An FBI map of the area where Watkins and James received beatings in February of 1964.
An FBI map of the area where Watkins and James received beatings in February of 1964.

By Ben Wallace | LSU Student

During the waning hours of Feb. 13, 1964, Raleigh "Red" Glover of Vidalia parked his car in the middle of the B.B. Beard Road near Monterey, Louisiana, propped open the hood and waited.

The car didn't have engine trouble, but he and at least a half-dozen armed, hooded men, lurking in the bushes next to the road, had set up the scene to make it appear that way.

Nearby, two locals, Robert Earl Watkins and Richard James, had finished installing mufflers and repairing the rear bumper of a neighborhood man's Cadillac. The two black males left the home of G.R. Stewart around dusk, headed for home.

Neither Watkins nor James reached his intended destination.

According to recently declassified FBI documents concerning Cold Case Civil Rights murders in the 1960s, James saw a 1950s Ford vehicle parked in the middle of the road and decided to pull over to offer help.

A white man, later identified as Glover by Watkins, stepped out from behind the hood and said his car was having engine trouble. When James bent over to look under the hood, Glover pulled out a pistol.

"This is a holdup. There isn't anything wrong with the car," said Glover, a member of the Ku Klux Klan chapter and widely recognized as the leader of the infamous "Silver Dollar Group," a Klan subset rumored to be responsible for many acts of racial violence in the Concordia Parish, La., and Natchez, Miss., areas.

At that moment, a group of hooded and masked men emerged from the roadside bushes with what appeared to be sawed-off shotguns, ordering Watkins and James into Glover's car.

"If you want to live, don't yell," Glover said, according to James' FBI interview three years after the incident.

The men piled into the vehicle, with Watkins and James sitting in the middle seat of the front and back seats, respectively. Members of the so-called "wrecking crew" placed hoods over the two men's heads and bound their hands behind their backs for additional security.

According to James, they drove about three miles before emptying out near an abandoned oil well, where two 12-gauge shotgun shells were later recovered. Glover ordered Watkins and James to strip off their clothes and lie down on the dirt. Nude and exposed, the men had Klan members pinned the limbs of the pair as they awaited their whippings.

James received six to eight whips, according to his interview, before being told by Glover to get dressed and run.

He took off and after about 30 yards heard gunshots, which James thought meant Watkins had been shot. He lied down and waited a few minutes before running straight to the nearby home of Nelson Flaherty.

Mrs. Flaherty heard the gunshots but thought they were from hunters.

Shortly after her husband returned from a meeting at the Baptist Church of Harrisburg, James showed up at their doorstep.

After tending to his lashes and lacerated hand, James was able to return home.

Watkins did not interview with the FBI, so it's unknown how he ended up at his parent's house several miles away. A week after the beatings, Watkins boarded a train in Brookhaven, Miss., en route to Chicago, with $29 from his mother and sister on which to survive until he found work.

Watkins, unlike James, heeded the warning of the Glover and his Klansmen to leave Monterey or they would be killed.

Many local residents, including Watkins, according to interviews with his family members, believe the beatings were a result of a phone call Watkins had placed to the wife of R.W. "Dub" Beard earlier day.

According to the FBI documents, Watkins called Mrs. Beard, a white woman, to tell her that some of her cattle had escaped and were in danger of being killed by angry neighbors if she failed to retrieve them soon enough.

In an FBI interview with Beard's husband, Watkins made no such phone call. He did not allow investigators to interview his wife, saying she would have told him had someone made such a phone call.

However, nearly everyone else interviewed claimed the phone call was the reason for the whippings, meaning that James was mostly in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Glover told an FBI informant that the leader of the Monterey KKK chapter, Wesley Warren, had called in Glover and his crew to take care of the issue with Watkins.

"He needed beating," Warren later told investigators, still adamantly denying any connection to the whippings.

The report stated that Glover "was for killing the Negroes and he was not going to just beat any more Negroes and have it reported."

Glover told FBI informants the men involved in the beatings as Tommie Lee Jones, James Lee, James Scarborough and James Font McNeely. All except McNeely were members of the Silver Dollar Group, according to FBI informants.

Then-Condordia Parish Sheriff Noah Cross told the FBI he did not believe the beatings were conducted by any Klan organization, going as far as saying "there is not or never has been any Klan group activity in Concordia Parish."

Deputies did not keep written record of the whipping incident, nor were any parish, state or federal charges ever made against Glover or any other men regarding the case.