By Brianna Piche | LSU Student
L. C. Murray of Natchez, Miss., was an outspoken Klansmen in the 1960s, attending banquets and rallies across Louisiana and Mississippi as "grand kligrapp," the state secretary for the United Klans of America (UKA).
But, according to FBI informants, Murray opposed – initially, at least -- Klan violence and advocated the Klan's ideals of Americanism, racial segregation and white supremacy, according to decades-old FBI files recently obtained by the LSU Manship School's Cold Case Civil Rights-era Project.
The KKK had family roots in Mississippi. Murray's wife, Ethel "Sandra" Murray, was the leader of the UKA Women's Auxiliary in Natchez, a group that advocated for advancement of women's rights alongside the Klan agenda.
In 1965, former Klan member Ernest Finley of Natchez invited Murray to join the Silver Dollar Group, a "hard-core" secret society made up of present and former KKK members in Louisiana and Mississippi. Finley died in the fall that year, and a silver dollar on a chain – symbol of his membership -- hung from a funeral wreath.
Two years later, on Feb. 13, 1967, Murray and fellow Klan officers E.L McDaniel, Ernest B. Parker, M. W. (Jack) Seale and John Dawson left the UKA citing problems of greed, corruption and violence with the Mississippi Imperial Office.
The FBI obtained a letter sent by the resigning state officers to the klaverns across Mississippi. "Some think violence will win but violence will and has destroyed and smeared the name of the Klan. The Klan was supposed to believe in self-preservation [sic.]."
These same principles spilled over into Murray's membership with the Silver Dollar Group, one of the most violent and active Klan groups in the South, responsible for several bombings and murders of black Southerners. Raleigh Jackson Glover, referred to as "Red," organized the Silver Dollar Group. Members were given a silver dollar coin minted in their year of birth.
In fall 1966, Murray started working as a tire builder at Armstrong Tire and Rubber Co. in Natchez, which employed a number of klansmen.
Armstrong employed whites and blacks, such as local NAACP president George Metcalf and member Wharlest Jackson. According to FBI interviews with Armstrong workers and Klansmen, Jackson was a quiet, well-liked worker. Metcalf, on the other hand, was considered a troublemaker.
In 1968, according to a memo in the Murray file, an FBI informant told agents the Silver Dollar Group first attempted to kill Metcalf in spring 1965 but failed.
"An explosive used in the oilfield industry exploded under the hood of Metcalfe's car when he turned the ignition switch," said Stanley Nelson of the Concordia Sentinel, who has spent nearly five years studying the Silver Dollar Group's murderous ways.
Metcalfe was blown from his vehicle and sustained a broken arm and leg, severe facial lacerations and cuts all over his body. He never fully recovered.
In February 1967, Wharlest Jackson was murdered in his pickup in Natchez after the Armstrong Tire Co. named him the first black supervisor at the plant.
"The bomb that killed Wharlest Jackson in 1967 could have been the result of three years of experimentation with explosives by Klansmen who had one primary goal -- to murder George Metcalfe," wrote Nelson, editor of the Concordia Sentinel, in 2010. "Evidence gathered by the FBI in 1967 indicates Klansmen thought Metcalfe would be in the truck with Jackson, and the bomb would have enough force to kill Metcalfe, too."
In an interview with the FBI on March 1, 1967, Murray claimed he did not know Jackson personally nor did he acknowledge knowing Jackson was a member of the NAACP. Murray's wife claimed he was home before starting his graveyard shift at Armstrong.
In 1968, FBI reports indicate Murray's involvement in an attempted kidnapping of Metcalf. According to an unnamed FBI source, Red Glover planned to lure Metcalf behind Armstrong plant where Murray and other Silver Dollar members would kidnap him in Murray's Oldsmobile. The attempt again failed when Metcalf grew suspicious and would not leave the Armstrong plant.
"There were other plans to get Metcalfe, as well, and were led by Red Glover," said Nelson. "Glover appeared to have had a great hatred of Metcalfe because of Metcalfe's leadership in the NAACP and his fight for equal rights and opportunities. The fact that Glover and Metcalfe worked at the same plant seemed to add to Glover's venom because rarely did a week go by that Glover didn't see Metcalfe at work."
Murray was a close associate of Jack Seale of Meadville, Miss., chief of the Secretary Guards, Grand Klorad and Knight Hawk of Mississippi. He was known as one of the most violent klansmen in the region before turning FBI informant.
While Jack Seale was a suspect in the incident, his brother, James Ford Seale of Meadville, Miss. His brother, James Ford Seale, was convicted in 2007 in the murders of black teenagers Hezekiah (Henry) Dee and Charles Moore. The latter Seale died in prison a short time later.
Murray became an informer for the FBI. He currently resides in Jackson, Miss.
No arrests have been made in Wharlest Jackson's death, but 46 years later the case remains open and FBI is still investigating it.
Editor's Note: This story is part of a series based on investigative research by the unsolved civil rights murders project team at LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication. The information was obtained, for the first time, from 45-year-old FBI files through the Freedom of Information Act and, where noted, from the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, La.