In 1964, Frank Morris suffered fatal burns from an arson.The FBI launched two investigations into Morris's death in the 1960s, but the case was never solved. In 2007, newspaper editor Stanley Nelson picked up the case. His reporting led him to suspect Arthur Leonard Spencer, a Richland Parish truck driver and former member of the Ku Klux Klan.
James Buford Goss was calm by the time he talked to Vidalia's police chief at the old Concordia Parish Courthouse on the morning of Friday, July 10, 1964. He had been furious the night before. Goss told the chief that Joseph "Joe-Ed" Edwards, a black porter at the Shamrock Motel, had assaulted his close friend Iona Perry, a 22-year-old white woman who worked as a registration clerk at the motel. He said Edwards had grabbed the arms of Perry, who suffered from a crippling disease, and kissed her against her will.
J.D. Richardson found himself in the crossfire of Klansmen and the Mafia over the operation of the Morville Lounge in 1965 and 1966. By late 1966 he felt he had lost control of his own property, was being pressured by the FBI for information on lounge operations, complained that his life had been threatened on several occasions and reported that arsonists may have been responsible for the destruction of his home.
Two daughters of a man who was a Concordia Parish Klansman in the mid-1960s have different views of their father, one of the FBI's top informants in the 1964 murder of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris and other Klan violence.
Frank Morris and James White Sr. were best friends, so close that some folks believed the two were related though they were not. White, now dead, had experienced confrontations with Klansmen during the months preceding Morris' murder, his children recall. Once, when a Klansman opened fire on White in his own front yard, his children say White fired back and felt certain that he wounded one of his attackers.
The night of the arson of Frank Morris' shoe shop in 1964 was a busy one for 17-year-old Delbert Matthews, who recalls working alone at the Coast Service Station near the outskirts of Ferriday. The station was just two blocks south of the shoe shop along U.S. Hwy. 84. Matthews remembers several specific things about the night -- a young black man hiding under the desk at the service station, and a white stranger in a green car with Franklin County, Miss., tags, talking to deputy Frank DeLaughter.
A short time after Frank Morris died as a result of the arson of his shoe shop, two black men were run out of Ferriday because the Klan and sheriff's deputies feared they could identify the men who killed Morris.