Grand Jury Convenes To Probe 1964 Cold Case An unsolved killing from the civil rights era is getting renewed attention after a newspaper editor identifies a potential suspect.
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Grand Jury Convenes To Investigate 1964 Cold Case

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Grand Jury Convenes To Investigate 1964 Cold Case

Grand Jury Convenes To Investigate 1964 Cold Case

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


NPR's Joseph Shapiro traveled to Louisiana's Concordia Parish to find out more about that newspaper editor and how locals are reacting.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Stanley Nelson is the editor of the weekly newspaper, The Concordia Sentinel.

STANLEY NELSON: All of my life I pass by the shop and didn't know it.

SHAPIRO: African-Americans here never forgot. But Nelson felt ashamed that for him - and for most white people - it was ignored history. So he feels that this town, and he personally, owe a debt of justice to Frank Morris.

NELSON: I think about him a lot and, you know, I do a strange thing when I come up here, and I'm doing right now. There was this horrible story that where everywhere Frank walked that night, he left a trail of bloody footprints. And I have spent quite a bit of time up here looking for blood stains of those footprints. It's a horrible thing to think about but that has haunted me...

SHAPIRO: But you've never seen it.

NELSON: Never. But I'm still looking for them right now.

SHAPIRO: Last week a Concordia Parish grand jury began hearing testimony. Stanley Nelson says Frank Morris was rare for a black business owner in Ferriday.

NELSON: He had a business that had both a black and white clientele. People depended on Frank. It was important back in those days. Most people only had one pair of shoes per family member and so it was important to be able to make those shoes last as long as possible. So, Frank could put a sole of that shoe, he could stitch it. And he took great pride in what he did.

SHAPIRO: Black kids like Robert Lee grew up respecting Frank Morris too. Lee was in the Navy when his mother wrote that Frank Morris had died.

ROBERT LEE: It was heartbreaking because, see, here we were overseas, serving in the military for this country and then at home was this black man, who we looked up to was being burned out by whites. Then we're saying that why in the world am I over here, you know, sworn to the oath of office to die for this country for somebody else, and here this prominent man, this great man, was being burned to death by a bunch of Klu-Kluckers(ph) who probably couldn't even pass the test to go in the military. It pissed a lot of us off. I'm using the word pissed off, because it wasn't right.

SHAPIRO: In Ferriday, on the local radio station, among all the white DJs, Frank Morris had a show, too. Every Sunday morning he played gospel music.


NORRIS: (Singing) I was talking to a lady a few days ago...

SHAPIRO: And when Robert Lee and his brother were in the military, Frank Morris would dedicate a song every Sunday to their mother, who he knew worried about her two sons, Robert and Willis.

LEE: And he used to play this song for - he called Mama his school girl, I believe it was.

WILLIS LEE: Yes, yes.

LEE: And it was a song, Lord, wait up for my child to come home.

LEE: Mm-hmm.

LEE: And he played that for her while we all was off in Vietnam. And the song, it said if you see my child somewhere as you venture here or there, tell him I'm waiting for my child to come home. Yeah, but I can't sing.



LEE: Unidentified Man: (Singing) If you see my child somewhere as you journey here and there, I'm waiting for my child to come home.


SHAPIRO: A lot of white people, too, listened to Frank Morris on the radio, like Glenn McGlothin when he was growing up. Today, McGlothin's got his rock 'n' roll cover band and he's the mayor of Ferriday.

MCGLOTHIN: When I first got elected in '88, '88 to '96, I was a barber, and a mayor and I had a band. So my card actually said: Mondays and Fridays at the mayor's office; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the barbershop; Friday and Saturday - partying.

SHAPIRO: Today being mayor is a full-time job. Mayor McGlothin says he doesn't fear the attention Ferriday is getting right now as the national media report the new revelations in the Frank Morris case.

MCGLOTHIN: Anybody around here knows we had a problem then. It's part of history. It is history. I mean, do we want to rewrite it and act like none of it happened? I can't see that. My point is this: Somebody was murdered. If it was my father or my brother I wouldn't care if it took a hundred years, I want to find them. So what is the difference and Mr. Frank's friends and family want to find out who killed him.

SHAPIRO: The Frank Morris story is the best detective mystery in town. To Nelson, holding the killers of Frank Morris accountable is about racial healing for Concordia Parish and for the nation. It's about justice for Frank Morris.

NELSON: I like Frank Morris. I respect him. He was a good man. I wish that I had known him. Every person that worked for Frank remembers him in such a good way. But Concordia Parish has not lifted a finger for Frank Morris, has not done anything for Frank Morris, but we can now. Justice is as important for everybody.

SHAPIRO: Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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