ORAL HISTORY with KEN
Ken Fairly was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, February
18, 1928. Now retired, Mr. Fairly had two careers: one as
a journalist and the other as a law enforcement officer at
the local, state, and national levels. He investigated Ku
Klux Klan activities for the Saturday Evening Post and
was present at part of the Ole Miss riots as a police officer.
He lives in Brandon, Mississippi.
Background and Early Law Enforcement Career
The Ole Miss Riot
Investigating the Klan
The Mississippi Highway Patrol
Breaking the Klan
Law Enforcement in Mississippi
Paul Johnson and the Highway Patrol
of the Oral History Interview
This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History
Program of the University of Southern Mississippi with Ken
Fairly, a Mississippi law enforcement officer and journalist.
The interview was conducted July 7, 1993, by Reid Derr, a
history doctoral student at the university.
Derr: Mr. Fairly, thank you, first of all,
for the interview. I appreciate your time. I'd like to begin
by asking you to tell me a little bit about your background:
where you grew up, your education, how you got interested
Fairly: I was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi,
in Copiah County on February 18,
1928. My mother and father were natives of that county. My
father was in business with my granddad as a wholesale merchant.
My mother had been a schoolteacher. I was the second of three
children. My mother died of pneumonia in 1936, and my dad
on January 10 of 1942 of cancer of the stomach. At that point
I was brought to Jackson to live with an aunt and uncle. I
was very dissatisfied in the large city of Jackson, which
probably had 65,000 people in it. I went off to military school
at Chattanooga, Tennessee, where I excelled in athletics [and]
did very poorly academically. After a year and a half, I returned
to my mother's family in Hazlehurst and completed high school
there. I tried to enlist in the Marine Corps in Chattanooga
and got caught under age. Upon completing high school, I enlisted
in the Naval Reserve and was called up in January of 1946.
I finished boot camp in San Diego, California, and was assigned
to a destroyer mine sweeper USS Thompson, DMS[?]-38,
and served there; and while aboard ship, [it] had a library
available and [I] checked out a book on news reporting. I
can't tell you now why I did that, but in reading it--it was
a textbook-type thing--I just got really interested in journalism.
And when I got back from service--was discharged--I sent applications
in to the University of Missouri and also Columbia University.
I had also been awarded a football scholarship at the University
I did go there briefly and got a knee hurt and dropped out
until they could get it straightened out. I dropped out of
the academic work while they worked on my knee. I enjoyed
my English classes, particularly, and my history classes.
When I got back from service, the doctor here, who I knew
and who was kind of a director of young men who wanted to
pursue athletic careers, made some arrangements with the coaching
staff at Mississippi College, and I wound up at Clinton about
three and a half years. I met my wife there, who was a English
fellow and made such good grades in English that I married
her in 1948! (laughter)
My family owned the wholesale grocery business at Hazlehurst,
and I went there for a very brief time and did not like the
confinement or the work. So I went to Greenville and talked
to Mr. Hodding Carter, the original big Hodding, and secured
a job at $120 a month as a cub reporter. And the first day
on the job, he took me to one of the civic clubs, and Albert
Lake, who was city attorney, blasted some issue before the
city council, and it became the lead story of the day. But
anyway I worked there; it was agreed it would be a temporary
summer job. At the end of that summer he wanted me to go to
LSU to study journalism, and I wanted to stay. I had found
out how much fun it was, and I wanted to stay in the field.
So I came on to Jackson, and after about a month I went to
work for the Clarion-Ledger just covering general
assignments, writing obits. I finally worked into going to
the police department and stayed there for a year. I was getting
ready to join the police department--they were making more
than reporters then--when an opening occurred in [the] special
agent's office of the Illinois Central Railroad. I applied
for and competed for that job and got it, and they sent me
to Grenada and [I] stayed at Grenada.
The Korean War started in June, and I was just getting out
of the naval reserve, and I went down and enlisted in the
Mississippi National Guard. In December of '50 we were put
on notice we would be activated, and I went on active duty
with the Army the third day of January of '51. [I went] to
Fort Jackson for basic infantry training. They sent me to
military intelligence school at Fort Riley, Kansas, for three
months. When I got out of that, I was back at Fort Jackson,
and they wanted six sergeants for Korea. And six of us walked
up and volunteered, and the next day we were on orders for
I survived that with the First Cavalry Division, came back
home, went back to work with the railroad for awhile. And
then I was offered an appointment in the state fire marshal's
office as a deputy state fire marshal. I worked as an arson
investigator [and] worked some of the rather infamous murder
cases where attempts were made to cover up the murder with
arson--such as the Ross Hawkins case in Smith County, which
was statewide news interest or even regional news interest--I
mean, outside of the state of Mississippi--and a number of
While [I was] there, I took the United States Civil Service
exams for U.S. Treasury agent and passed it and, in August
of '54, was offered an appointment as a agent with the treasury.
I accepted it and asked also for [assignment to] ATF [Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] and was assigned to ATF.
I stayed there until Judge Coleman was elected governor.
He appointed me as an investigator with the Mississippi Department
of Public Safety. There Sam Ivy was assigned to the Identification
Bureau, which did most all the felony investigations except
cattle theft--livestock theft. [I] worked with Ivy, Gwin Cole,
[D.B] Crockett, who had been chief of police in Tupelo, [and]
an ex-sheriff of Clark County named Riley. We were very close-knit--only
five of us up there.
On July 1, 1960, I resigned from the patrol and went to work
for the Jackson Police Department. And from then until '66
it was an intermittent working for the police department or
the Hinds County Sheriff's office. The sheriff was an old
friend of mine, a guy whom [I] had supported, very close to
Governor Barnett, close to Governor Johnson. He said he needed
some experienced help, [so] I went over there with him. When
he went out of office, I went back to the police department
and then back to the sheriff's office under a new sheriff
and back to the police department.
During that time Governor Johnson had been elected in '63
and I attended his inauguration January of '64. He brought
to Jackson with him one of my old friends from Hattiesburg,
named Steve Henderson, as his head of security. I think Steve
at one time was maybe head of security some at Southern [University
of Southern Mississippi].
Nevertheless, I continued my law enforcement career until
I did this [article] for the Saturday Evening Post.
And in January of '66, it had so renewed my interest in writing
that I wanted to get back in newspaper work, and I did. [I]
went up to Greenville, first as city editor and then managing
editor, from January until August or September of '66. Then
[I] came back to the Clarion-Ledger and started doing
a column and finally wound up covering the governor's office
and the legislature while doing this column, too. [I] really
first started off with a non-political column just about characters
in Jackson and police stories, mostly, until it got into a
In 1969 the LEAA [Law Enforcement Assistance Act] was established--the
omnibus crime bill--and Governor Williams called me and wanted
me to go to work in that. I told him, "Governor, I don't
know anything about this. I'm getting ready to go back to
work at the police department," [where] they'd offered
me lieutenant space to come back. I talked to Roy Moore and
some other friends, and they said, "Get in on the ground
floor of anything new and you can make or break your reputation."
So, I decided to go on and do it and ran that LEAA program
for Mississippi until they formed the state narcotics bureau,
or Bureau of Drug Enforcement, [as] it was called. Then Governor
Williams moved me from that, from the LEAA job, or division
of law enforcement assistance for the governor's office, to
head up this new drug enforcement bureau.
I had to write job descriptions and find testing devices
and everything else to screen the thousands of applicants
I had. But I stayed there from 1971 until '78, when Cliff
Finch and I had a disagreement about appointment of political
people in the bureau of narcotics. I realized after fighting
it for several months that I couldn't win against the governor.
So, I took in my resignation and couldn't find him to give
it to him, and I gave it to Herman Glazier. That was on a
The next Monday I went to work with the DEA [Drug Enforcement
Agency] in New Orleans because I had unlimited reinstatement
to any civil service job. I worked with DEA for a year in
New Orleans and Denver. [Then] my people who raised me when
my parents died got very ill, and we came home. I resigned
from the DEA and came back to Jackson. They both died within
a year and a half.
In the meantime I went back to work at the Department of
Public Safety as director of public affairs. While I was there,
I was offered the chief of police job at Natchez. I went to
Natchez and served about eight years as chief there and left
to retire, come back up here where both my sons were, [and
I] worked for about a year and a half for the sheriff here
as chief investigator and then retired.
I got two sons, five grandchildren. My wife [and I] just
had our forty-fifth wedding anniversary, so it's been a good
life. I've been wounded four or five times in the line of
duty, but none of them have kept me down. I've been honored
by, been made a life member of the Police Chiefs' Association
and served as president of that. I'm a life member of the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, life member
of the National Wild Turkey Federation! (laughter)
Derr: So, you've had a long and eventful
career, to say the least! Oh, boy.
Fairly: Both my sons are attorneys, and
I'm very proud of that fact.
Derr: That's good. Let's go back a little
bit to about 1962, around Johnson's administration anyway.
You said that you were at the Ole Miss [riot] as a member
of the Hinds County Sheriff's Department. Tell me approximately
when you went up there, what you were supposed to do, and
what your instructions were.
Fairly: OK, let me go back just a [bit].
Fairly: I first met Governor Johnson, of
all places, at Ackerman. I can't tell you whether it was '58
or '59, but they sent me up there to go back into an old triple
murder that never had been solved. I was staying at the Ackerman
Hotel and Governor Johnson was staying there. He was in the
construction business, and he was clearing land at Judge Coleman's
farm at Fentress. We were the only two people, I think, in
the hotel, so we got to eating breakfast together and that's
where we got to be friends.
Derr: Tell me more about that.
Fairly: Well, you know, I had met him I'm
sure somewhere on the campaign trail before, but at that time
he had not successfully attained any office. But there was
a certain bond, and I can't explain it to you now. We hit
it off. He was a very interesting person. I had always seen
him as kind of reserved and kind of standoffish. He was not
that way at all. He was very warm. We had a lot of mutual
things to discuss, from politics to the crime
situation in Mississippi, [and] the crime situation nationwide.
He had served, if my recollection is right, at one time as
assistant United States attorney--
Fairly: --and I thought that he'd done a
real good job. But, you know, any topic that either one of
us wanted to discuss, you know, was fair game. It gave me
an opportunity to form opinions about him on a basis of conversation
and his responses and his general presence and his attitudes
about things. So, he converted me in a week or ten days that
we spent there to his side, although I was a very loyal Colemanite.
I had gotten to know Judge Coleman as the result of a manhunt
in 1950 in Attala County, and we had been very close friends.
So whenever Paul ran for lieutenant governor, I supported
him. I mean, [I] sent money to him--not big amounts of money
because I didn't have it, but sent contributions. I just thought
the state needed him. Then, of course, when he ran [for governor],
the only chance I got to vote for him was in the general election.
No--yes, there was a runoff between Johnson and Coleman, right?
Derr: That's right.
Fairly: So I had to stay with Coleman. I
later told him, you know, [about] that. But I think he ran
against the guy up at Kossuth, Rubel Phillips, in the general
Derr: Right, exactly.
Fairly: OK. So I voted for him for lieutenant
governor and for governor. But anyway, getting back to '62--
Derr: Well, let me ask you a question about
that. [Johnson] was up there clearing
Coleman's land. What did you gather of his relationship with
Fairly: I think it was a very cordial relationship--you
know, a personal relationship.
Fairly: You know, the judge had a tremendous
farm out at Fentress. It was [about] a thousand acres, but
it was a big place, so it was a pretty good undertaking to
clear that land.
Derr: Yes. But even though they were political
opponents at times, they were buddies otherwise.
Fairly: That's right. Go back and read Dr.
Silver's book--I can't remember the name of it now--about
Derr: Oh, The Closed Society?
Fairly: Yes, Closed Society.
Derr: OK. Go ahead on to '62. I'm sorry
I interrupted you.
Fairly: Well, '62--was that the Meredith
Derr: Yes, exactly.
Derr: I'm curious as to what the state people
like Lieutenant Governor Johnson and Governor Barnett told
you. How did they prepare you? What were they telling you
that you were going to do up there at Ole Miss?
Fairly: Well, this may get lengthy, but
I'm going to just start at the beginning and tell you this
Fairly: I was out in the western part of
this county. We received a call that there was a disturbance
on the creek down there--bi-racial. I was by myself, but I
handled the call. They identified the guy who was causing
the trouble, and he was a mean son-of-a-bitch now, I'll tell
you. But I got out there, and he was drunk and he had several
females with him--African Americans--that apparently had been
consuming some alcoholic beverage. And they got into a scrap.
I knew the best thing to do to get the whole thing settled
down was get cuffs on him and get him to jail, which I did.
On the way in, I called, radio signaled, I had a prisoner
in custody and was en route to the jail. And they told me
as soon as I got through to report to the sheriff. I just
figured it was about the call.
After I got to jail, I went in to see Sheriff Gilfoy, and
he said, "Go home and get your clothes packed. We're
going to Ole Miss." I said, "Sheriff, what are we
going to do at Ole Miss?" And he said, "Just go
on and do like I tell you and take enough clothes to be up
there for a while." So I did what he told me, and while
I was at the house--no, he told me to report, not back to
the office but to his house, which was on King's Highway in
We went over, and there were five other deputies, myself
and five others. And the chief deputy was there, Frank Jones,
who is now dead. And I said, "Frank, what's the deal?"
He said, "Well, Governor Barnett called the sheriff and
wanted six personal security officers, and he wants Bob to
furnish them from the sheriff's office." So, we were
going up there. The county attorney had also made an affidavit
against James Meredith for perjury because he swore that he
was only registered in one county and was registered in Attala
County. So, when the sheriff came in, he laid out what the
deal was. In addition to the security, we were going to go
to Panola County where we had a friendly sheriff, a retired
highway patrol officer. And we were going to stop Meredith
in Panola County and serve the arrest warrant on him and bring
him immediately to the Hinds County jail, the theory being
that if that worked, then he would have a record. This is
a lawyer thinking.
Derr: Right, OK.
Fairly: And then they could deny him admission
to the university. So we sat around there waiting for the
governor to call us. We were going down and meeting with the
governor. And the more I thought about it, I said, "You
know, we're getting ourselves in a bad situation because he's
not going to come"--we knew he was at Billington--"without
some kind of escort, and it doesn't make sense to me that
the highway patrol is not going to be a part of that escort."
So, I finally asked the sheriff. I said, "Sheriff, has
anybody thought about the fact that whether it's two or six
or how many deputies [who] try to execute this warrant in
Panola County with the sheriff, that we're going to be in
a position of taking this guy away from not only the United
States Marshal Service but from the Mississippi Highway Patrol?"
I said, "Have you talked to Colonel [T.B.] Birdsong?"
"No, I haven't."
I said, "Somebody needs to talk to him and find out
what he's got laid on." So, I don't remember whether
the sheriff called the governor or called the colonel, but
he finally got in touch with the governor, and the governor
said, "Ya'll just come on down here to the mansion."
So, here's the sheriff and the six deputies--I reckon the
chief deputy was one of those six--we go off down to the mansion.
They take us into the front living parlor. We sit there and
wait and wait at least two hours. A good friend of ours was
head of security down there, and some of us get him off and
said, "Billy, what's the governor doing? We're supposed
to be up in the country." It's getting on at night.
"Well, he's got a meeting with the college board."
So finally, he comes down, and we're sitting there in the
parlor, and he launches into this interposition, or the legal
justification on Meredith. We wanted some answers. Then somebody
goes over and said, "Governor, you've got a college board
meeting at the University Hospital."
"Well, y'all come on and go out there with me."
Typical Ross Barnett! A great guy, but--we go out there. And
he wants the sheriff to go into the meeting with him with
the college board. Birdsong's there and Joe, the attorney
Fairly: Joe Patterson was there. We waited
out there until almost daylight. And Sheriff Gilfoy comes
back out, and he says, "Birdsong said that he had given
his word of safe conduct from the Mississippi line to Oxford
and back to the Mississippi line." So, the governor wants
to carry through with the rest [of the plan on] this guy.
So Birdsong's got to call his contact in the Justice Department
and renege back up on his agreement, and Joe Patterson's got
to call somebody in the attorney general's office in Washington
and tell them the deal's off. "Y'all go on up to Grenada
and get some sleep."
So, we get to Grenada about six o'clock in the morning and
get some rooms and go in and sleep awhile. The chief deputy
is doing all the conferring back and forth. They gave me and
Allen Ray Moore, who was one of the deputies up there, a copy
of the warrant, and they said, "Ya'll go to Oxford to
the sheriff's office, and the rest of us will go to Panola
County." I was glad to be going to Oxford. You know,
it just didn't--it wasn't right. So we go to Joe Ford's office
up there, the sheriff of Lafayette County. All day long there's
a series of conversations back and forth between the governor,
Joe Ford, me, and Allen Ray Moore about what to do. Ross saying
all the time, "I want that guy,"--except he didn't
use that language--"I want him in jail." And we
were trying to say, "Governor, there's more people up
here now than we can handle." And there was. Oxford was--I
don't believe I've ever--I've never been to many football
games up there, but I think there was more people there than
at the football games.
Derr: Now, this was after he had already
kept Meredith out a couple of times, is that right?
Fairly: No, this is the day of the first
appearance Meredith made.
Derr: OK, on the twentieth [of September].
Fairly: The initial day.
Fairly: You see, the whole thing was predicated
on this arrest warrant, which would have given him a record.
Then it would give the governor a right to say, "I'm
rejecting him because he's got a police record."
Fairly: So this is the first day. The next
day occurred down in Jackson. The next day or so, I don't
Derr: That's right, yes.
Fairly: I don't remember now, Reid, whether
that was--I don't believe that was the same day. It seemed
like to me the next day was when they tried to make the effort
to bring him on the campus. That's what we finally told the
governor. "Governor, we can't arrest the guy until he's
down here." Well, he sent Dugas Shands up there, who
at one time had been in the attorney general's office, and
there were a lot of other guys that came up there with letters
from Governor Barnett saying, "You know I'm titular head
of it." I can't tell you when this was, but at some point
in time, the governor and Paul [Johnson] were in the swankest
suites in the alumni house, and Moore and I were guarding
the door. And I don't remember what day this went on in the
sequence of events. I don't know what, but this is the day.
I later interviewed Bobby Kennedy and I asked him the direct
question, "Is what's been printed a valid transcript
of your conversation with Governor Barnett?" He said,
Derr: So, Bobby was on campus then.
Fairly: No, Bobby didn't come to campus
until he spoke at the Lyceum Building. I was at the Delta
Democrat Times and called him and told him I wanted to
interview him and flew with him from Memphis down to Oxford--to
Jack Nelson's [amazement], just about killed Jack. Jack said,
"Are you going to get on the press plane?" I said,
"Jack, I've got another way to get down there."
When I stepped off that airplane with Bobby Kennedy, I thought
Jack was going through the rafters. Anyway, I remember guarding
the door. The highway patrol was billeted at the National
Guard Armory. We were in the alumni house. Well by that time,
you had sheriffs from all over Mississippi gathering up there.
I remember Bill Harpole from Oktibbeha County was up there,
Billy Farrell from Adams County, all over the state. They
developed a certain code. I don't know if it was a Code Thirteen
or Signal Thirteen or what. Before that Saturday night, the
critical Saturday night when the combat occurred.
Derr: Right. That was Sunday night.
Fairly: Sunday night, I'm sorry.
Derr: The football game was Saturday night.
Fairly: Right. Anyway, Dugas Shands, when
he got to Oxford as Ross's principal advisor, apparently convinced
the governor that it was futile to try to serve a warrant
on this guy, that he was going to be in federal [hands]. Well,
wait a minute--the morning after, as soon as Joe Patterson
called the Justice Department and said, I can't back my deal
up," they moved in federal court at Meridian and got
an injunction against any officer interfering in any way with
Meredith's registration--I'm about to forget that--which covered
all of us. I reckon it was on the basis of that, that Dugas
Shands was able to convince the governor that you know, it
would be just--well, the threat to take Barnett, I think,
to New Orleans and fine him $60,000 a day and Paul $30,000
probably did the job then, too. But there was still a show
to be made.
Derr: So what happened in the room there?
You were there guarding the door.
Fairly: I think that that's when the conversation
with the Kennedys occurred from Barnett. The governor, Ross,
went back to Jackson and that left Paul there. I noticed one
of your questions--I think Paul Johnson had the respect of
all law enforcement officers in Mississippi. I've never heard
anybody who was in law enforcement at that time say a bad
word about him. They had confidence in what he said, and they
believed that he would fulfill whatever commitment he made
to them. And to a cop, that's what they look for from their
leaders. And personally, I've served from Fielding Wright
on, and Paul Johnson was the strongest law enforcement governor
in my lifetime. Judge Coleman was strong, but not in the same,
intimate sense that Paul Johnson was. I mean, all governors
want law and order, but none of them were confronted with
the tremendous social upheaval that Paul was. And the way
he handled it, in a quiet, almost understatement, is what
I think made confidence in him grow among the officers. And
I think for the general population that's true. But if you
go back and listen to some of what he said in his inaugural
speech down there, there's a tipoff right there of what kind
of administration he intended to have. Very strong words,
Still, you can hear him on that cold morning, saying what
he said. And I think he fulfilled what he promised Mississippi,
from a standpoint of law and order. I hope that history does
record him as being--I think the historians, that are still
writing history then, will recognize what the problems [were]
that he had to deal with and how deftly he did it.
Derr: Now, were you part of that group of
sheriffs and highway patrolmen that backed up Lieutenant Governor
Johnson when Meredith and [Marshal James] McShane came to
bring him in [on] [Wednesday] of that long week there before
the night of the riot?
Fairly: We stayed there, Reid, yes. I wish
I could go back. I wish I had been keeping a diary then. My
recollection is that we were up there ten days or two weeks
and did not leave the campus, did not leave the alumni house.
The sheriff and the city police and the other people who were
up there had our briefings in the circuit court room, except
on one or two occasions [when] we went and joined the highway
patrol in the armory. And I remember Paul--Ross was in Jackson--Paul
addressing all of us down there one morning. There was a question
about whether to carry weapons or not carry weapons. There
was a lot of confusion about it. Of course, you know, everybody
was trying to work together, the patrol and everybody. One
order we'd get would say, "Everybody take their sidearms
off and lock them in the trunk of your car." And then
that would change, and they'd say, "No, you never know
what's going to happen, you can wear your firearm." This
was at the alumni house--right?--where this confrontation
between McShane and--
Derr: This was out in the street. This was
[Wednesday] out in the street. See, that may have been--Barnett
and Johnson were up there then on [Thursday], I believe it
was, and they decided, partly at Johnson's prompting, that
they could not control the crowds.
Fairly: Right. I was--
Derr: And see, that may have been the alumni
house occasion you're talking about because they actually
talked to Kennedy three or four different times--Robert, that
is--and, finally by the evening, they said, "Hey, we
can't control these crowds." Paul Johnson apparently
was going around saying [to the crowds], "Go home, just
relax." In other words, they thought they were losing
Fairly: That's right. Well now, on Friday--well,
they were [losing control]. I mean, there's no question about
it. One day--now, this could have been Thursday--[on] University
Avenue [there] was hardly room for one car to move on University
Avenue, which is a pretty wide street. I mean, just the press
of people. In fact, I don't remember now whether Paul or Ross,
we tried to escort them. I want to say that was on a like
a Wednesday. We tried to escort them up there, and it just
got--there was six of us, plus maybe some highway patrol officers.
We finally had to put them in Bill Harpole's car, either Paul
or the governor, one, to get him back to the alumni house.
I'm sure that prompted a phone call because it was, you know,
while it was friendly, there was also a lot of hostility in
the crowd. It was friendly toward the governor. But like on
Friday everybody disappeared from the campus except the Hinds
County bunch and a few others--not many--because we sat around
and talked about it. Somebody was giving a real good interview
to Time magazine, I remember that, over there around
the alumni house. But there just wasn't a lot of people around.
The highway patrol may have been out at the armory on the
highway going toward Pontotoc, which I reckon is the same
one going to Batesville. But I didn't see a lot of troopers
up there, and I don't remember seeing Paul that day, but he
could have been in the alumni house.
We go to bed that night, and around two-thirty in the morning
the chief deputy knocks on the door and said, "Ya'll
get up." This was two-thirty Saturday morning. "You
go to Jackson. Don't turn radios on. Don't break radio silence.
Just go home and come on down to the office like you do on
any other Saturday." And it kind of agitated me, and
I said something to him. I said, "Frank, we've been up
here two weeks. Why are we going home now?" He said,
"Just do like I tell you." So, I don't know to this
day why. And when the riots started, the sheriff took everybody
at the sheriff's office out and bought us a steak.
Derr: After or during?
Fairly: During the [riot]. We were all back
Derr: Oh, so you didn't know what was going
on, you mean? Oh, I see. You were oblivious to it all. That's
Fairly: We went to the ballgame Saturday
night between Kentucky and Ole Miss.
Derr: Oh, you were there, OK.
Fairly: Saw Ross come in and then the crowd
Derr: That's something!
Fairly: You know, I don't know what happened.
For some reason they got us off the campus. Now, we wasn't
anything anymore better or worse than any other sheriff's
office, I don't think; but I do know that there were close
connections between the sheriff and the governor. Of course,
I don't think the governor knew what was going to happen,
and I'm not sure Paul did, but--
Derr: I think the reasoning, from other
things I've read, was they didn't reason they could control
all the different sheriffs and deputies up there and just
pulled them out.
Fairly: Which was probably smart thinking,
because that's true.
Derr: It's interesting. They just ordered
you out without any reason.
Derr: OK, let me ask: did you cover the
governor's race in 1963 then?
Fairly: No, I was a policeman then.
Derr: Did you have any occasion to see Johnson
at all, campaigning or doing anything as lieutenant governor?
Did you have any experience with him as lieutenant governor?
Fairly: Well, right at the university and
at some private dinners for retiring law enforcement officers,
I'd see him.
Derr: OK. But [it was] just casual contact.
Derr: You said you were at his inauguration.
What impressed you about his inaugural speech--because you
mentioned that that impressed you--and what were some of the
other peoples' reactions to it?
Fairly: Reid, to the best of my recollection,
the element of it that really impressed me was the fact that
he made it very clear to a group of people who attended it--that
(The interview continues on tape one, side two)
Fairly: --of law and order in the state
of Mississippi. It would be a fair administration. It would
have compassion for people, but there would not be any--I
don't think he said "nightriding"--but he made it
clear that he was not going to tolerate any of the lawlessness
that we had seen already. There was a certain portion of that
speech that I had for a while--I kept the text of it--that
just to me was an exceedingly strong statement on law enforcement
Derr: Probably the one you're thinking of
is at the end there he said something about "neither
hate nor ignorance nor fear will rule while I'm in the governor's
Fairly: Right. I remember those words.
Derr: Now, I'm not quoting it verbatim.
Fairly: Yes. And I know that, because I
was in the crowd and they didn't know me--or some of them
may have. Some of the people who were later identified with
the more radical right, if you want to call it that or the
Klan--I was not really conscious of a lot of Klan activity
at that time. It was a surprise to them to hear him say that.
I think they thought they had elected somebody who was going
to let them have a playground for a while.
Derr: So, a shift in gears was immediate
for some people.
Fairly: That's right--before they left the
Derr: Oh, really?
Fairly: Yes, sir.
Derr: [Did] you notice that among elected
officials, too, or just the ordinary person there?
Fairly: I think some of the elected officials
were surprised, I really do. I wouldn't say that it was a
universal thing. I'd say a lot of the rank-and-file people
that came there to hear him thought that they were going to
hear a different speech.
Derr: They thought they were going to hear
Ross Barnett rehashed.
Fairly: That's right--from a more erudite
and more articulate [person].
Derr: And more interposition.
Derr: But your general impression was positive.
Fairly: Oh, yes sir. I mean, much to my
pleasure. But really, after those days at Ackerman, it didn't
really surprise me. I think we got into that and a lot of
other things in those days we were up there. And looking back
at his position as assistant United States attorney, that's
a pretty strong office, and I think Paul fulfilled it as well
as any assistant USAs we've had.
Derr: What specific things did he do, or
so on, there that [impressed you]?
Fairly: I thought he was pretty vigorous
in the prosecution of federal crimes in Mississippi. You know,
that's a key position. I reckon the USA sets a general tone,
but it's the work of the assistants or the guys, you know,
that really pays off in the courtroom. Rarely does a United
States attorney get in the courtroom. Really, dating from
the first time that I really got to sit down and talk to him,
I realized that a lot of talk that I had heard in state law
enforcement agencies about Paul Johnson, Jr., was wrong. There
was a cadre of people that, for whatever reason, didn't think
Johnson was strong and didn't think that he was particularly
strong in the field of enforcement, and I think he just made
a monkey of those people that talked that way.
Derr: What kind of things were they saying?
Fairly: Well, there was some guy that had
been on the highway patrol--and I can't even remember his
name--that was from Hattiesburg, and every time it would come
up, they'd say, "Well, if he's elected governor, this
guy will be commissioner of public safety." And he was
some guy from Hattiesburg that, after he had left the patrol,
had either got into a beer distributorship or I don't know
what. He was not popular within the highway patrol, so they
would use that when they'd meet up on the highway somewhere
and get six or seven of them talking about it. The other guys
might not even know this fellow personally, but the old-timer
would say, "Well, if Paul's elected so-and-so's going
to be commissioner. We sure as hell don't want that."
So then the other troopers, they'd go back to Greenwood or
wherever. They'd start talking about it. They'd say, "Well,
we heard down in Lexington the other night that ya'll want
Paul Johnson." It was that kind of rumor and innuendo.
My recollection is that he left T.P. Birdsong there, didn't
he, as commissioner?
Derr: Well, T.B. Birdsong left with Johnson.
Fairly: Right. He stayed the--
Derr: Oh, yes. From Barnett. He left Birdsong
[there] through Barnett's [administration] and then through
his own administration.
Derr: That's what you're saying. Yes, exactly.
Fairly: It's been a long time ago for some
Derr: How did you get involved with investigating
and writing about the Klan in Mississippi? In late '64 you
were investigating that.
Fairly: It came about as a result of Harold
Martin, who was editor-at-large of the Saturday Evening
Post covering [Byron de la] Beckwith's trials, which
were earlier in the year in 1964. Held in the Hinds County
Courthouse. At which time I had been assigned as press liaison
for the police department, the sheriff's department, and,
I reckon, the DA's office with trying to handle the 250 reporters
and writers who were here. Martin was one of them. He looked
at a couple of earlier articles that I had done for Police
magazine, which was a professional, technical journal no longer
published. One [was] on the Mack Charles Parker rape case
that I investigated and another story about a trustee. Several
months later, in July or August of that same year, I received
a long-distance call from Martin wanting to know if I would
take on an assignment of investigating the Klan, the resurgence
of the Klan, for the Saturday Evening Post. I told
him I'd like to, but I didn't know whether I could. [We] talked
in terms--or tried to discuss the logistics and decided I
would ask for leave of absence, which I did, and which they
I talked to people like Hodding Carter III, other newspaper
contacts, some police officers. I was aware that Natchez had
had some early signs of racial disharmony and had heard that
one or two city employees down there were mixed up in the
Klan. I had real close contacts in the Natchez Police Department
and went down there and discussed the situation with them.
They admitted that there was some Klan activity down there.
They gave me people they suspected, [who were] related to
other events from Louisiana--one double murder in Monroe,
which they considered to be Klan-instigated. I checked with
Harold, and he thought I ought to go over there, and I did.
I went to Alabama, tried to discuss it with a number of law
enforcement officials. Each one of them, including the chief
deputy at Birmingham, had it in for the Saturday
Evening Post about the article about Bear Bryant
and Wally Bush and didn't want to talk to anybody from the
Post--not on account of the Klan, but just the story
that the Post ran. I'd have done a lot better to
have identified myself as being from the Times-Picayune
or somebody, you know. But I had a real good contact at Montgomery,
a lieutenant or captain there on the Alabama Department of
Public Safety, who I had been sent [with] to Harvard Med[ical]
School [with] back in the '50s to attend homicide training.
So I got in touch with him and he came to the hotel and spent
all night long doing just what we're doing, giving me the
breakdown of the Klan and assessing the United Klans, Bobby
Shelton's group. I dug up a lot of information out of the
files in Georgia. I came back home and never could--oh, I
did. That's right. In Birmingham, [I] checked into the hotel
where they were having the annual Klan klavern meeting or
whatever the hell it was. I had a couple of contacts on the
Birmingham police that were also in the hotel, incognito.
We just drifted around getting "overheards" from
different Klan people talking. Wound up in South Carolina,
whose state law enforcement organization is called SLED, South
Carolina Law Enforcement Division, who had been very successful
in infiltrating the Klan. Came back home and started it.
I had tried to interview Bobby Shelton, who was head of the
United [Klan], the largest of the Klan, and I couldn't get
to first base with him. So the staff photographer for the
Post had also been working on it, and he called me
from somewhere in Florida, and he said, "Do you want
to go to South Carolina with Bobby"--the guy from Tuscaloosa.
Fairly: Bobby Shelton. I said, "Hell,
yes." He said, "Well, if you get to Tuscaloosa,
he will take you with him to South Carolina." So I threw
some clothes in a bag and caught an airplane and went to Tuscaloosa
and called him. He picked me up at the hotel the next morning,
and we went to South Carolina to a big Klan rally.
Derr: So that's where a lot of that 1965
article came from.
Derr: Tell me about your contacts or your
knowledge of the Klan in Mississippi then.
Fairly: Well, it's really kind of elemental.
I got your letter yesterday, and I started trying to remember
what I did know about the Klan. I heard names, as you do in
police work. There used to be a fellow that lived in this
county at Florence named Pickle, who was reputed to be active
in the Klan. Another fellow named Mathews down there, who
just recently died in the last few months. At some point in
time, Reid--and I'm not sure whether it was before or after
some of this violence--I picked up a name of an ex-sheriff
of my county that was active in the Klan, in the White Knights,
but who ran a restaurant in the city and to all appearances
was a law-abiding citizen. He never got named publicly. Well,
I believe one of the House [of Representatives] committees
did publish names of a lot of Klansmen all over the South,
but I don't recall any of the White Knights' names being in
there. May have been.
But you know, after I did the article I tried to keep up
with what was going on in the Klan world, I reckon out of
a sense of self-preservation. They taught me in military intelligence
to know your enemy, and I gathered that I wasn't real popular
with some segments of the Klan after doing that thing. Other
than talking with the investigators at the highway patrol
and Jim Ingram, who is now commissioner of public safety but
who came here when [the FBI office opened]. I worked very
closely with Jim when he was here. He came in '64.
Derr: Right. What was your relationship
Fairly: Very close. Good friends, still
Derr: I'm curious as to your relationship
with the FBI and the highway patrol's relationship with the
FBI. Let me shift gears a little bit here, and I'll ask the
question a little bit differently, but you can go wherever
you want to with it.
Derr: I mentioned over the phone that I
said my thesis was that the highway patrol was a whole lot
more involved and more instrumental in the cracking of the
Klan in Mississippi than is generally recognized, and you
agreed with me. Now, what I basically want to know is, why
you agreed with me and what kind of evidence that you have
to indicate that--from discussions perhaps with some of the
highway patrol investigators or with Jim Ingram? What was
the relationship between the FBI and the highway patrol? How
did they work together? Let's just start with my initial thesis
that the highway patrol was a lot more involved in cracking
the Klan than is generally recognized. The FBI gets the credit.
What tells you that that was the case?
Fairly: Well, my personal knowledge of some
investigations that were performed.
You've got to look at this thing in a lot of different ways.
One, the FBI had the [money]. Every police organization needs
a fund and not a line item--made it a line item every time
I submitted a budget--for purchase of information and evidence.
And the FBI had plenty of that; whereas, when I left the highway
patrol, we had none. But a lot of your investigators have
contacts in local police departments and sheriff's offices.
There is much freer flow of information between the locals
and the state investigators than there is between locals and
Derr: So they actually had more contacts.
Fairly: Oh, yes. The state had a lot more
contacts. I'm not trying to detract from the FBI because the
FBI has unlimited resources. You can get a VIN [Vehicle Identification
Number] number off of a wrecked car here that may have been
sold in Moscow. It may take them a little while, but they'll
come up with it. And the state doesn't have that kind of capacity
Essentially when you are dealing with a bunch of people--let
me just take one guy at Natchez, Mississippi, who was active
in the United Klan who I do not think would ever go out and
put dynamite under your porch and mine, but would get in the
back of a covered truck in front of a candlelight and suggest
that that's what needs to be done to straighten out the racial
situation. And some guy back there that's half crocked will
say--you know, that power of suggestion is all I need to go
do it. So, Natchez had a guy like that who I first encountered
at this humongous Klan meeting at the hotel in Birmingham.
This chief of detectives there was a former highway patrol
Derr: From Mississippi?
Fairly: Yes, from the state.
Fairly: So, I mean, he had all kind of friends.
Every guy on that list knew him. He would sit down and spend
as many hours as needed to--you know, he'd run surveillance
of this guy for them. They didn't have to run surveillance.
It's that kind of networking that, I think, makes a state
investigator so much more effective sometimes than a federal
agent. Now, I've been both. I've been a federal agent. And
from that perspective, on whiskey there were counties that
we couldn't go in, overtly, because everybody in the county
would know we were there. As soon as the sheriff found out
we were in the county, hell, he'd put the word out to everybody:
the feds are in town. I mean, that's one example of the networking
and the closeness. There are others.
A lot of times it goes back to Dr. Silver's book, which I
think is remarkably accurate. I don't agree with everything
he says in there. I think his personal fear seems to come
across as ridiculous to me, but then I've been brought up
different from Dr. Silver.
You know, if you've got an investigator at Brookhaven, he's
probably got a cousin in Natchez or Woodville. He's got relatives
that'll talk to him. He knows the country. He knows who to
talk to and who not to talk to--just the lay of the land.
It's just common-sense reasoning that state people, if they've
got any sense and don't let the badge and the power go to
their head, can work effectively. They may not have the financial
resources, but they've got the contacts.
Derr: Can you think of particular investigations
or instances where that did make a difference or where, say,
Gwin Cole told you of particular things where his inside contacts
or insight made a difference? I agree with you. By common
sense you'd think that the state investigators would have
Fairly: I'm just trying to think. I know
there are many, many cases. I'm just having to switch horses
in midstream and turn my mind to some investigations. Well,
I think proof of that was when Governor Johnson decided to
arrest the Klansmen. I don't know whether the FBI was involved
in the arrest or not; I thought it was all state. I know they
arrested several people at McComb, including the son of the
banker at Monticello, who had robbed a bank to raise funds
for the Klan. Very prominent family. His daddy was a druggist
or a pharmacist there. But, you know, they had these people
already spotted, their addresses and everything else. When
he gave the order to go arrest them, hell, they were all rounded
up in less than twenty-four hours.
Derr: Right, it was real quick. But see
now, the FBI takes total credit for that.
Fairly: Oh, I don't think that's true. I
think that was largely an MHP operation. I didn't know that
the bureau even claimed that. That was right after their--
Derr: There's a book Attack on Terror,
and they pretty much--of course, the FBI, I understand, likes
to take credit for a lot of things.
Fairly: Jack [Nelson]'s got Roy Moore flying
in a helicopter over here when they killed Shadon [?] right
over here close to the airport, and Roy Moore to my knowledge
has never been in the field since he--he's a good friend of
mine, but I just--in fact, their own agents laughed about
it. Roy never left that office.
Derr: Oh, yes? (laughter)
Fairly: I don't think. You know, he may
have. Well, I talked to some of the guys that were out there
the afternoon that they--this was Terrance and the guy that
escaped with him from the state penitentiary after the Meridian
shootout that they caught out here. But I am sure that the
governor and--you know, Hoover came down here in '64 and met
with Governor Johnson and agreed to take two investigators
each session of the [FBI] national academy from the Mississippi
Highway Patrol to build that strength up. First and only time,
that I know, of Hoover ever being in Mississippi, opening
a full-fledged field office here. So I'm sure that Johnson
and probably Birdsong didn't want to do anything to stir up
any animosity between investigators, two of whom were going
to every session of the national academy. I'm second-guessing
some people here, but I just--the other thing may have been
that the MHP public information process at that time--I don't
even know who was out there--may have not been really on their
That's another possibility.
Derr: Well, I'll just tell you this. Before
the arrests in November of '64, I have a copy of a memorandum
that came down from the governor saying, "No publicity."
They gave the FBI credit on purpose--and that's for other
reasons. But let me ask you this: From your experience with
the Hinds County law enforcement and such and your general
knowledge of law enforcement, did you know of Klan members
who were members of sheriffs' departments, police departments,
and the highway patrol?
Fairly: Not a one.
Derr: Do you know of any cases, not from
your experience maybe but from other people talking, of men
who were removed from, say, the highway patrol for Klan connections?
Fairly: Yes, they fired two guys in Natchez
from the highway patrol. I don't know whether that was Governor
Johnson; I believe it was.
Derr: Was that Cowan and Thompson?
Fairly: I believe that was right.
Derr: Do you know anything about that case?
Fairly: Nothing other than they admitted
that they were members of the Klan and that was all that was
Derr: You didn't know them personally, though.
Fairly: They were from Natchez, right?
Derr: I think they were from central Mississippi,
but I forget. It's been a while since I've looked at the papers
Fairly: -- in this Klan activity.
Derr: I'm turning the tape on. We're talking
about Rex Armistead and Charles Snodgrass getting arrested
down in the Natchez area. OK, go ahead, you tell the story.
Fairly: Well again, at the time I knew what
the charge was but the warrant was issued as a result of an
Fairly: And I reckon the sheriff made arrangements
for them to surrender and maybe it was all handled through
attorneys. When the case got to the courts, it was thrown
out. I cannot remember--it was while the investigator was
down there working. He was on the Wharlest Jackson case or
just monitoring Klan activity.
Derr: But that was a Klan-inspired affidavit,
I would take it.
Fairly: That's my understanding, right.
Fairly: Now, if you get to talk to Gwin--or,
of course, Rex, either one--can clarify that, but it is significant
that there was an effort to retaliate even against law enforcement
Derr: Well, I know they called the highway
patrol investigators "Paul Johnson's niggers" and
all this kind of stuff, and worse, because they were really
down on them.
Fairly: Oh, yes.
Derr: Let's talk about some of the investigators
you knew and their role in Mississippi highway patrol enforcement,
especially during Johnson's administration. Tell me a little
about your friend, Gwin Cole.
Fairly: Well, Gwin was an ex-tanker out
of Patton's Third Army in Europe. Joined the highway patrol
in '46. He came out of service. In 1949 the first Mississippi
state trooper was going to the FBI Academy, which was a very
sought-after honor. It was between him and a trooper down
in Mount Olive named Andy Hopkins, who is now deceased. They
couldn't decide, so I had to go with Cole down there and flip
a coin to see which one of them won. Cole lost, and I had
to ride all the way back to Jackson with him! (laughter) But
Colonel Birdsong promised him that he would be the next one
and, true to his word, Cole was the second trooper from the
highway patrol to attend the FBI national academy after Hopkins
graduated. He's always been a dedicated officer. He was assistant
director finally of the identification division of the investigative
services. He was a man that you liked to have with you when
the going got real tough because he was always there. He was
a man's man, very robust, strong. Had a good command voice,
was an outdoorsman, liked to hunt--and still does--and fish.
He was just a real good investigator and was a good law enforcement
officer. [He] tended to his business but was always willing
to help anybody that came along.
Derr: How did he help you as you were working?
For example, if you were working with the Hinds County sheriff's
department, what would have been your relationship with him--or
would you have worked with him?
Fairly: Oh yes, we did. If we needed any
kind of assistance, call for Gwin or any of the other investigators,
and they would show up and work right along with us. They'd
man roadblocks. It was just a close working relationship.
Frank Jones, who was the chief deputy under Gilfoy, had once
been with the highway patrol in the livestock theft bureau,
so there was that cordiality. In all, we never really thought
about one being from one agency and the other, another. You
know, we just worked together. I don't know whether it's still
that way--I suspect that it is. It was just a close relationship.
And that extended through all the different divisions at the
highway patrol. They had the livestock theft bureau, and they
had the identification bureau and the auto theft bureau. I'm
just trying to think of one murder case that Gwin helped me
on when I was working down there. They were just always available
to help us. They did a lot of polygraphing for us in criminal
cases. That was a frequently used service that they offered
[that] the sheriff's office couldn't afford. Of course, having
been both places, I worked to try to keep that kind of [teamwork],
and I think everybody did. We had other high ex-patrol people
at the sheriff's office. You know, it was just a cordial relationship.
Derr: Well, did the civil rights workers
have fear that you all were working together against them?
Was that a legitimate fear of theirs?
Fairly: I really don't know, and I say that
because I never have talked to any of them about it. I worked--when
I was a patrol officer with the Jackson police department--the
Jackson State area. That was on my beat. And I knew the security
officers out there and knew the presidents of the college,
knew a lot of the faculty members. A rather large portion
of the beat was black. We went through several civil disturbances
in the Jackson State area before they decided to enlist the
aid of LEAA and close Lynch Street and make it just a solid
Derr: I understand that was one of the issues
that got the campus all riled up.
Fairly: Oh, it was. Oddly enough the guy
that came up with the idea was an aide or--it was after Governor
Williams, I think, went out of office. We were sitting around
out there drinking coffee one morning, and Cecil said--Cecil
Yarbrough was the guy's name. I don't know what position he
had, but he had been maybe something in the building commission,
I don't know. He said, "If we could just turn Lynch Street
into a park and close it, then we'd be over with our troubles
out there." And Governor Williams said, "You need
to call Jerris Leonard right now and see if we can get some
LEAA money." And they did get a grant.
Derr: Now, how did that solve things out
Fairly: Well, it closed Lynch Street to
Fairly: And the last disturbance that I
recall being involved in out there was initiated as a result
of a motorist striking a student in a crosswalk and breaking
her leg, I think. The police responded and called an ambulance.
A crowd gathered. The police response was not adequate enough
to control the crowd, and it just grew and went into a feeding
Derr: When was this? There were problems
there in '67, problems there in '70--
Fairly: This must have been '67. No, this
is earlier. This was during the Beckwith trial.
Derr: OK, '64. So the problem was with traffic
through the campus, and what? Would people travelling through
Fairly: No. Well, in this particular incident,
it was dusk. The student was just crossing through at a crosswalk
where traffic is supposed to stop.
Fairly: The guy didn't see her. He was going
west, as I remember. I mean, it wasn't [on] purpose; it was
just an accident. Nevertheless, it happened, and it set off
two or three nights [of trouble], because I was on the riot
squad then. That was '64. I just came in from the courthouse
when they called and said, "Report to headquarters."
It was during the Beckwith trial. But the '71 riot--which
was the last one, I believe--that was where the two students,
two people, were killed.
Derr: Seventy, yes.
Fairly: I did know the cause of that. But,
you know, when I was working that beat as a beat patrolman,
we didn't have any real problems. We had that one thing in
'64, but the rest of the time it was relatively [quiet]; you
know, we got along. We didn't run up on the campus and arrest
people. We kind of left that to security. But I don't recall
that many arrests being out there. It's never been the student
body as much as it's been what they call corner boys out there
that hang around the college campus. [They] don't go to school
and don't work, and they cause the agitation that usually
sets [things] off. But nothing's happened since they closed
Lynch that I'm aware of.
Derr: The police claim that in '67, anyway,
that there were students who collected rocks and all sorts
of stuff in their rooms in anticipation--at least this was
the police side--of a future riot in Jackson. And there was
the trouble in '67. I'm forgetting the particular incident
that incited it. But the police seemed to think--at least
the highway investigator's reports--that people were looking
for an incident by '67.
Fairly: I was out there. That was during
when Ben Brown was killed?
Derr: Yes, that's the time.
Fairly: I was on the police line, although
I was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger, and saw
Brown when he went down. In fact [I] went down to where he
was and examined the wound. See, the National Guard had been
called out, and a doctor from Hazlehurst--who was a cousin
of mine and a friend of mine, regimental surgeon--and he was
the first physician to get to Brown. He was a colonel. He
told the ambulance attendant that he had a very serious--I
could see it; he had been struck in his head--wound and probably
had brain damage. But anyway, I don't remember myself now
what started that thing, but there was a big investigation
after that. In fact, the FBI agent called me and asked me
what I had seen, and I told him. He wanted to know if I had
seen any police officer with his shotgun leveled, and I told
him, "No, I had not," and I didn't. But see, that's
another factor that we might as well face: why locals, a lot
of times, would rather deal with the state than with the federal
government. I talked to a friend of mine who is a very high
officer in the Texas Department of Public Safety in the last
couple of weeks. I asked him about the thing at Waco. He said,
well, they finally got it cleaned up. I said, "Did the
feds help y'all financially with the cleanup?" He said,
"Well, some." I said, "Well, tell me about
it. How was it?" He said, "Oh, hell, you know how
it is working with the FBI."
Derr: What did he mean by that? Because
I haven't, that's why.
Fairly: Well, it's just what you said about
the publicity and that kind of thing. Always in the back of
local's mind: "Are they going to prosecute me--because
I'm out here and lost my head and slapped this guy--on a civil
rights violation?" That's in the back of their mind all
the time, especially guys who have gone to some management
seminars and heard some of these real sharp lawyers who have
been on the prosecution side tell you and exhibit a memorandum--now,
I don't know how in the hell they ever got it--during the
Carter administration--that any Caucasian officer who makes
contact, any physical contact, with a minority member will
be investigated. Now, you know, that is really--if I didn't
know the source, I'd say that's bull crap. But the lawyers
that I've heard say that, they're beyond question. Good lawyers.
Derr: So whenever you have the feds in,
Fairly: It's one of the things that--
Derr: It's like having your aunt looking
over your shoulder all the time.
Fairly: Right. It's just a psychological
thing. I have one friend who is a Texas Ranger. And the Texas
Department of Public Safety--as our own would, I think--would
have prosecuted the guy if the feds hadn't. But they had a
ranger down at Houston who badly abused a Hispanic. It was
just beyond anything that--he was trying to get a confession
out of him. And they indicted him and sentenced him to ten
years in the penitentiary for a civil rights violation. A
number of years ago a guy here brought two men from Washington,
and one of them was John Lewis, congressman now from--
Derr: I know who you're talking about.
(The interview continues on tape two, side one.)
Derr: Go ahead. Finish your thought there.
Fairly: To make that story short: John Lewis
and a nephew of Mr. [Roy] Wilkins, who at that time was president
or head of the NA--
Fairly: --NAACP, wanted to meet for an assessment
on the state of law enforcement in Mississippi. I did meet
with them along with Claude Ramsay, who was head of the AFL-CIO
for Mississippi. He and I hit if off real good. We met at
somebody's house and had a two- or three-hour discussion about
the state of law enforcement in Mississippi. I told him that
I thought that we had made tremendous progress. When I started
in 1950, that the local police department in the city where
I began my law-enforcement career had an old telephone crank
generator, I reckon, with wires running from it which they
applied to the testicles of male suspects in order to induce
a confession. I told him that it was commonly used, although
I never stayed around for a demonstration and never saw it
used. I knew from the talk at the station that they did use
it. And that I thought--whatever the date of that particular
conversation was--that any district attorney who found somebody
in Mississippi using that in their district would present
it to the grand jury and try to indict the officers, whether
they be city, local, or whoever. And that's the only way I
had of measuring progress. Plus, the general level of education
was improving. I think law enforcement has progressed steadily
since. Now I'm beginning to worry a little bit about the quality
of people, but that's because the cities won't pay and the
counties won't pay, and so we're attracting less than the
best--which we should be getting in the important role that
law enforcement plays in society. But those are general [observations]
and we're getting off the subject, really.
Derr: But I'm interesting in the development
of law enforcement generally, so that's fine. What was John
Lewis's response to some of that?
Fairly: I think they realized that I was
being very honest with them. They seemed to really appreciate
[that]. They asked me a lot of questions, and I was very honest
in trying to answer all of them. And I stipulated that it
was one man's opinion, that they could go somewhere else and
probably find somebody else that had an entirely different
concept of it. But I had been an integral part of Mississippi
law enforcement long before I ever became an active officer
in that when I moved to Jackson, my uncle was a city judge.
So I spent all my spare time around the old police station,
which is now the back of the fire station. I got to know all
the old cops that came on the force in the teens, during World
War I, who were still working. And [I] remained friends with
them until they all died and passed on to their reward. Then
my granddaddy had three brothers who were law enforcement
officers. It's just been a part of me from my earliest recollection
of living across the street from the county jail, sitting
on the porch in the spring and summer and fall, watching the
goings-on at the jail, wanting to slip over there and find
out more about it. It was a natural interest that I have,
and a lifelong interest.
Derr: Tell me about your friend, Charlie
Snodgrass. He's dead now, but--
Fairly: Charlie and I got to be friends
before he was ever actually a highway patrolman. He went to
work in about 1948 as a radio operator. He was working there
when I began work at the Clarion-Ledger. Because
nobody else wanted to do it, I fell heir to the highway patrol,
to cover. Of course, your radio operators are the key people.
If you can develop those people as sources of information,
they can tell you more than anybody else in the patrol. So
Charlie and I hit if off real well, and we just got to be
good friends. In 1950 he went through highway patrol school
and was president of his class. Then as soon as they started
enlarging the investigative services of the Department of
Public Safety, he was one of the first people appointed investigator.
I don't think Charlie ever went beyond high school, but he
was one of the most articulate people that I've ever encountered.
His reports are really classic. His correspondence was classic.
He educated himself. But he was real calm and real smooth
and had great verbal facility in communicating with either
white or mixed groups or just African Americans. He just had
that ability that some people never develop, but he was very
verbal. He was an excellent organizer. He understood chain
of command. He understood all the precepts of good police
They had tried a small group of narcotics officers in the
highway patrol. I think they had five maybe. It was a job
assignment before the bureau of narcotics or Bureau of Drug
Enforcement, which I headed, started in '71. Charlie had headed
that up. After a couple of years of me trying to get the thing
going, I realized that--all the agents that I hired, I looked
for college graduates. They had to be a 110 or better IQ,
and then we had some psychological tests and other stuff,
physical agility. Everybody that I hired were all the same
age level. When it became time to try to promote them, I didn't
want to use a traditional police examination. I wanted to
find the leadership and the management skills. So, I contracted
with International Association of Chiefs of Police and we
did an assessment center. But I still needed somebody senior,
you know, because I needed somebody to run the staff while
I--I was one of these door kickers. I had to run out to the
sound of gunfire. I couldn't stay in the office. I did fine
when I had to go to the legislature for appropriations and
hearings and that kind of stuff. So Charlie was ideal. I talked
to him, and he agreed to come over. And retired from the Bureau
of Narcotics, and then just died within a couple of years.
But he was the kind of guy that anybody could [rely on] if
you had any kind of personnel--he was a real good personnel
officer. I reckon that was his forte. But he was also good
in the field. He'd have been an excellent negotiator in a
hostage situation. He talked a variety of different subjects,
Derr: I know he was both in Grenada and
Natchez at various times during the Johnson administration.
Fairly: Right. Well, when he was there,
I've heard other patrolmen calling for him. He may have been
at Canton, I'm not sure.
Derr: He very well could have been.
Fairly: He just had a lot of abilities,
and he poured them mostly into law enforcement, mostly in
the highway patrol. He was very helpful to me at the bureau
of narcotics. Most helpful.
Derr: I don't know anything about T.P. Crockett,
but he's prominent.
Fairly: That's D.B.
Derr: D.B. How did I get that wrong? D.B.,
Fairly: D.B., I reckon he's still living.
Crockett was the longtime chief of police at Tupelo, and he
came to work about the same time I did, during the Coleman
administration. Coleman was the first governor to try to expand
the investigative service with getting people of different
backgrounds. Did Crockett leave the patrol and go to the state
fire marshal's office?
Derr: I don't know. I'm asking because he's
a blank in my knowledge.
Fairly: He was a very competent investigator,
long experience, a veteran police officer. [In] a city like
Tupelo when he was chief, you've got to be a jack of all trades.
You've got to be able to do it all, and Crockett could. Even
though he lived at Tupelo, he had to go all over the state.
It seems like to me at some point in time that the state fire
marshal division had districts, and he got to go to Tupelo
and stay. I may be wrong about that. But he was a FBI national
academy graduate. He was a very popular investigator, very
competent. I do not recall D.B. being involved a lot in the
Klan activities or the civil rights stuff.
Derr: His name is on some of the reports.
Fairly: Is it?
Fairly: Did he submit it?
Derr: He and somebody else usually. It was
two investigators working together. This is shifting the subject,
but in '66 you went to the Clarion-Ledger and you
say you covered, among other things, the governor's office
and, I guess, the legislature, right?
Fairly: Yes, not till later on, though.
I went to Greenville first. Then when little Hodding came
back--he was on a Niemann Fellow[ship]--when he came back
in the fall, I came on back down to the Clarion-Ledger.
My wife was a school teacher and my sons were, I reckon, in
maybe junior high. We tried to buy a house in Greenville,
and she was offered a job, but it just wasn't as good a setup
as we had here. So, I knew I was coming back to Jackson.
Derr: What I'm driving at [is], I was wondering
what contacts you had with Paul Johnson's administration while
you were a newspaperman coming back from--
Fairly: Well, I really didn't because Charlie
Hills, Sr., was the political reporter. I only took over the
Capitol after--well, I first started covering the house because
Hills couldn't cover both of them. They apparently liked the
reporting I did on the House, and in the meantime I started
this column. No, I take that back. The first thing I did was
I did a piece called "Jackson Nightwatch,"' which
was just about police characters and police stuff. That apparently
got a lot of readership. And then Charlie Hills got sick or
died, and they sent me up to the Capitol. But I don't remember--it
must have been after--Paul went out of office in, when? '68?
Derr: Right, January of '68.
Fairly: And that's when Governor Williams
Fairly: Really, Steve Henderson is the only
guy that I could think of, when I read that question, that
I knew in the governor's office or around the governor's office.
And my recollection is that he was--well, I was working on
the police department because, when they first came, Steve
used to come out, after the governor and them went to bed
and some other security officer was on, and ride with me.
He was living in the barracks--I don't know whether it's still
there--behind the mansion. I knew Millard Bush and, I don't
know whether Millard was--he wasn't in the administration,
Derr: The A&I Board.
Fairly: Was he? Well, he and I were good
friends. I knew Herman Glazier, of course.
Derr: How did you work with Herman?
Derr: What would you hit him up for?
Fairly: Well, just, "What's going on,
Herman?" or something like that.
Derr: Was he forthcoming?
Fairly: Not a lot. I mean, he and I were
friends, but Herman never was a good news source for me.
Derr: Who was? If you were working around
the capital or the governor's office? If you had to know something,
who would you go to?
Fairly: Well, I knew the girls in the clerk's
office at the house. Well, John Aldridge's--no, Jean, she
was Ross's receptionist, right?
Derr: Oh, I don't know who was in his [office].
Fairly: Tell me some other folks who were
in the Johnson administration.
Derr: Frank Barber, Bill Simpson--
Fairly: I know Frank real well.
Derr: I don't know any of the names of the
women who were secretaries in there, but of course, Kenny
Stewart had been in there, but he left.
Fairly: He went on the Alcoholic [Beverage]
Control Board, didn't he?
Derr: Either that or the tax commission
or something like that.
Fairly: OK. I thought he was the alcoholic
beverage control director in the State
Derr: Could be.
Fairly: Kenneth Stewart.
Fairly: From--yes, I knew him. [I] knew
Frank. I had forgotten Frank. That brings up another story.
Derr: Do you want to tell it? (laughter)
Fairly: Turn that thing off and let me tell
you and then--
Derr: You were going to tell me a story
about Frank Barber and some of these hoodlums from St. Louis.
Fairly: It's not about Frank because Frank
is a good friend of mine, but it's about an investigation
that occurred that is of some interest because it had some
ramifications, I think, in the governor's office. We discovered
in our midst a group of people from St. Louis who, according
to the St. Louis police department intelligence unit were
a large part of the organized crime community in the St. Louis
Derr: This was in Jackson, and you had called
up there with their tag numbers to find out what these guys
with Italian names were doing down here.
Fairly: That's exactly right. They were
staying at the Sun and Sand Motel.
Derr: Driving big Cadillacs.
Fairly: Driving big Cadillacs. We were trying
to monitor what they were doing from a motel room over the
one they were renting and trying to run surveillance on them.
And when they would leave, [we'd] stop them. Rex Armistead,
who was then chief investigator at the highway patrol, was
integrally involved with us and helping us. We suddenly saw
people getting out of the penitentiary and beginning to associate
with these people. We didn't understand because they were
supposed to be up there for a longer period of time, and what
happened? So, Rex, being a state officer and we were local
officers, took the lead and began checking with Probation
and Parole and some of these people were getting on gubernatorial
releases--early release--and in those days the penitentiary
was not crowded. There wasn't any obvious reason for them
to be getting out on early release. Finally, Rex met with
the governor and told him what we had. He immediately said,
"Can y'all just"--what it appeared was, and what
Rex told me, was that these folks got an entree to Frank.
They were saying, "Frank, can you help us with this?"
No mention of any money passing or anything, just a favor:
get this guy out of the penitentiary. Frank was getting the
papers provided--you know, all fixed up--and the governor
was signing them and not really knowing the background of
the thing until Rex called it to his attention. Then he immediately
stopped that, and, I think, chewed Frank's ass out. So that
stopped those kind of people from getting in. Then [they]
just suggested, can ya'll put what we called old police rousts
on these people? Which we did, and they finally pulled out
Derr: What do you mean by a police roust?
Fairly: A police roust? That's where you
just harass them. No physical--just every time they move,
you pull them over and check their driver's license. "Where
are you going?" You know, just giving them the message,
"You're not welcome here."
Fairly: It took us some time to figure out
what the deal was, but they had walkie-talkie radios. Of course,
this was right after President Kennedy [was assassinated],
and they were going to black families and saying the Kennedy
family had selected them to have siding on their houses. And
the black families would say, "Well, how did they select
us?" They'd say, "Well, give me the correct spelling
of your full name," and they'd get on the walkie-talkie
and they'd call down the road to somebody else and they'd
say, "Will you check the list that the Kennedys sent
us for this address [and] verify that they are on the list
to receive this siding?" Of course, that guy would come
back and say, "Yes." This was all done in the presence
of the family. And if the family agreed to let them do it,
they'd take a deed of trust on the place.
Fairly: But that's the kind of racket they
were [running]. Either the DID or FBI or something caught
this whole bunch involved in a 105 Howitzer scam in St. Louis
after we dealt with them here. During the Vietnam War.
Derr: Good grief.
Fairly: But you know, that was an example
of where working with the state and local police, and the
Derr: Was the FBI involved in any of that
Fairly: No. It should have been probably.
I don't know whether there's a federal law against it. I'm
sure it is.
Fairly: That was strictly Jackson police
and the MHP.
Derr: Yes. Did you ever have any dealings
with Charles Evers?
Fairly: Oh, yes. Charles is my good friend.
Derr: Yes. How did you get to be friends?
Fairly: It seemed like to me that we were--you
know, I don't know. I remember us walking out of the cemetery
at Greenville when they buried Big Hodding [Carter]. When
I was head of the bureau of narcotics, he was mayor of Fayette.
He called me, and he said, "Say, you just going to fool
with white folks?" I said, "I'm here to help anybody."
"How about sending me some narcotics agents down here?"
I said, "What's your problem?"
He said, "Everybody in Fayette's selling drugs."
I said, "When do you want them?"
"How about tonight?"
I said, "Well, if I can scratch up a couple of them.
Where do you want them to contact you?"
"Tell them to call me at home."
I sent them down there, and they went out and easily made
I don't know how many buys. They went back to him, and they
said, "Mayor, what do you want to do? We can identify
eight or whatever that we bought this stuff from."
"Lock their ass up."
They locked them up. We had a process in the bureau where
every thirty days they had to do a legal proceeding form.
The first entry would be the arrest and the charge and the
date, and they were housed in the Fayette or Jefferson County
jail, whatever jail he was in. And thirty days thereafter
they had to go back and determine--[have] the preliminary
hearing or whatever. So they were late getting back down there
[by] about two months. And they went down there and they called
me from Fayette and they said, "Boss, these guys are
still sitting in jail." So, I called him up, and I said,
"Mayor, what about those two guys? Are you going to give
them a preliminary hearing?
"Hell, no. They don't need a preliminary hearing. They're
right where they belong."
Derr: (laughter) Summary justice there.
Fairly: I think the first place I met Charlie
was [when] I was covering the demonstration, or whatever you
want to call it, in the aftermath of the Wharlest Jackson
thing in Natchez, and it was out at Armstrong. On two or three
occasions I've seen him sway a huge crowd by his presence
and his talking.
Derr: Tell me about that because Billie
Hughes was talking about that, too.
Fairly: Was Billie over there at Natchez?
He probably was.
Derr: Yes, for the better part of a year
and a half.
Fairly: That's right. I believe he was stationed
(a brief interruption)
Derr: Tell me about Charles Evers and his
ability to control and deal with a crowd.
Fairly: The first example I saw of that
was at Armstrong Tire and Rubber Company in Natchez in the
aftermath of the murder of Wharlest Jackson. There was a huge
crowd on the company grounds and in the streets in the middle
of a hot, sunshiny afternoon. The crowd was very unruly and
wanted to demonstrate and wanted to march, and I really don't
know what else they had in mind.
Derr: This was a black crowd?
Fairly: Yes, totally, as well as I recall,
a black crowd.
Derr: No presence of Klan.
Derr: OK, go ahead.
Fairly: Not that I [knew]. There may have
been some Armstrong workers standing around. The huge crowd
itself, to the best of my knowledge, [was] totally black.
I'm not clear myself what they wanted to do, whether they
wanted to march downtown or what they had in mind. I saw Charles
Evers, by his verbal facility and his leadership, simply stop
them in their tracks and quiet them down and tell them that
that kind of activity would not benefit them, wouldn't benefit
Wharlest Jackson, that what was needed was an effort to apprehend
whoever was responsible for the murder of Wharlest Jackson.
I saw that repeated on Lynch Street again in 1968 in the
aftermath of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis
when a disturbance--which would have grown into a full-scale
domestic disturbance--erupted almost spontaneously on--my
recollection was it was on a Sunday night, but I could be
wrong about that. [They] had plenty of police presence there,
but everybody was waiting for Charles Evers to arrive. And
he did arrive, and by walking Lynch Street--it may have been
a car turned over or some minor damage--he quieted that crowd
and got the people, whoever they were, to disperse and go
home. I remember that night congratulating him on his ability
to articulate the damage that could ensue from that kind of
disturbance and the fruitlessness of it, in terms of solving
the Martin Luther King murder case. It was just a logical
approach. He's a bull of a man physically, but besides that,
Evers is a smart guy. He's got a lot of moxie, and he must
have, for a lot of police officers, a kind of a special place
in his heart because that's two occasions where I've seen
him avoid a confrontation between police--and what would have
ultimately been a confrontation had not the people in the
street listened to Evers.
Derr: How did he inspire their trust in
him, because usually with mobs, logic doesn't work?
Fairly: True. Well, I think it was probably
his presence and his magnitude in the civil rights effort,
and knowing that he was Medgar Evers' brother. I think he
commands a certain position that probably nobody else does
in Mississippi society with Afro-Americans, or African-Americans.
I may be wrong about that. I've never seen anybody else, white
or black, that could do what he did. And I know that it happened
because I stood there and watched it. And the only thing that
I can reason is that I think he's apparently straight-on with
those people, and they, therefore, have a trust in him. And
if he gets up there, despite their each individual's feelings,
and says, "Go home. All you're going to do here is get
hurt," it gets through to them that this is the thing
to do. I may be misreading.
Derr: What you're saying, though, in both
cases he had a clear concept of possible consequences.
Fairly: Right, that's true.
Derr: I'm going to conclude here for the
Derr and Fairly are discussing the 1964 murders of the
three civil rights workers in Neshoba County.
Fairly: --Washington, who allegedly brought
a large amount of cash money down here to pay an informant
for the bodies.
Derr: Yes, I've read that story before,
that he paid them tens of thousands of dollars to--
Fairly: Well, they were going around at
one time offering a $100,000 for the body of the guy who was
on the ten most wanted [list]. You can judge from that that
the amount of money paid to recover those bodies would probably
have been a lot more, if there's any validity to any of those
Fairly: But George Metz, M-E-T-Z, who lives
at Louisville, is retired from the state--he was an investigator
for the state auditor and prior to that he worked for me at
LEAD, the Law Enforcement Assistance Division of the governor's
office, and prior to that was public information officer for
the highway patrol. He worked for the Birmingham News
before he went back into state government and got his retirement.
He's retired now and lives at Louisville. He went up in Philadelphia,
and his wife is from Neshoba County, and he's got a lot of
contacts. And he had somebody giving him information. I never
have asked him who it was; we are just too good of friends.
I don't even know that I want to know.
Derr: I can understand why people would
feel that way, too.
Fairly: He thinks sometimes that he got
the information before the FBI did. He thinks today that the
FBI, when they realized how close he was to it, had his phones
That was the same story when we got to Ole Miss. The word
up there on the Meredith thing was that--and we talked about
this with Governor Johnson. Shall we make phone calls from
any phone in Oxford?
Derr: The FBI was there, right!
Fairly: Yes, Big Brother was watching. So,
we started going to Batesville to call. Back to Metz. Somebody
told him, and no question about it, that the bodies were buried
in the dam because he already had the story written. And it
was in the Birmingham News, I think, the day they
actually dug them up. I don't remember how much time transpired
between when they got the tip and when they actually got the
bulldozing equipment down there. You know, you may want to
call George Metz and just tell him what you're doing. He's
sometimes a grouchy old bastard. He'll be down here. I've
looked for him today to go to this trooper's thing, but he
had some serious surgery about a month ago, and I don't reckon
he feels like coming. But there's been a long debate between
him and Roy Moore and who got the information first. But I
think it was the results of a tip. I don't know whether they
paid for it. I just don't know.
Derr: And you don't know whether it went
to the state first or to the--
Fairly: Or the feds. It didn't go to the
state. It either went to Metz, a reporter for the Birmingham
News, or the Bureau.
Derr: So, in other words, the stories that
it was a leak from the governor's office don't wash.
Fairly: I really believe, although I am
not privy to all the papers, that if that had been the case,
that the governor would have put it on Gwin, who was up there
kind of running the show.
Fairly: I think he would have called him
to come to Jackson and told him. However, in the Mack Charles
Parker thing when they lynched him out of the jail, they called
me one morning at 2:30 and said, "Report to headquarters."
I got up and went out there, and I said, "What's happened?"
"They lynched Parker."
I did the rape investigation. And they kept me out there
until about eight o'clock, and I said, "What the hell
did you get me up for?"
"Well, we thought we were going to send plainclothesmen
down there, but Governor Coleman doesn't want to get MHP investigators
and the FBI mixed up in the people's mind of Pearl River County.
So we're going to use only uniformed men." He said, "If
they send ya'll down there, the next thing they're going to
be saying is [that] ya'll work for the FBI." But, you
know, you never know what's going on in the chief executive's
Derr: That's curious.
Fairly: But there's no question that George
was real close to that, covering that case up there. He was
a good journalist. He headed up their bureau in Mississippi
for a number of years, and the Birmingham News was
really a reporter's newspaper. I did some work for them free-lancing.
Derr: How likely is it that a journalist
would get the scoop on the FBI and the highway patrol in such
a case as the finding of those bodies? Is it just because
there's personal contact?
Fairly: Personal contact.
Derr: That would be the only thing.
Fairly: Right. You know, it's just the same
old story. I've seen cops who would go in someplace and get
free coffee and act like Caesar, to the waitress and everybody
else. Well, I've seen other guys who were gracious, left a
tip for the waitress, tried to pay the bills, especially if
the manager was there--and of course he'd turn it down--but
tell him, "Thank you. I certainly appreciate it. I hope
I didn't take up too much of your table space." That
kind of thing. And that difference in approaches is what gets
you information, and it works. One of my good friends, who
I reckon is still working at Jacksonville, he and I argued
all one afternoon. He was on the Daily News, and
I was at the Ledger, and we were talking about police
reporting. He said, "Hell, all I've got to do is go over
there and the chief of detectives is going to give me whatever
he wants me to know, and that's what I'm going to write up."
I said, "George, that ain't the right approach. You go
down there and spend some time riding with those cops. They
are the ones that are going to tell you stuff that the chief
doesn't want you to know." So we got out and walked back
down to the Ledger and the Daily News, and
when I went past police headquarters, a motorcycle officer
stopped me. I mean, this guy was just riding a motor[cycle],
a traffic policeman: "Fairly, they've got a rape case
in there of a retarded child." And George walked right
past the same guy and went on down to the Daily News.
And then wanted to know the next day how in the hell I got
that story. Because I went into the detective bureau and talked
to the captain, and he gave me the whole story. But it's the
Derr: Yes. I'm going to cut it off.
( brief interruption)
Fairly: --the investigator was.
Derr: An investigator was going in--OK,
and this was in the early '64 then?
Fairly: Well, it was in the spring and summer.
It was before they had made the arrests in September.
Fairly: They would take two men to this
church and two men [to that one]. Rex was involved. Sam Ivy
was another guy. Gwin, all the Jackson office, and [George]
Saxon and Joe [Price] may have been involved. But it was mostly
in southwest Mississippi, which is kind of the bedrock of
the Klan. Of course, when you look at all states, Mississippi
is very weak Klanwise, until you get to the White Knights.
Derr: See, I wasn't aware they were staking
Fairly: Oh, yes.
Derr: There was a lot of activity but--go
Fairly: This was a regular weekend detail.
They were trying to catch people that were burning the black
Fairly: Of course, they were working all
during the week, and back in those days, you didn't get all
the time off you get now.
Derr: Yes, four days a month.
Fairly: That's right. So finally one of
them--we were having coffee, talking, and he said, "I'll
tell you what we need to do. We need to go down there and
booby trap one of those churches, and when those bastards
come in to set it on fire, let that son-of-a-bitch go up.
And nobody even answer the call when they call in. Just forget
it. That will stop the church fire [bombing]."
Derr: I'm missing something.
Fairly: He's talking about catching the
Klan in the act of burning the churches and blowing them up.
Derr: Oh, blowing the Klan up.
Derr: Oh, I see. Massive retaliation, huh?
Fairly: He was serious.
Derr: Did those investigations or those
stakeouts lead to anything?
Fairly: No. It may have led to collection
of data, like if they were working for the sheriff of Amite
County, for just an example, or Franklin County or Lincoln
or Pike County. They may have picked up intelligence in the
way of tag numbers and--
Derr: Right. Well, I knew they collected
those all the time.
Fairly: Of course, you know another thing
that I'm not really aware of, that was ongoing, was what the
[Mississippi] State Sovereignty Commission was doing, if anything.
Erle Johnston is a real good friend of mine. I ought to go
over and see him. Not that he would tell me anything, but--
Derr: They were pretty much out of the loop
of investigating the Klan.
Derr: They had some ties, but [not many].
See, I've looked at some of the sovereignty commission papers.
Fairly: I really admire the investigators
and the uniformed men at the highway patrol for the work that
they did. You know, they took [Giles] Crisler at Grenada and
indicted him and tried him for assault and battery--I mean,
a penitentiary offense. And Crisler is as straight an arrow
as there has ever been.
Derr: What was the outcome of that? I'm
unfamiliar with that.
Fairly: A Grenada County jury found him
Fairly: But that was local retaliation against
the highway patrol.
Derr: This was whites, now, that brought
Fairly: Oh yes. Not black people. The patrol
was up there allowing the integration of the schools. You
know, providing the police protection for that.
Derr: Right. It was in that context. OK,
Fairly: They got into a melee, and Crisler
was the detachment commander. He was running the show, and
they indicted him. Of course, it was a rough [situation].
They had constables and people that were on the other side
(The interview continues on tape two, side two.)
Fairly: He was a trooper that came off the
road and made investigator, very aggressive, a lot of fun
to be around, very serious about his job. I paired up with
him in the jailbreak of 1954 from the Hinds County jail where
the jailer was killed, the largest manhunt in Mississippi's
history. But he and I were just good friends. He retired and
went down to Perry County, and I think was elected mayor.
[He] died within the last year or so--maybe longer than that,
two years ago. But he was just another one of those guys that
was always ready to go and take any assignment and work his
butt off. That's all you can ask of a real aggressive officer.
It's characteristic of a lot of these guys that it didn't
take money to motivate them. They were motivated by the job,
the intrinsic value of the job, rather than paychecks and
that kind of thing. That's what you look for in people that
want to enter law enforcement because they don't get rich.
Derr: If you would, please, tell me the
story about Paul Johnson reiterating his promise, the promise
that he made to the highway patrol, originally in August of
'64, that in times of trouble if they were convicted that
he would stand by them. This is Billie Hughes's story, too,
so it's not only yours.
Fairly: I may have heard it on other occasions,
but I recall, vividly, attending a private dinner party for
Leonard Thames, who was retiring from the highway patrol.
[He was] one of the original patrol officers of '38. [It was]
held at the Green Derby on Highway 80 and Ellis Avenue in
Jackson. The governor was there, and I was invited to attend.
On that particular night, he reiterated his statement that
I had heard, or that I had heard he had made, and that was
that any officer who was convicted in a court in the state
of Mississippi for doing his job as he had sworn to do it,
that the day of that conviction occurred, there would be a
pardon for that officer on the governor's desk, that he'd
never serve a day. And I believed him, and I think every other
officer in that room believed it. And I think those who had
heard him say it before believed it. I think that accounts
for the great morale that he got from the people that served
in law enforcement, particularly in the patrol.
Derr: The first time that I know of him
saying that was August 31, 64, with the graduation of
that big class, when they increased the highway patrol by
two hundred people. Apparently that's when he gave that promise
to those new troopers, and, Billie Hughes says anyway, that
they cheered when they heard that. That was a great boost
to them. I can imagine it would be, considering August '64
and the tense times that were there.
Fairly: That's the reason I may have told
you earlier that I believe that he, from a law enforcement
standpoint--and that's been my main thrust with all the governors--was
the strongest law enforcement governor we've ever had in my
lifetime. There may be some more to come, but he just was
the kind of guy that if he told you, there wasn't any question
in my mind, and I think many others, about his sincerity.
He meant what he told you.
Derr: So you'd agree with Buddie Newman.
Buddie maintains strongly that Paul Johnson kept Mississippi
from burning in the mid '60s.
Fairly: I would say so. I would agree with
Buddie. That's a very accurate assessment--and I know him
Derr: Oh, you do?
Derr: I had a good visit with him.
Derr: Explain to me how the investigators
for the highway patrol had general police powers. I understand
that the troopers generally had jurisdiction on state property--highways
and so on--but how were the investigators different?
Fairly: Well, the investigators, by an amendment
to the Highway Patrol Act--which finally became permanent
but which was attached every four years for a number of years--were
granted general police powers in that they could make an arrest
anywhere in the state of Mississippi just like any other state
or local [officers]. I say local to distinguish between county
and municipal officers.
Fairly: They could serve warrants, which
the uniformed trooper--unless it's changed just recently--can't
do. So they, in effect, were the only general state police
force we had, and they put that on a repealer every four years.
Finally, in the last session or two, they have made it a permanent
part. And they've also enlarged the arrest authority of the
uniformed troopers, but they were then restricted to the highways,
state-maintained roads. Those powers have been enlarged also
since then, but [they do] not [have] full police authority
that the investigators have. Is that clear now?
Derr: Yes. I think so. The point is that
they have the same power as a sheriff or so on, as opposed
Fairly: Yes, right--or a municipal police
officer. And they can go anywhere to make an arrest and serve
an arrest warrant or whatever.
Derr: Well, in '64 and following, that would
have been important as they dealt with the Klan. In other
words, they had to be able to make arrests quite apart from
state property, which a regular trooper could not have done.
Fairly: [It was] imperative if they were
to deal with the Klan.
Derr: Right, OK.
(end of the interview)