SDG leader 'Red' Glover was lead suspect in Wharlest Jackson murder
by Stanley Nelson - posted Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 @ 9:02 am
The lead suspect in the murder of Wharlest Jackson in 1967 was a 45-year-old Armstrong Tire & Rubber Plant tirebuilder whom the FBI identified as the leader of a violent Ku Klux Klan unit known as the Silver Dollar Group.
Raleigh Jackson "Red" Glover died in 1984 at the age of 62 in the community of Washington in Adams County, Miss. He was never arrested for the murder of Jackson although thousands of pages of FBI documents show the bureau and the Justice Department were convinced he was the mastermind.
J.T. Robinson, Natchez police chief in 1967 who worked with the FBI in the investigation of Jackson's murder, was convinced Glover was guilty, too, according to his widow, Donna Robinson of Jackson, Miss.
"He said Red did it but they couldn't prove it," said Donna Robinson this past weekend. "He said many times before he died: 'That son-of-a-bitch (Glover) killed Wharlest Jackson.'"
But Glover's stepson, 62-year-old James Watts, who lives in the community of Washington, disputes the allegations.
"I don't believe he was guilty," Watts said on Sunday. "The FBI had it out for him. They hounded his ass all the time when he lived in Vidalia. A lot of times they (FBI) get it in for somebody but he was never arrested or convicted for that."
A two-year Concordia Sentinel investigation, coupled with the FBI's case file on Jackson's murder, provides never before published information on Glover and his life. The FBI documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and provided The Sentinel by the Syracuse University College of Law Cold Case Justice Initiative. Additionally, LSU journalism grad students Matt Barnidge and Ian Stanford, who interned at The Sentinel this summer, spent the months of July and early August combing through courthouse records throughout southwestern Mississippi and parts of Louisiana tracking Glover's footsteps.
Wharlest Jackson, the 36-year-old father of five, died after his pickup exploded on Minor Street shortly after 8 p.m. on Feb. 27, 1967. Jackson had just taken a promotion at the Armstrong Tire & Rubber plant to a position that had previously been held by white men only. That, FBI records show, was the motive for the crime during the height of the Civil Rights movement when public buildings and facilities -- libraries, hospitals, and schools -- were being integrated as well the water fountains and lockerrooms at Armstrong.
Glover at the time was a 15-year Armstrong employee who many co-workers, neighbors and Klansmen-turned-informants classified as someone who despised blacks and had no qualms about violence. He "would not hesitate to drop a man," one Klan informant told the FBI. Then Vidalia Police Chief J.T. Spinks, records show, called Glover a "fanatic" in his opposition to desegregation and "his hatred for Negroes."
When Jefferson Davis Hospital, now Natchez Regional, was integrated in the mid-1960s a painting of Jefferson Davis -- the President of the Confederacy -- was stolen from the lobby. Informants told the FBI that Glover had taken the painting because he could not stand the thought of Davis "looking down on the mixed race status" of the facility.
Glover spent most of his adult life in Natchez, Washington and southwestern Mississippi, but from 1963 to late summer of 1967, he lived on Lee Avenue in Vidalia and during that time was a suspect in violence on both sides of the Mississippi River.
FISTS, STRAPS, WEAPONS & ARSON
Natchez police chief J.T. Robinson told the FBI days after Jackson's murder that Glover came to him one day in 1962 and admitted to shooting a black man. Glover said the man had attacked him with a Pepsi bottle. Robinson said he found the man at the hospital being treated for wounds to his arms, but said the man left town and wouldn't press charges.
In Concordia Parish in 1965, two black men -- Robert Watkins and Richard James -- were kidnapped and beaten in the Monterey area. Informants told FBI agents that Glover was part of the Klan unit that beat the men, and that later Glover boasted he trapped them "by faking a car breakdown." The victims were taken to an abandoned oil well and beaten with straps. Shown a photo of suspects, Watkins identified Glover as the man who "faked car trouble."
When one of the black men asked for water after the beating, Glover told informants he dipped a cup of salt water from the abandoned well and poured it on the man's wounds. One informant said Glover "laughed uncontrollably" when telling the story.
Glover's Klan days are well-remembered by two brothers whose father -- Earcel Boyd Sr. -- was a member of the Silver Dollar Group. Leland Boyd of Texas and Earcel "Sonny" Boyd Jr. of Oregon have talked about the evolution of the Silver Dollar Group (SDG) in past Sentinel articles. They have pointed out that their father carried a silver dollar minted in the year he was born. They also say Glover was a regular visitor to their home in Concordia Parish, where the Boyds' father often kept dozens of bombs stored in the attic or in a shed in the backyard.
According to FBI records and the Boyd brothers, Glover stood 5-foot-8, weighed 165 lbs., had dark red hair, white at the sideburns, and was balding. He had a ruddy complexion with freckles. His eyes were blue.
Sonny recalled when Glover "came by the house one day sporting a trunk full of rifles and machine guns, including one Browning Automatic, two Thompsons with the circular ammo clips, and one German made machine gun -- all of them loaded and ready for action. This scared me a bit since they were standing in our driveway dry-firing some of the rifles."
Leland said Glover was "always full of bull and teasing me and my younger brothers. He had a smile on his face most of the time but he could turn that expression on a dime. One night after a telephone conversation he had a demonic look like he had just been overwhelmed with bad news. All of a sudden the clown that we knew was about as serious as a grave stone."
Glover, FBI records say, personally handed out silver dollars to established Klansmen he recruited for the SDG. His recruits were known as Klan "action men," who would fight desegregation with fists, straps, weapons and arson.
Retired FBI agent John Pfeifer worked in Concordia Parish from 1966 to 1978 and, along with another agent, was the first to interview Glover in the hours after Jackson's murder. Pfeifer had arrived in Ferriday after the murders of Vidalia Shamrock Motel employee Joseph Joe-Ed Edwards in July 1964 and Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris in December 1964.
SDG members were suspected of those murders and of the 1965 car bombing of another Armstrong Tire employee, George Metcalfe, the president of the Natchez NAACP who survived the attack on him.
"Before I got up there to Ferriday and before Morris was burned, there was an awful lot of nasty activity, lots of violence, in Louisiana and in Natchez, on both sides of the river," said Pfeifer, who lives in Ohio today. "The bureau at this time had decided to open an office in Jackson" in response to the murder of three Civil Rights workers in Philadelphia, Miss., in June 1964.
He said both President Lyndon Johnson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were "very intent in solving this case and putting a plug in this era of violence, especially in Mississippi. The result was a concentration of agents in Mississippi working the Philadelphia case."
At this time, said Pfeifer, many "were becoming real or pseudo real informants or suspected by the Klan of being informants. This made all Klansmen engaged in violence extremely suspicious and paranoid about talking about anything or anybody."
Because of this, many men got out of the Klan. But Glover and other violent-prone Klansmen, FBI records say, decided to go underground. There would be no more Klan rallies with hoods and burning crosses, no more public meetings, marches or parades.
Records show Glover recruited hardened Klansmen from three Klan groups -- the Original Knights, the White Knights and the United Klans of America. Membership was gained in only one way -- by Glover's own choosing. Those handpicked were given a silver dollar minted in the year of the recipient's birth, personally presented by Glover.
Glover told informants that as many as 52 men were given silver dollars, but records show the core group included only about 20 men. Meetings were always small, usually attended by less than 10 Klansmen although some gatherings at fish fries included Klan wives and children. Klansmen were always heavily armed and at many meetings they honed their bombing skills.
The SDG met in Concordia at a hunting camp on Old River near the Brandenburg Pit, on Robbins' Island on Lake St. John, at a farm outbuilding at Clayton, at residences on Lake Concordia and at Wildsville, three times on a sandbar along the Homochitto River off U.S. 98 in Franklin County, Miss., and once at the Clear Springs Recreation Area in Franklin County.
While many SDG members turned informants, Pfeifer said most would never tell all they knew, a fact that apparently hampered the FBI in making a federal case against Glover or a single member of the SDG.
GLOVER'S CHILDHOOD, MILITARY LIFE
Descriptions of Glover as violent are foreign to his stepson, James Watts, who recalled on Sunday that Glover was "a quiet man. He kind of stayed to himself but he had friends and buddies. He'd pick up a hitchhiker and give him $5 or $10 because he (Glover) had gone through a rough time himself. But I would say he was a happy man. He enjoyed his life."
Glover was born January 10, 1922, in east Texas in the county of Saint Augustine, where he completed fifth grade at Cranberry School. "He was uneducated," said Watts. "He quit school. He was raised on a farm. He never said anything about his father. I think his father may have killed himself."
Glover's father is unnamed and listed as deceased in FBI and military records. Glover's one brother, Ray, died in 1948. He had three sisters -- Faye, Ivanell and Idell.
At some point after Glover turned 10, his mother, Maggie, and her children moved to Natchez. In the late 1930s, Watts says his stepfather worked at the New Deal-sponsored Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp in southwestern Mississippi, building the Clear Springs Recreation Area at Meadville, Miss., in Franklin County.
By 1942, Glover, then 20, married but divorced in Florida after two years. During this period he was employed as an ironworker in Mobile, Ala.
He was drafted into the U.S. Navy in 1943. With a background in construction, Glover became a part of the Seabees, which performed construction work, building bases, roads, airstrips and numerous other construction projects. They also handled explosives.
In 1967, when being questioned by the FBI in the Jackson murder, Glover denied having any experience with explosives. Watts said he never saw Glover "fool with dynamite or explosives."
One footnote in Glover's military record, however, reveals that on Aug. 22, 1944, while at New Guinea in the South Pacific, Glover "was attempting to drill a hole through a .45 caliber shell to make an ornament chain. Glover struck a cap with a nail to explode the cap, and the shell fired and hit Glover's left knee."
In the meantime, Glover's best friend, James Watts Sr., was serving in Germany. Glover and Watts had worked in the CCC camp at Clear Springs in the late 1930s when both men met Lavonia "Polly" Burt, who lived in Natchez.
Watts Sr. and Lavonia married and had a son, James, on May 2, 1944. A year later, April 17, 1945, Watts Sr. was killed in action on a battlefield in Germany.
Given an honorable discharge on Dec. 14, 1945, Glover returned to Natchez, and days later married Polly, his best friend's widow, and James Watts' biological father.
"He raised me," said Watts of Glover. "I'm his stepson but I called him daddy. He did a good job taking care of me and my mother. He was a hard-working man at home and at work."
From 1948 to 1949, Glover worked at the Armstrong Tire Plant in Natchez, but in 1950 he reentered the Navy and served in Korea. Watts said he was unfamiliar with his stepfather's military service, either in World War II or Korea.
"He never talked about it," said Watts. "The only thing I know about the Navy is that he read a lot, encyclopedias and the Bible, and educated himself, and that he was in the Navy and couldn't swim."
At the same time Glover was in Korea with the Navy, the man Glover is believed to have murdered -- Wharlest Jackson -- was there, too, in an Army unit in combat.
Natchez Police Chief J.T. Robinson told the FBI in 1967 that Glover had "cracked up" in Korea. Glover was given an honorable discharge for his Korean service, and returned to Natchez where he did three things at the outset -- applied for a disability pension from the Navy due to his WWII leg wound, returned to work at Armstrong Tire and began going to church.
The Navy determined Glover's injury was "in the line of duty," happened due to his "negligence," not misconduct, and in 1953 awarded Glover a lifetime monthly disability stipend of $15.75.
Meanwhile, two friends of Glover's told the FBI in 1967 that after Korea Glover became active in church. "He became very religious," said one, and "very interested in church and church activities," said another.
"For a long time he went to Brother (James) Crumpton's Church at Westside (Baptist)" in Natchez, said Watts. "But when we moved to Magnolia he got out of the habit of going."
That move to the Magnolia, Miss., community south of McComb and north of the Louisiana line came in the late 1950s.
"He decided he wanted to get into dairy farming," said Watts. "He was raised on a farm and wanted to get back to a farm. He bought some land but after a couple of years decided he didn't like it. It's a seven-day-a week job, you milk morning and night and you have to fool around with pastures and hay."
The Glovers moved back to Natchez where they lived at 5 East Franklin for 18 months, from 1960 to 1962. Glover returned to work at Armstrong and in 1962 was elected to a non-paying committeeman post for the United Rubber Workers Union Local 303, AFL-CIO.
By March 1963, Glover obtained a VA loan and bought a home in the Taconey Subdivision in Vidalia on 113 Lee Avenue for $11,855.66. During the next five years, FBI records indicate, Glover would emerge as the leader of the most violent Klan group in this region.
"A lot of times the FBI gets it in for somebody and they want to convict," said Watts. "But they never convicted him on anything."
(Stanley Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)