Brother of man slain in ’60s pressing for justice
Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 17, 2005
NATCHEZ &045; Thomas Moore doesn’t know how close he is to justice.
But he believes the best opportunity to solve his brother’s 41-year-old murder is at hand.
The climate is right, the time is right, and the spotlight is on.
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Moore’s crusade for convictions in the killings of his brother, Charles Eddie Moore, and a friend, Henry Hezekiah Dee, culminated this week in U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton’s pledge to re-investigate the Franklin County murders, along with the truck bomb killing of Natchez’s Wharlest Jackson in 1967.
&uot;For the first time in 41 years, the people that can bring this to justice are hot on the trail,&uot; Moore said Friday.
Dee and Moore were killed in May 1964, when Klansman apparently lured the 19-year-olds into the woods, tied them to trees and beat them. Their bodies &045; just pieces left &045; were found weeks later in the Mississippi River, south of Tallulah, La.
Their bodies might never have been found, but federal authorities were looking for three slain civil rights workers &045; Andrew Goodman, James Cheney and Michael Schwerner &045; when they found Dee and Moore on July 12, 1964. At first investigators did not know what they had found, as the bodies were unrecognizable.
&uot;That’s what hurt me a lot,&uot; Thomas Moore said. &uot;It took two or three days just to determine the sex and race of the two bodies.&uot;
FBI officials who had been looking for the killers of the three slain civil rights workers turned their attention in southwest Mississippi to the new murders.
Two reputed Klansmen &045; James Ford Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards &045; were arrested in November 1964 in connection with the Dee and Moore killings. A day later they were released on $5,000 bond, Moore said.
Case files document Edwards’ confession that those two and others beat the teens but that they left them in the woods.
When Charles Moore went missing, his mother couldn’t even turn to her older son at first. Away at Army basic training, Thomas didn’t hear the news until later.
He believes now that sheriff’s department officials lied to his mother, who was worried sick about where Charles could be.
&uot;They told my mom he drove to Louisiana, and he was down there and was fine.&uot;
But Thomas, who soon returned home from basic training, couldn’t accept that.
&uot;I was angry when I came home. I knew it was not in his nature&uot; to run off without letting their mother know where he was.
Thomas Moore had always been his younger brother’s protector, fighting Charles’ battles in high school. They had a difficult childhood, losing their father when they were just toddlers, but they were devoted to their mother.
Money was certainly tight, but &uot;when we went to bed at night there was love in our family,&uot; Thomas said.
Thomas and Charles were close. &uot;I was my brother’s protector,&uot; Moore said. &uot;I was the big guy.&uot;
Thomas remembers his brother as &uot;smart, neat, intelligent, very humble.&uot;
He was a snappy dresser, too, perhaps a trait he learned from Henry Dee.
Dee, who had been a classmate of both Thomas and Charles, split his time between Chicago and Franklin County. He wore his hair processed &045; the term at the time for relaxed &045; and had the best hair in that part of the state, Thomas remembers. But Henry was quieter, keeping to himself in groups.
Charles was a better student than his brother in high school, making good grades. He taught Sunday school. He was president of the senior class &045; having beaten his opponent, brother Thomas.
After high school, he began attending what Alcorn , but he was suspended for taking part in a student protest.
Thomas recently learned the protest was not political, as many have speculated in the years since his brother’s death. According to a letter from the school’s president, Thomas had taken part in a sit-in to protest the food in the cafeteria.
Long after Charles’ death, a friend in Franklin County told Thomas her daughter had been part of that protest, in which students sat on the football field. The girl was cold, and Charles went to his dorm room to get a blanket for her.
&uot;That was the kind of guy he was,&uot; Thomas said.
The girl kept the blanket for years.
Thomas Moore was angry when the charges against Seale and Edwards were dropped. He wanted justice, any way he could find it.
But his mother Mazie, fearful for her only living son, changed his mind.
&uot;She thought I would get killed,&uot; he said. &uot;She knew I was angry. She was concerned about me.&uot;
Mazie Moore told Thomas to stay in the Army. He served in Vietnam and went on to a successful career, retiring a command sergeant major, the highest enlisted rank. He earned two bachelor’s degrees, in social science and social work. The second degree was dedicated to Charles.
For decades Thomas kept his promise to his mother, not pursuing the killers.
But losing her younger son was almost more than Mazie Moore could bear.
&uot;I used to come home on leave and wake up and hear her crying, saying, ‘Why did they do that to my son?’&uot;
Their mother died just 13 years after Charles was killed.
In the late 1980s, Thomas began to think about having his Charles’ and Henry’s murder case reopened. Then as more and more killers from the civil rights era were re-arrested and convicted, justice seemed a greater possibility.
In 1998, Thomas asked District Attorney Ronnie Harper &045; whose jurisdiction includes Franklin and Adams counties &045; to look into the case. Harper agreed, but was hampered by a lack of resources. Since the charges had been dropped, there was no trial testimony, making evidence hard to find.
Two years later, when the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson reported that that Dee and Moore were killed on federal property in Homochitto National Forest, the FBI got involved again.
National media started paying attention. ABC’s 20/20 did a report on several of the unsolved cases, including Dee and Moore’s deaths. The Los Angeles Times interviewed Thomas. He thought things were getting somewhere.
But attention died down.
Then in Neshoba County, which had seen the murders of the three slain civil rights leaders whose case led to the discovery of Dee and Moore’s bodies, a country preacher and one-time Klan leader was charged in the more famous crime.
And one day Thomas got a call he wasn’t expecting.
A Canadian documentary producer wanted to meet him, interview him about his brother’s death.
The pair met at Moore’s Colorado home and soon set off on a journey to discover what they could about Charles Moore’s death.
And Thomas Moore could not be more satisfied with how things have turned out.
Reopening the case
Documentary producer David Ridgen took Moore to Philadelphia, where Edgar Ray Killen was convicted in the killings of the three slain civil rights workers.
From there they headed south, and on the way Moore made a phone call to Lampton, the U.S. attorney.
took the meeting. Moore brought him up to date on the case. Moore showed him several pages of notes from the case files. Lampton was eager to help.
&uot;He had not read the pages of FBI documents,&uot; Moore said.
Lampton told Moore he would put together a team of people from all of the agencies that might have touched the case. They will sit down together in July to review the files.
That isn’t the only good news. While Moore has been on his latest trip through Mississippi, a new Senate bill that would create a civil rights cold case division in the Justice Department has been proposed, with Mississippi Sens. Trent Lott and Thad Cochran as co-sponsors. The bill would create a special division to encourage law enforcement agencies to share information on civil rights cases such as the Dee and Moore killings.
Moore believes that can help solve his brother’s murder.
&uot;I have been told this is the No. 1 case sitting on the desk if the resolution is passed,&uot; he said.
In Franklin County, Moore encountered more surprising news. He had been told that one of the suspects, James Ford Seale, was dead. But just minutes after he arrived home, fellow patrons at a convenience store told him Seale was alive and well.
&uot;I was so glad to hear he was alive,&uot; Moore said.
Seale and Edwards have denied guilt in the case in recent years.
Moore grew up in a Franklin County that feared the Klan.
&uot;Franklin County was infested with the KKK,&uot; he said. &uot;The whites who were not in it were sympathizers, or they were afraid.
&uot;I think my mother was physically threatened&uot; after Charles’ death, Moore said. &uot;The KKK was playing such psychological warfare on blacks and whites. Š There’s still a lot of fear. We talk about terrorists &045; it bothers me when in Franklin County, these two guys are still out there.&uot;
But Moore believes many want to see closure in the brutal murders of two native sons.
&uot;There are people in Franklin County that want to see justice.&uot;
In Neshoba County, Moore saw residents of Philadelphia holding their heads high after the verdict in the Killen case. He wants to see the same reaction in his home community.
&uot;I want Franklin County to be a great place,&uot; Moore said. &uot;They need to clear this spot up. Some people want to say, ‘Well, let it go.’ Š but everywhere I go it seems like (Charles) is asking me to fight.&uot;
Moore believes people will now come forward if they have information about the case.
&uot;I’m doing the right thing,&uot; Moore said. &uot;I would encourage anyone to help, or at least just don’t disrupt anything.
&uot;Mississippi’s come a long way, we have come so far. I think people will come forward&uot; if they have information in the case.
&uot;I’m not a professional investigator,&uot; Moore said. But Moore believes he has talked to people who know more than they will say, who could be convinced to tell what they know.
&uot;Deep down in my heart I think Dunn Lampton’s going to produce the people that’s going to do that.&uot;
A successful trip
While the trip has been satisfying for Moore, he knows his ride home &045; alone on his motorcycle &045; will be filled with reflection.
&uot;There will probably be tears,&uot; he said.
He mourns every day for the brother he has lost, for the uncle Thomas’ son Jeffery has never known. And he wonders what might have happened if Charles had lived.
&uot;With his ambition he probably would have been a Ph.D., the president of some university,&uot; Moore said.
Visiting the family plot at Mount Olive Cemetery this past week, Moore saw something on his brother’s grave he’d never noticed before. &uot;Anywhere in glory’s all right,&uot; the last line reads.
&uot;This has been a very successful trip,&uot; Moore said. &uot;It’s an honor for me to do it for my brother.&uot;