The 1960s Jim Crow South conjures nothing but sour memories of racial discrimination, violence and terror at the hands of the infamous Ku Klux Klan. During that time, many African-Americans experienced the hate group’s reign of terror first-hand. Now, the daughter of a Louisiana Klansman is recounting her father’s atrocities against Blacks; atrocities she tried so hard to forget over the years.
The horrid memories shook Debra Taylor, 62, to the point of airing her family’s dirty laundry. According to The Advocate, Taylor shared painful details of life with her father, James “Sonny” Taylor, who was a member of a Ku Klux Klan sub-unit known as the Sliver Dollar Group. The unit saw violence as the only means of preventing Black Americans from gaining civil rights.
In a number of interviews with Louisiana State University’s Manship School Cold Case Project, Taylor recounted horrifying memories of her father, such as the time he confessed to wrapping the bodies of African-Americans in barbed wire and throwing them into the Alligator Bayou near their home.
“Sonny” made the startling confession while on his death bed, the Advocate reports. He then explained to his daughter that the barbed wire would get caught at the bottom of the bayou and prevent the body from resurfacing.
“I can’t understand how anyone could do that to a person,” Taylor said. “I was terrified of him until the day he died.”
The Port Vincent woman described her father as mean and abusive, recalling that he wasn’t afraid to unleash his violent anger on friends, spouses and even children, according to the Advocate. Taylor said her father also had no problem inflicting pain and violence on African-Americans who didn’t know “their place.”
She recounts the time she told her Klansman father about a 15-year-old Black student who had passed a harmless note to a white female student at a high school that had recently been integrated, the Advocate reports. Taylor said her father was so livid that he led a cross-burning in the teen’s yard and fired multiple shots into the family’s home.
Taylor said she never agreed with her father’s ways and felt guilty because she turned a blind eye to it all those years.
According to The Advocate, she reached out to LSU’s Manship School Cold Case Project in 2015 to talk about her father. The group was already familiar with James “Sonny” Taylor from their FBI investigative files, the publication reports.
“I just needed to tell somebody,” Taylor said, “So they would know I’m not like him. We aren’t like him.”
Per The Advocate, FBI files obtained by the project members accuse “Sonny” and fellow Klansman Jim “Red” Lee of constructing a bomb that was used to blow up the car of Natchez, Mississippi NAACP leader George Metcalf on Aug. 27, 1967. Metcalf survived the attempted bombing, but neither “Sonny” nor any other Klan member was ever convicted for the crime.
In 2007, the Concordia Sentinel reported that FBI agents had successfully linked the militant Silver Dollar Group to a number of abhorrent crimes in Adams County, Mississippi, and Concordia Parish, Louisiana, during the 1960s. One of those crimes was the December 1964 murder of African-American Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris.
“My dad and Frank Morris were good friends,” Leland Boyd, son of infamous Klan leader Earcel Boyd, told the Cold Case Project. “They had known each other a long time. I was in Mr. Frank’s shop at least twice a week with my dad.”
“My dad’s views were that everyone should be treated equally but the races should not mix,” Boyd continued. “He was a hypocrite, and I learned that at an early age. But he always treated Mr. Frank as a true friend and was determined to find out who killed him.”