Frank Morris was 51 years old when Klansmen torched his shoe shop in Ferriday, LA, on December 10, 1964. He had been sleeping in a back room when he was awakened after midnight by the sound of breaking glass. Outside the front of the shop, he observed two men. One held a shotgun, the other an empty gas can.
Suddenly, one of the men ignited the gasoline that had been poured inside the shop. Morris attempted to escape the flames through the front door but the man with the shotgun pointed the barrel at Morris’ head and told him to remain inside. Making his way through the inferno and out a back door, he was picked by two Ferriday police officers passing by in their patrol car and rushed to the Concordia Parish hospital. Morris was naked. The fire had burned the clothing off his body.
An FBI agent arrived at the hospital hours later and took several statements from Morris, who was heavily sedated and often incoherent. He said he did not recognize the men who attacked him. Four days after the fire, Morris died.
The FBI investigated the case during the 1960s and again beginning in 2007. Several suspects were identified during the 1960s and in 2011, as a result of reporting by the Concordia Sentinel, a new suspect was named. A month after the article was published a grand jury was called, but took no action. No one was ever arrested for the murder.
Morris was popular in both the black and white communities in Ferriday, a poor town where many families depended on him to keep their shoes in good repair. Klan and police-inspired rumors circulated about Morris, including that he was allowing white women and black men to have sexual liaisons in the back of his shop. But that allegation was untrue.
The true motive appears to be a simple one. Morris had argued with Frank DeLaughter, a Concordia Parish sheriff’s deputy and Klansmen, a short time before the arson. Statements given by two men in the 1960s indicated that Morris had refused to provide DeLaughter any more credit for shoe repair or for the purchase of shoes because the deputy refused to pay his bills. Furious, DeLaughter would tell Coonie Poissot, one of the suspects revealed by the Concordia Sentinel, that DeLaughter had told Poissot that Morris had acted “uppity” and that he (DeLaughter) was going to teach Morris a lesson.
In 2011, the Concordia Sentinel reported that family members of Arthur Leonard Spencer of Rayville, LA, alleged that Spencer and Poissot were the arsonists. The family members said both had confessed years earlier in separate conversation. Poissot was dead by 2011, but Spencer, who is also now dead, denied the allegations that he was involved in the arson.
Frank Morris hosted a gospel music program on Sundays on radio station KFNV in Ferriday. He took requests, including those from mothers who prayed for protection for their Black sons wherever they might be. One particular fear was that they were in the hands of racist cops. The song, by The Consolers, is entitled, “Waiting for My Child to Come Home.”
Leonard Spencer being interviewed by Stanley Nelson in Morris deathFBI photo taken while tailing Silver Dollar Group leader Red GloverJames Ford Seale at 2008 conviction in the deaths of Henry Dee and Charles James Ford Seale 1964 arrest shot