Franklin – People/Persons

Moore, Charles E. and Dee, Henry Hezekiah

The two friends, a sawmill worker and a college student, were 19 when they disappeared in May 1964, last seen hitchhiking on the highway near Meadville, Miss. They were beaten and drowned by Klansman who mistakenly believed the two were involved in plotting an armed uprising. Two months later, on July 12, a fisherman spotted the torso of Moore in a Mississippi River backwater called the Old River. Dee was found the next day.

At the time, an extensive search was under way for three civil rights workers, two of whom were white New Yorkers, who had disappeared in the opposite end of the state in what became known as the “Mississippi Burning”case. The initial classification of Moore’s body as that of a Caucasian male, and thus potentially one of the missing rights workers, caused a spurt of media coverage.


Seale, James Ford

Below is an article featured in the Clarion Ledger regarding the forgotten killings of Charles E. Moor and Henry Hezekiah Dee and one of the now-convicted murderers, James Ford Seale. Seale was convicted on June 14, 2007.

“Reputed Klansman James Seale will stand before a judge in Mississippi this morning to face charges he had a role in the abduction and killing of two African-American teenagers in 1964.

The 71-year-old crop duster will have a chance today to hear the details that led to the federal kidnapping charges against him. Six years ago, he scoffed at the notion he’d ever be arrested for the crime that both time and the state forgot – the May 2, 1964, abduction and slayings of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore.

But Moore’s brother, Thomas, never forgot, and he never stopped pushing. His persistence prompted federal authorities in 2005 to renew their investigation into the case.

While Seale stands before a judge, Thomas Moore will stand at a news conference in Washington, where he and Justice Department officials will discuss the case.

Moments after getting the news of Seale’s arrest, he choked up. “I’m very emotional,” he said. “I don’t know what to say.”

He said he’s thankful the day finally came and that he had something to do with it. “I just hope Charles and Henry Dee know there is justice on the way.”

Dee’s sister, Mary Byrd, also welcomed the news. “I feel good now,” she said. “Yes, indeed.”

Seale’s arrest is the 28th in connection with a civil rights-era slaying since 1989, when Mississippi reopened its investigation into the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers in Jackson.

Since then, authorities in Mississippi and six other states have reexamined 29 killings from the civil rights era, leading to 22 convictions, most recently in 2005 when a Neshoba County jury convicted Edgar Ray Killen of manslaughter for orchestrating the Klan’s killings of three civil rights workers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.

“We are extremely pleased to see that the federal government is truly committed to taking care of its unfinished business from the civil rights era,” said Alvin Sykes, a Kansas City activist whose work helped lead to the reinvestigation of the 1955 killing of Emmett Till.

The Till case may be presented to a grand jury later this year.

Sykes now is pushing legislation that would create a cold-cases unit within the Justice Department to track down unpunished killers from the civil rights era.

“When Congress passes the Till bill, you can best believe there will be a lot more perpetrators from that era who will be facing the bar of justice for the lynchings they thought they got away with many years ago,” he said.

Seale was arrested once before in connection with the slayings. That came on Nov. 6, 1964, when authorities arrested him and Charles Marcus Edwards on murder charges.

At the time, authorities confronted Seale and told him they knew he and others took Dee and Moore “to some remote place and beat them to death,” FBI records say. “You then transported and disposed of their bodies by dropping them in the Mississippi River. You didn’t even give them a decent burial. We know you did it. You know you did. The Lord above knows you did it.”

“Yes,” Seale was quoted as replying, “but I’m not going to admit it. You are going to have to prove it.”

When authorities arrested Edwards, he “admitted that he and James Seale picked up Dee and another Negro in vicinity of Meadville and took them to an undisclosed wooded area where they were ‘whipped,'” a Nov. 6, 1964, FBI document says. “States victims were alive when he departed the wooded area.”

According to FBI documents, Dee and Moore were hitchhiking from Meadville when Klansmen coaxed them into their vehicle by pretending to be law enforcement agents. Deep in the woods, Klansmen repeatedly beat the teens, believing they knew something about a rumor regarding gun running in Franklin County.

Finally, one of the pair claimed the guns were being hidden in a church, hoping to stop the violence.

It didn’t.

Klansmen loaded Dee and Moore into the trunk of a car and hauled them across the Mississippi River. There, Klansmen tied them up and weighted them down with a Jeep motor block before dumping them into the Old River two miles south of King, La.

On July 12, 1964, a fisherman found Moore’s body and reported it to authorities.

Two months after the arrests, then-District Attorney Lenox Foreman asked to have the murder charges thrown out, saying further investigation was needed.

FBI agents pressed forward, but many potential witnesses were fearful.

“This informant advised he would not testify under any circumstances because he is concerned for his life and the lives of his family,” a Jan. 12, 1965, FBI document reads.

At the time of the killings, Seale and Edwards worked for International Paper Co.

The FBI said the Klan in those days infiltrated unions at that company and others in Natchez. On Feb. 14, 1964, Alfred Whitley, a black employee at Armstrong Tire Co., was abducted and whipped. Two weeks later, Clinton Walker, a black employee at International Paper, was killed on his way home. His car was riddled with bullets.

In 1965, George Metcalfe, an NAACP leader and Armstrong employee was nearly killed when a bomb exploded his car. Two years later, his friend and fellow employee, Wharlest Jackson, died when his truck exploded.

“The Klan ruled then,” Thomas Moore recalled. “There were a lot of things that happened back then.”

As years passed, the killings of his brother and his friend were forgotten – like so many others from the civil rights era.

In 1998, memories of his brother’s killing were rekindled when he read about the dragging death of James Byrd in Texas and decided to write a letter.

Shortly after a judge sentenced Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers to life in prison in 1998 for ordering the 1966 killing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer, Thomas Moore wrote District Attorney Ronnie Harper, asking him to look into the case. Harper agreed, but acknowledged he lacked the resources to investigate the matter.

The case was reopened briefly in 2000, only to grow cold again.

Federal authorities didn’t get interested again in the Dee-Moore killings until July 13, 2005 – a few weeks after jurors convicted Killen in the killings of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.

That’s when Thomas Moore met with U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton of Jackson, convincing him to have his office take a second look at the case.

No charges are expected against Edwards, who has been interviewed by the FBI and may be a witness against Seale.

Mississippi native Myrlie Evers-Williams, chairman emeritus of the national NAACP, still shudders when she recalls the dark days when the Klan reigned in Mississippi.

“It was fear at its worst. You could easily link it to what took place in Nazi Germany,” recalled Evers-Williams, whose husband was assassinated by a Klansman in 1963. “It was being afraid to sit in your living room on a sofa because there was a window.”


Mitchell, Jerry. The Clarion-Ledger. January 25, 2007. “Alleged Klansman faces charges in kidnappings.”