Adams County Data Dashboard


Natchez Deacons for Defense and Justice

The Natchez Deacons for Defense and Justice was a militant group founded after the attacks on George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson and other acts of violence against the black community, many of which were perpetrated by the Klan, with the Natchez group considered one of the strongest in the state. A group of men had met before the attack on Metcalf, organizing because of the lack of police protection for black activists. Most in the group were in the NAACP as well, and were respected members of the community. Following the attempted murder of Metcalf, James Jackson, a local barber, announced the creation of the Deacons for Defense and Justice. Their group was based on a paramilitary group in Louisiana that was effective in protecting activists in Bogalusa and Jonesboro. The Natchez Deacons organized quickly, and provided security during marches and meetings. Members were largely natives of Natchez, having grown up together. The group functioned secretively, and effectively hid vital information, such as the size of the group and its tactics, from the Sovereignty Commission and Klan. The efforts of the Deacons illustrated that anti-civil rights violence would not continue without cost to the perpetrators. When combined with the economic boycotts, the Deacons sent a message to city officials that demanded negotiations. A small faction of the Deacons also enforced boycotts, demanding answers from black community members who continued to shop in white stores.
Similar groups were founded throughout the state, with groups in Copiah and Claiborne counties notable examples.


Dittmer, John. Local People: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.

Rose Hill Baptist Church

Rose Hill Baptist Church is Mississippi’s oldest African-American Baptist congregation, dating back to the 1830s. It is also where leaders of the NAACP, including George Metcalfe and Wharlest Jackson, met to plan local activities. It is located at 607 Madison Street.

“Rose Hill Baptist Church, Natchez, MS.”

The Movement in Natchez – Narrative Timeline

Spring, 1940 — Audley Maurice Mackel, a dentist from Natchez resurrects the Natchez chapter of the NAACP by collecting enough support and members to charter a new chapter.

1954 — An unprecedented number of blacks ( 400) vote in a special election, as the result of black Natchez Business and Civic League urging. There is no resulting violence. For the first time since Reconstruction, blacks serve on a Natchez grand jury.

1955 — Natchez branch of the NAACP petitions the local school board to desegregate Natchez schools in accordance with the Brown v. Board decision from the year before. Audley Maurice Mackel, the Natchez branch secretary and David Bacon, its President, present the Natchez- School Board with a desegregation petition, containing the signatures of eighty-six residents.

August 1955 — White residents of Natchez respond to NAACP desegregation efforts by forming the Adams County Citizen Council. Many people join on August 4,1955, at a rally held at the city auditorium. School Superintendent D. Gilmer McLaurin, works with the Citizen’s Council, to forward the names of the individuals who signed the petition, to the state attorney general’s office and later to the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission. Two local papers in Natchez also publish the names of the signers, opening them up to backlash from the white community, including their employers. Shortly afterwards, close to three-fifths of the petitioners decide to withdraw their signatures, including Bacon who promptly resigns as chapter president.

Summer 1963–SNCC volunteers Bill Ware, George Greene and Bruce Lloyd Payne are in Natchez working on setting up polling places for a statewide mock election intended to demonstrate the interest of disenfranchised blacks in voting. Ware is attacked by Natchez police officers after trying to use a white restroom at a petrol station. He is arbitrarily charged with assault and battery of a police officer.

Dec. 1963– Mississippi Klansmen break off from the Original Knights of Louisiana and start their own group, the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan of Mississippi, which would become the “dominant and most violent Klan faction in the state,” amassing 200 people by February 1964. Edward Lenox McDaniel lead the Adams County chapter.

Feb. 15, 1964– Mortician and chairman of Natchez Business and Civic League’s voter registration drive, Archie Curtis, receives a false phone call from someone claiming he needs an ambulance for his wife, who had suffered a heart attack. Curtis and his assistant Willie Jackson go to help, but when they get out of the ambulance four armed men wearing hoods attack them. The men who take Curtis and Jackson to a field, strip them and whip them.11 Despite Curtis providing the police with physical descriptions of the perpetrators and their car, the police make no arrests.12

On the same night, James C. Winston, a black employee at the International Paper Company, is kidnapped by 3 armed, masked men in a car while walking home from work. The men put a hood over Winston’s head, take him to Sibley and flog him on the stomach repeatedly while issuing racial slurs and making sexual comments. They direct Winston to walk away from the car as they drive off and warn him not to tell anyone. Winston makes his way to a house where they offer help. He later reports the incident to the Adam’s County Sherriffs Office. The case was never solved.

April 1964– “Richard Joe Butler, a 26-year-old farm worker, was attacked by a group of six men, all wearing black hoods. According to news reports, Butler was approached by the men as he stepped from his pickup truck. He escaped on foot, but was shot three times. He survived. In October, the FBI announced the arrests of Ed Fuller, 37, and William Bryant Davidson, 27. Billy Woods of Natchez.

May 2, 1964– Klansmen kidnap and beat Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, before throwing them into the Old Mississippi River, where their bodies are discovered. People suspect SDG of involvement. [In 2007, James F. Seale was convicted in Jackson on federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges linked with Dee and Moore’s deaths.]

July 1964– As part of the state-wide Freedom Summer Project, SNCC workers return to Natchez and attempt to organize, with the help of George Metcalfe and the Natchez NAACP. SNCC members include Dorie Ladner, Chuck McDew and Charles “Chico” Neblett, who “established a base of operations under the auspices of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO)”. George Greene, Bill Ware and Burt Watkins also arrive in Natchez from elsewhere in the state. Soon after, George Metcalfe receives a bomb threat at his home, where some of the COFO workers slept.”

July 12, 1964-Joe Edwards, a black employee at the Shamrock Motel in Vidalia, goes there at 11 pm for what FBI believe was a date with a white woman, and is never seen again. His body has never been found, and differing stories as to what happened to him have been reported. Billy Bob Williams, a retired FBI agent who was one of two resident agents in Natchez from July 1964 to August 1966, reported that an informant said that Klansman had skinned Edwards alive; and Rev. Robert Lee Sr. reported being told that Edwards had “been taken by Klansmen into Mississippi, shot multiple times, and his lifeless body chained and thrown into the Mississippi River.” Interviews and FBI documents indicate that Edwards was kidnapped from the side of the Ferriday-Vidalia Highway, tortured, murdered, and then dumped into a body of water. Motives for Edwards’ murder include allegations of his romantic involvement with white women, his role within a prostitution ring, and suspicions as to his level of knowledge of Klan activity given that he worked at the Shamrock, where the SDG met on occasion.

Soda bottle containing rags soaked in gas or kerosene thrown at Willie Washington’s, a black contractor, house in Natchez. The bottle lands on his front steps, however, leaving the house unharmed.

August 14, 1964A bomb explodes outside Jake’s Place, a nightclub/juke joint located at 609 South Wall Street, next to the house that George Greene had rented for the SNCC/COFO workers to live in. The club caught on fire and shortly after an explosion went off, but no one was hurt. According to her sworn affidavit, Dorrie Ladner recalled a firefighter at the scene remarking that “the wrong place” had been bombed and that “these outside agitators are in that house. The bomb was set for that house. They’re here to stir up trouble.” Chief of Police J. T. Robinson told Ladner that the “bomb was meant for you. I’m surprised you haven’t been killed already.” However, others think the bomb was meant to damage Jake’s, since the owner, Jake Frishman, who was white, allowed both blacks and whites (including the Civil Rights workers) to frequent his club.

August 29, 1964–The United Klan of America (UKA) established its first klavern in Natchez, under the front of the Adams County Civic & Betterment Association.Many of its members were former White Knights. “The opening of that klavern was part of the celebration at the United Klan rally in Liberty Park in Natchez that day, led by Imperial Wizard Robert M. Shelton of Tuscaloosa, Ala., the organization’s leader. At least one HUAC investigator was at the meeting and subpoenaed a few Klansmen in attendance to appear before the committee. Several FBI agents were also at the rally. According to the HUAC files, the “UKA’s strategy in Mississippi….was to build an image of nonviolence.” This strategy proved so successful that by early 1966 UKA was the dominant Mississippi Klan.”” At its peak, the UKA had up to 30,000 national members, according to the Anti-Defamation League, and was known nationally for the 1963 Birmingham Church bombing, which killed four black girls

September 15, 1964–Stink bombs thrown into Mayor Nosser’s two grocery stores, Jitney Jungle and Nosser City, and into Orrick Metcalf’s Chevrolet-Cadillac dealership, causing several thousand dollars worth of damage

September 25, 1964-Bomb exploded in front of Nosser’s home at night, as well as in front of the home of Willie Washington, a black contractor, who occasionally did work for Nosser. This violence prompted the white community to respond, unlike the previous attacks and murders in the black community. According to the Natchez Police Chief at the time, these were the first incidents of the Klan using explosives in Natchez.

October 1964FBI, which had been operating out of agent Clarence Prospere’s house, opens official office in Natchez, in response to increasing violence.

November 15, 1964At a meeting in Mississippi, the White Knights’ Imperial Wizard, Sam Bowers, “placed a 90-day moratorium on any projects involving arson/bombings or murder,” set to begin Dec. 1, 1964 and last until March 1. TheHouse un-American Activities Committee believed the ban came in response to the FBI’s increased scrutiny of the White Knights following the murders of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.

Late 1964– The Silver Dollar Gang/Group, which consisted of about 20 Klansmen from various regional Klan groups, was formed over a meeting in the Vidalia Shamrock Motel. Earcel Boyd Sr., a high-ranking officer of the United Klans of America, was one of the founding members of the Gang. Membership was not limited to a single Klan but a silver dollar minted in the member’s birth year was the mode of identification.. There were no formal meetings. It is believed that the active membership was never more than twenty, but they prided themselves on being the ‘toughest Klansmen in Mississippi or Louisiana.

Nov. 1964-March 1965— Local high school students, organized into a local chapter of the “Mississippi Student Union” (a COFO creation) successfully desegregate the lunch counter at the S.S. Kress department store; they also attempted, less successfully to desegregate the Fisk Public Library, the coffee shop at the Eola Hotel, the local YMCA, the Clarke movie theater and Duncan Park. They were arrested and harrased regularly. In March 1965, civil rights workers protested in front of Pilgrimage sites around town.

Jan. 1965- Shot fired through the window of George Metcalfe’s house.

Feb 1965-New Natchez NAACP elects Metcalfe and Jackson as president and treasurer, respectively.

Summer 1965Natchez NAACP branch conducts voter registration project. Uneasy truce between SNCC heads, Ladner and Greene, and NAACP heads (incl. Natchez branch pres. George Metcalfe).

August 5, 1965– A group of around 200 African-Americans integrate a Natchez city park as part of an NAACP action led by Charles Evers. Evers told The Clarion Ledger that the event was a success despite some white people jeering at the group and someone slashing the car tires of a car belonging to an African-American. Police, Sheriff deputies and the HIghway Patrol were all present at the time.

August 27, 1965– After weeks of receiving threatening phone calls and harassment at work, George Metcalfe gets into his car at the end of one of his shifts at Armstrong and as he turns the ignition, his car explodes. The bomb destroys his car and damages many of the other cars in the Armstrong parking lot. Metcalfe survives but is hospitalized for weeks for serious injuries. The SIlver Dollar Gang is suspected but nobody is charged.

Mackel, Audley Maurice

Audley Maurice Mackel was a prominent dentist from Natchez who resurrected the Natchez chapter of the NAACP in the spring of 1940, by collecting enough support and members to charter a new chapter. He eventually served as the branch secretary. In the 1950s he was active in the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, the organization headed by Dr. T.R.M. Howard. In a legendary incident, he drove Dr. Howard in a hearse past a number of gun-toting Klansman.

Natchez Women of the NAACP

A group of women from the Natchez NAACP organized to influence other black women suspected of being informers to white business leaders during the boycott. This work made all community members accountable to the efforts of the Natchez movement.


Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.

Forks of the Road

Forks of the Road is the site of the second largest slave market in the U.S., with New Orleans having the largest. The market functioned from the 1820s to the Civil War. The site was recognized in 2004 following the efforts of a citizen group called the Forks of the Road Society. The historical marker reads:

“Site of the South’s second largest slave market in the nineteenth century. Enslaved people were also once sold on city streets and at the landing at Natchez Under the Hill. Natchez slaves were freed in July 1863 when Union troops occupied the city. The Forks of the Road market then became a refuge for hundreds of enslaves people.”


Brown, Patricia Leigh. “New Signpost at Slavery’s Crossroads.”The New York Times. 16 December 2004.

White, Ben Chester

Ben Chester White was the caretaker of the Carter family farm off Liberty Road in Natchez his entire life and was never involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Despite his elderly age of 67 and lack of involvement in the racial tumult of the 1960s, James L. Jones, Claude Fuller and Ernest Avants, all members of a murderous Klan offshoot calling themselves the Cottonmouth Moccasin Gang, murdered Mr. White on July 10, 1966. The three men picked up Mr. White on that June afternoon. After buying Mr. White a soda, the three took him to Homochitto National Forest and forced him out of the car. He was shot at least 18 times by Fuller and Avants. His body was then dumped into Pretty Creek and the car was burned in an attempt to destroy the evidence. Jones, overcome with remorse, went to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and confessed to his involvement in the crime.

Some speculate that Mr. White was killed to take the focus away from James Meredith’s March Against Fear, also taking place in July 1966. Others say that the Klan wanted to lure Martin Luther King, Jr. to Natchez for an assassination attempt.

All three men were charged by the State of Mississippi on first-degree murder charges. Fuller was never tried, and Jones’s trial ended in a hung jury. Avants was acquitted of the murder charge but lost a wrongful death suit to the White family, though the White family has yet to collect any damages.

However, when Federal prosecutors realized that Mr. White was murdered on federal land, specifically in Homochitto National Forest, they reopened the case. In 2003, Ernest Avants was convicted of aiding and abetting in the murder of Ben Chester White and sentenced to life in prison. U.S. District Judge William H. Barbour Jr. told Avants, who listened from a wheelchair, “Justice in this country can and sometimes has to wait. Times have changed since 1966. When Ernest Avants’ generation is finally dead, I hope most of the hatred will have died with it.”


Bragg, Rick. “Former Klansmen is Found Guilty in 1966 Killing.”New York Times. 1 March 2003.

Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Metcalf, George and Jackson, Wharlest

George Metcalf and Wharlest Jackson both worked at the Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company and both were active members of the NAACP with Metcalf as president of the local chapter and Jackson as the treasurer. Jim Crow was well established at Armstrong, like many other industrial employers of the day. However, Metcalf and Jackson successfully pressured Armstrong to end the segregated conditions at the plant, and Armstrong soon began handing out promotions regardless of race.

After these diligent efforts, Wharlest Jackson was one of the recipients of the newly introduced conditions: he received a 17cent-an-hour raise. However, on the morning of February 27, 1967, near the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Street and Miner Street, his life was taken when a bomb exploded under the hood of his truck, killing him instantly. No one has ever been charged with his murder though it has been placed on the list of cases to possibly reopen.

George Metcalf, in addition to his work at Armstrong, had also been campaigning to end school segregation and submitted a petition to the school board on August 19, 1967, calling for such. He also included a request not to release the names of those who signed the petition, but the school board, even if it had chosen to honor the request, could not withhold the information from the press. The next day the names of the petitioners were published, and, on August 27, as Metcalf got into his car to head home from work, a bomb ripped his car apart. Miraculously, Metcalf survived despite extensive injuries. No one has ever been charged in his attempted murder.

Rather than intimidate the black community, the attacks on Metcalf and Jackson strengthened the resolve of the community, with attendance at meetings increasing many fold and many pledging armed resistance to further attacks.


Dittmer, John. Local People: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994.

Payne, Charles M. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995.

Jackson, James

James Jackson was a local barber and leader of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a paramilitary group founded to protect the black community and activists. He was the first president of the group.

Umoja, Akinyele Omowale. “‘We Will Shoot Back’: The Natchez Model and Paramilitary Organization in the Mississippi Freedom Movement.”Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 32, No. 3 (Jan., 2002), pp. 271-294.