Accused in 1964 Mississippi race slayings wrote hate letter
This story contains offensive language
A Mississippi man recently charged in connection with the 1964 killings of two African-American teenagers wrote a racist diatribe published in a local newspaper just 10 days after the first body was found, according to documents obtained by the CBC.
James Ford Seale, 71, a reputed Ku Klux Klansman and former sheriff's deputy previously believed to be dead, was arrested in January and charged with two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping. Each count carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. He has pleaded not guilty.
The charges came after interest in the cold case was rekindled by David Ridgen, a CBC documentary maker, and one of the victim's brothers, Thomas Moore.
The case had been reopened in 2000 after a flurry of stories by Mississippi journalist Jerry Mitchell and ABC producer Harry Phillips, but was officially closed again, according to the FBI, in June of 2003.
Seale's letter provides a rare glimpse into the mind of a man accused in connection with the torture and killing of 19-year-olds Charles Eddie Moore and Henry Hezekiah Dee, as well as the culture behind segregation in Mississippi during the civil rights movement.
In the letter published in the Franklin Advocate on July 23, 1964, Seale called on readers to defy the Civil Rights Bill, which he labels "a giant step to a communist dictatorship of America.
"The so-called Civil Rights Bill is supposed to help the nigger both North and South," Seale wrote. "It is supposed to help the nigger get equal voting rights, when in the South, if a nigger is qualified to vote, he can, if not he is turned away.
"But the above things are not what they want, they want to eat in the white café, sleep in the white hotel or motel, swim in the white pool, go to the white church, go to the white school.
"In short, they want to marry your white daughter, or live with her, the only thing they know."
Seale then quotes passages from the Bible, which he cites as "holy word of God" against the "integration" of races.
"The time has come for Christian people of this nation to fight for what is right in the eyes of God and man and not what a few men in Congress or the Senate decided on under pressure from the niggers and communists," he wrote.
OnJan. 26, 1967, James Seale announced his candidacy for the Franklin County sheriff’s post prominently on the front page of the Franklin Advocate. In FBI files, James Seale is noted as having accompanied a local constable on an arrest a few years earlier, in the late fall of 1963.
Seale currently faces two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit kidnapping.
Newspaper never published reports of missing men
The local newspaper that published Seale's letter first made reference to the disappearance of Moore and Dee on July 16, four days after their bodies were found.
There was no mention made in the paper, the only one in Franklin County, of theyoung men'sdisappearance more than two months earlier. In fact, the CBC has not been able to find any newspaper articles anywhere about the actual disappearance of the young men.
This is in stark contrast to the international outcry that was heard two months later over the murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County. Their case would become known as the Mississippi Burning case.
In that case, spurred largely because two of the victims were white northerners from New York, their disappearance was almost instantly noticed.
A document obtained by CBC News states that the Franklin Advocate's editor, David Webb — now deceased — was also the publicity director for a Klan front group known as the Americans for the Preservation of the White Race (APWR). An FBI informant in the Moore-Dee case, Ernest Gilbert, later told investigators that the APWR was funded by the Ku Klux Klan.
Filmmaker told he was 'beating a dead dog'
The newspaper is still run today by Webb's wife, Mary Lou, who told Ridgen during filming that there "was no good" in pursuing justice in the Dee-Moore case and that he was "beating a dead dog."
"The Franklin Advocate has weighed the issues and decided not to 'revisit' the 1960s racial incidents which took place in this county and southwest Mississippi," Webb wrote in a short editorial after Ridgen and Moore's first trip to Mississippi.
"The editor sees no new evidence — no reason — to put a new generation through painful memories."
The 1964 article about the discovery of the remains of Moore and Dee, believed to be written by editor DavidWebb, appears on the issue's front page, with a miniscule headline, "2 Local Negros Thought Found in Miss. River," in contrast to a bold headline more than twice the point size about a white teacher, "County Teacher Gets Scholarship."
It quoted Franklin County Sheriff Wayne Hutto, also a reputed Klansman, according to documents, as saying he called relatives of Moore and Dee in Louisiana early in the investigation and was told the two "were there and safe," which was untrue.
"Officers and newsmen working directly on the incident are reportedly discounting the possibility that the two were involved in racial conflicts," the report read.
CBC documentary led to charges
On May 2, 1964, Moore and Dee, both 19, disappeared while hitchhiking near Meadville, in southwestern Mississippi.
According to the FBI, they were questioned and tortured in a nearby forest, locked in a trunk, driven to Louisiana, chained to a Jeep motor and some train rails, and dropped alive into the Mississippi River, where they drowned.
Their mangled torsos were discovered on July 13, more than two months later, during the search for Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney — three civil rights workers who disappeared June 21 the same year.
Seale, then 28, and Charles Edwards, then 31, were arrested in the original investigation, but soon released on a $5,000 bond. No grand jury or trial was ever held.
The case of the civil rights workers overshadowed the discovery of the bodies ofMoore and Dee, and the case lay dormant for more than 42 years.
In 2005, CBC filmmaker Ridgen tracked down Thomas Moore in Colorado Springs, Colo., and convinced him to accompany him on seven trips to Mississippi to revisit his brother's murder.
For years, Seale's family told reporters that he had died. But in July 2005, Moore and Ridgen found Seale — the main suspect in thedeaths of Moore and Dee— alive and residing a few kilometres from the site where the kidnapping took place.