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|FBI file reveals Klansman Jack Seale was paid informant|
Myron Wayne "Jack" Seale of Natchez was a notorious Klansman implicated along with his brother and father for the Franklin County, Miss., murders of two black teenagers in 1964 and the 1965 murder of a fellow Klansman for allegedly informing to the FBI.
Seale was so well-respected and feared within KKK circles that tombstones of dead Klansmen may shake on this news: FBI documents show that in 1967 Jack Seale became a paid FBI informant hired to infiltrate the Silver Dollar Group and to identify the murderers of 36-year-old African-American Wharlest Jackson.
Jackson, the married father of five, was a Korean War vet and officer in the Natchez NAACP. Employed by Armstrong Tire in Natchez, Jackson died as result of a carbombing at the plant on Feb. 27, 1967, after he had taken a position that had previously been held by white men only. His murder, along with other murders, beatings and arsons, was linked to the Silver Dollar Group (SDG), a secretive, underground Klan group whose members included the meanest and most violent Klansmen from three well established Klan organizations.
Seale, who was 40 in the winter of 1967, had been a member of a savage White Knights klavern in Franklin County, Miss., led by his father, Clyde Seale. The Seales were suspects in the May 1964 murder of two 19-year-old Meadville, Miss., men -- Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore -- a crime for which Jack Seale's brother, James Ford Seale, is now serving time in federal prison.
A year later in August 1965, the Seales -- Clyde, Jack and James Ford -- were suspected as being part of the Bunkley-Meadville Klan group that beat Earl Hodges to death. A 47-year-old Franklin County white man, Hodges, who had two sons, operated a service station in Eddiceton. He was a World War II vet, a Mason and past commander of the American Legion post in Meadville. He was also a Klansman who wanted out of the Klan. Authorities believe Hodges was murdered because he may have committed what was considered an unforgivable sin -- informing to law enforcement.
How, then, could Jack Seale just two years later commit the ultimate sin against the Klan and betray his KKK brotherhood?
The answer was money.
"From experience, I can understand what developed," said Billy Bob Williams when told this week of Seale's informant status. Williams is a retired FBI agent from Portland, Ore., who from July 26, 1964 to April 4, 1966, was a resident agent in Natchez charged with assisting, advising and furnishing intelligence to state and local law enforcement authorities as well as insuring the safety of Civil Rights groups. Williams and Seale never liked each other, he said, and once the two got into a fist fight with Williams delivering the first blow.
"I knew Jack Seale from the time of my arrival," said Williams. "He was openly a member of the United Klans of America. He appeared to be a very close associate of the Mississippi Grand Dragon of the UKA (Eddie McDaniel) and acted as a trusted lieutenant. My encounters with these individuals usually took the form of good-natured bantering, but Seale was prone to insults and barbed criticism. I figured him to be a bully and a braggart who was all mouth and a coward. I could see that he could be capable of violence, but he would need to be part of a group."
"Once he (Seale) made the decision to betray his father, brother and Klan associates he became a Judas-like character with not a friend in the world," Williams said of Seale's decision to inform. "His FBI contact would have had total control of him from this point on. His behavior was typical of all informants I have known who were initially motivated to inform for money."
Information revealed in recently-obtained documents in the FBI's massive investigative file into the murder of Wharlest Jackson indicates that Seale's garbage disposal business was failing and that he was worried the Jackson bombing was creating bad publicity for Klansmen who were facing trials. His own trial for the bombing of a Natchez jewelry store was upcoming as was the trial of three Klansmen accused of the brutal 1966 murder of a 67-year-old black man, Ben Chester White, a resident of Adams County. The Wharlest Jackson file was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and provided The Sentinel by the Syracuse University College of Law Cold Case Justice Initiative.
Jack Seale had switched from the White Knights to the United Klans of America in 1965. He had been subpoenaed to testify before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1966 during its probe of the Klan and he had been arrested, but never convicted, for a 1963 attack on two Civil Rights workers near Fayette, Miss.
Records show that at 10:30 p.m. on March 7, 1967, eight days after the Jackson bombing, FBI agent Benjamin F. Graves got a phone call from Seale, who asked Graves to meet him in the middle of the night. Two days before the phone call, Graves had quizzed Seale about the bombing.
Just months earlier, the FBI considered bringing Seale in as a confidential racial source, even as Seale was active almost daily in Klan projects, including the bombing of the Ritz Jewelry Store. Because of his background and because of his possible prosecution in that jewelry store bombing, Seale was turned away as an informant although agents were authorized "to accept any information he volunteered."
But the urgency in solving Wharlest Jackson's murder had changed the FBI's strategy, and when in the middle of the night of March 7, 1967, Seale wanted to meet Graves, the agent agreed.
Seale told Graves that he was $6,000 in debt and had no life insurance. He said for that amount he would furnish the bureau the names of SDG members and information about each man. He needed to get out of debt to insure at least a degree of financial security for his family, he said, because there was a good chance he would be killed for ratting on the SDG.
Graves told Seale that the bureau only paid for information on a "cash on delivery" basis. He said Seale would first have to provide information so he could determine whether Seale knew what he was talking about.
After thinking it over, Seale identified a number of men he said were SDG Klansmen, including two Concordia Parish men -- Red Glover, an Armstrong Tire employee and the man the FBI determined was the head of the SDG, and Kenneth Norman Head, who the FBI believed was one of the lookouts in the bombing of George Metcalfe in 1965, another Armstrong employee and NAACP President who survived the blast.
Seale said the first he heard of the SDG was in late summer or early fall 1965 when Klansman Ernest Finley of Natchez asked Seale and Klansman L.C. Murray "to join a secret group." At that time, Seale said he and Murray were traveling throughout Mississippi promoting the UKA so he didn't act on Finley's invitation.
A short time later, Finley died and at his funeral, Seale said a silver dollar placed on a chain in the center of a wreath caught everyone's attention. The FBI learned that each SDG Klansman was given a silver dollar by Glover as a means of identification in the group. Seale said he assumed that the wreath with the silver dollar was sent by the secret Klan group, although there was no card on the arrangement. Seale said he believed the SDG was likely responsible for Jackson's murder because "all members are the type individuals who could commit such a crime."
In considering Seale as an informant, the FBI and the Justice Department pondered these facts:
-- Probes in Natchez for the previous three years had repeatedly implicated "a small group of individuals" responsible for the murders and acts of violence.
-- These individuals were "fanatical diehards," dedicated to segregation, and "extremely callous about using murder as a tool in fulfilling their plans."
-- These men were hard to reason with, secretive, clannish and trusted "only associates who have proved themselves in acts of violence comparable to their own."
Just as importantly, the bureau considered Seale's violent background, particularly two unsolved murders in which he had been implicated.
Along with his father and brother, Seale had been identified by Ernest Gilbert, a White Knights leader and FBI informant known as JN-30 from Brookhaven, Miss., as having been involved in the Dee-Moore murders. According to a Sept. 18, 1964, FBI document, Gilbert said Jack Seale and Klansman Ernest Parker told him about putting "two niggers in the river" while they were still alive by anchoring them to a Jeep motor block. Gilbert, well aware of the murder of Earl Hodges, reportedly lived in constant fear for his life.
Seale had sources deep within the Klan and was close to many suspected SDG members, records show, and had "been so deeply involved in violence that his defection (from the Klan) would be quite incomprehensible to his Klan associates."
But Seale had to be "recognized for what he is," said one FBI memo. "He is no Rhodes scholar, he is a leader among the 'Kluckers'..."
Seale was warned by the bureau that no assistance would be offered him in any of his legal entanglements, that if he infiltrated the SDG he would be acting on his own and not as an FBI employee and that the bureau "would not condone any acts of violence or lawlessness on his part."
But how much should Seale be paid?
The FBI considered but rejected the payment of a one-year premium for a $6,000 life insurance policy on Seale's life naming his wife and children as beneficiaries. On March 16, 1967 -- with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's blessings -- authority was granted to pay Seale $500 to join the SDG, and to identify SDG members and suspects in Klan crimes. If Seale provided information that resulted in "successful prosecution," consideration would be given to paying him "a substantial amount."
Once his alibi on the night of the Jackson bombing checked out, the deal was offered. Seale accepted. At that point he was assigned an informant number within the FBI's Jackson, Miss., office -- JN-229.
(Stanley Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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