James Horace “Sonny” Taylor
James Horace “Sonny” Taylor was a Klansman from Harrisonburg, LA, who became an informant for the FBI.
In 1967, Taylor told his FBI handler that if the bureau would grant him immunity, he would offer testimony in court that would result in the conviction of Klansman Raleigh Jackson “Red” Glover.
The FBI considered Glover as one of the most violent Klansmen in both Louisiana and Mississippi. In 1964, Glover, a member of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, grew impatient with traditional Klan groups that he felt were not doing enough to stop integration and preserve white supremacy.
As a result, Glover formed the Silver Dollar Group, a “Klan within a Klan.” Glover’s purpose was to use any violence necessary to stop the Civil Rights Movement and preserve white supremacy.
Glover handpicked every member of the SDG and provided each a silver dollar, often minted in the year of the Klansman’s birth. The coin was a symbol of unity among group members.
Taylor was taken into the SDG by Glover in 1965.
In June of that year, SDG Klansman James “Jim” Lee hosted a fish fry for SDG Klansmen at his home in Concordia Parish. During that meeting, Klansmen from both Louisiana and Mississippi experimented with explosives. Glover at that time was planning an attack on Natchez NAACP President George Metcalfe.
After the fish fry, Glover assigned Taylor and Lee to figure out how to ignite explosives placed inside a car. After several tries, the two Klansmen successfully blew up a tree stump by connecting C-4 explosives to the cylinder coil of a car and turning the ignition switch on.
Glover, Taylor and Lee had discussed several plans in which to kill Metcalfe, including an assassination or abducting Metcalfe and killing him somewhere else. But with news that Taylor and Lee had figured out how to make a car bomb work, Glover decided that the explosive charge would be placed in Metcalfe’s car while it was parked at the Armstrong Tire Plant where Metcalfe, Glover and Lee each worked.
Taylor later admitted to the FBI that he placed the charge under Metcalfe’s car with an accomplice never identified. Metcalfe survived the explosion.
Two years later, following the fatal car bombing of Natchez NAACP Treasurer Wharlest Jackson, Taylor told the bureau that if it granted him immunity that he would testify against Red Glover in court. The FBI wanted to do this and had the support of John Doar, who headed civil rights at the Department of Justice. However, Attorney General Ramsey Clark turned down the FBI’s request. When Doar asked Clark to reconsider, Clark still refused.
Taylor also was implicated in the unsuccessful bombing of Ferriday, LA, activist David Whatley’s grandmother’s home and in the unsuccessful bombing of a Black church near Sicily Island, LA.
After the bombing of Jackson and when Taylor became a paid informant, he accompanied Glover to an unoccupied farmhouse in northeastern Louisiana where Glover retrieved explosives, some stored in a child’s toy drum, from the attic. The FBI investigation revealed that Glover was constantly moving about his cache of explosives. At one time, he relied on a Klansman from Meadville, Miss., Eldon Glenn Hester, to store the cache. Hester owned the farmhouse in Louisiana.
Also, during the spring of 1967, Glover was arrested for stealing a pasture mower in Jefferson County, Miss. Taylor saw the stolen equipment on Glover’s property in Tangipahoa Parish, LA. However, the district attorneys in both states opted not to prosecute Glover.
Taylor’s daughter, Debra Taylor, has described the household of her father as one of cruelty and domination. She said her father beat his children and that they all lived in fear of him.
Klansmen often visited her home, she said, and she sometimes babysat the children of Klansmen.
As the survivor of a violent Klan household, Debra Taylor has shared her story to the LSU Cold Case Project and documentarians.