taping in Ferriday was to deliver a message of hope, forgiveness and love for all survivors of the era.
As the end of the show, Ferriday Mayor Sherrie Jacobs and Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell honored both Whatley and Taylor. Jacobs presented the two with plaques thanking them for their courage. Grinnell presented proclamations naming both honorary citizens of Natchez.
Andrews said her shows would air in March at www.youtube.com/dianneandrewsshow.