Jim Brown Audio Player
Thursday, June 5th, 2008
THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN NORTH LOUISIANA AND THE KU KLUX KLAN
Forty-four years ago this month, the FBI opened a widespread murder investigation in my old hometown of Ferriday, as well as across the river in Natchez,
Few arrests were made, and a number of cases ended up on the back burner as years went by. But sparked by the dogged reporting of Stanley Nelson with the Concordia Sentinel, the FBI once again is taking a look at what happened just about the time I landed in Ferriday with a new law degree.
In 1964, worldwide attention was focused on the deaths of three civil rights workers in Philadelphia,
In late December of that year, the KKK burned down a local shoe shop in Ferriday with the owner, Frank Morris, in it at the time. Morse was severely burned, and died a few days later. Why was he targeted? He was black, running a successful business, and had a number of white customers.
Another major fire attributed to the local Klan was the burning of Haney’s Big House, one the best known black music nightclubs in the Deep South. Every jazz great from New Orleans from Louis Armstrong to Fats Domino played at Haney’s. And local cousins Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart all were known to sneak into Haney’s by the back door. When white fans started to come to Haney’s, it was quickly burned to the ground. (See photo of the burning at www.jimbrownla.com)
One of the busiest establishments in lower Concordia was the Morville Lounge, a popular and busy house of ill repute and local gambling establishment. Morville was located some 15 miles south of the bridge that connects Natchez and Ferriday, and the parking lot over the levee was usually filled up by customers from as far away as Baton Rouge and Jackson, Mississippi. The girls of Morville traveled a regular route from
When I ran for Louisiana State Senator in 1971, Klan activities throughout this area had moved north towards Franklin Parish. One of my opponents had strong support from the local Klan, and I received my share of threats that I did not take that seriously at the time. But signs and billboards in support of my campaign rarely lasted the night after they were put up. Fortunately for me, the local white knights were fairly old guys by then, and had little support in the local community.
The notorious Jim Leslie murder that took place in Baton Rouge in 1976 had ties to Concordia Parish and the Klan. The purported trigger man, Rusty Griffith, was gunned down in a lower Concordia wildlife refuge a few months after the Leslie killing,
When the gang that bumped off Griffith was arrested, yours truly was appointed by the court in Concordia Parish to represent Clay Kimble, one of the ring leaders. So I’m well aware of all the gory details, and where the skeletons are buried. Well, maybe not literally (or at least I’m not sayin nothin).
Now, after 44 years, a fresh investigation is underway. Old wounds have opened back up, and many older folks who were there at the time seem to be pleased that some justice may eventually come to a number of families who suffered the loss of loved ones. A number of Klansmen in the Natchez-Concordia area got away with murder. At least up until now. With so much renewed interest, maybe this will change.
“I ran into Ku Klux Klan and the threat of hurricanes, and those two things made me decide not to build on the Alabama coast, so we came back to Memphis.”
Shelby Foote (Southern writer and historian)
Peace and Justice.
Jim Brown’s column appears weekly, and is published on a number of newspapers and websites throughout Louisiana. You can read past columns by going to Jim’s website at www.jimbrownla.com. Jim’s regular radio show on WRNO, 995fm out of New Orleans can be heard each Sunday from 11:00 am till 1:00 pm.