Author of “The Last Days: a Son’s Story of Sin and Segregation at the Dawn of a New South.”
This book tells of Marsh’s childhood growing up in Laurel, Miss. (8 Highland Woods), and of his minister father. Marsh’s father, Bob Marsh, was the pastor of First Baptist Church of Laurel (607 West 5th Street Laurel, MS 39440, 601-649-5710) in the 1960s. He was the pastor of Sam Bowers, the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and several other prominent KKK members. In May, 1964, Bowers authorized “the elimination”of “Goatee,”the Klan’s name for Mickey Schwerner, the head of the CORE office in Meridian, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman. The murder was intended to send a message to northern civil rights workers to stay out of Mississippi. The murder was called “Plan 4”. Sam Bowers was a Laurel businessman that owned Sambo Amusement Company (located 2 miles from First Baptist Church) and used it as the headquarters of the White Knights of the KKK of Mississippi, which turned out to be the most violent sector of the KKK. Jones County and the county seat of Laurel was the epicenter of the Klan’s violent reign. Sam lived in the backroom of the amusement company.
Bowers was also charged with ordering the 1966 murder of civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer. Dahmer had earned the Klan’s enmity by allowing his store to be used by blacks to pay the $2 poll tax necessary to register to vote. Dahmer was killed on January 10, 1966, in a firebombing of his home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The actual hit-man turned out to be Clifford Wilson, who attended Marsh’s church and was awarded Laurel’s Man of the Year award in 1967 by Bob Marsh. Bob did not know at the time that Clifford was a member of the KKK. Marsh later stated that he felt like a complete fool and that he let his church down. Enrollment in the KKK began to shrink from 10,000 in the early ’60s to a few hundred in the late ’60s, and as a result of bad press Bowers ordered a bombing of the Laurel Leader-Call in the fall of 1967.