AN ORAL HISTORY    with    KEN FAIRLY

Biography

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.

Topics Discussed

Background and Early Law Enforcement Career
The 1960s
The Ole Miss Riot
Paul Johnson
Investigating the Klan
The Mississippi Highway Patrol
Breaking the Klan
Gwin Cole
Jackson State
Law Enforcement in Mississippi
Charlie Snodgrass
Frank Barber
Charles Evers
Philadelphia Murders
Paul Johnson and the Highway Patrol

Transcript 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 in journalism.

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 of Mississippi.

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 Korea.

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 others.

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 political thing.

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 Friday.

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].

Derr: Sure.

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--

Derr: Right.

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 election.

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 Judge Coleman?

Fairly: I think it was a very cordial relationship--you know, a personal relationship.

Derr: Right.

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 Mississippi politics.

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 thing?

Derr: Yes, exactly.

Fairly: OK.

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 whole story.

Derr: OK.

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 north Jackson.

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?"

"No."

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 general, Joe--

Derr: Patterson.

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.

Derr: OK.

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."

Derr: Right.

Fairly: So this is the first day. The next day occurred down in Jackson. The next day or so, I don't know.

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, "Yes, verbatim."

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, I thought.

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 control.

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 in Jackson.

Derr: Oh, so you didn't know what was going on, you mean? Oh, I see. You were oblivious to it all. That's something.

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 just--

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.

(brief interruption)

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.

Fairly: Right.

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 I identified--

(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 in Mississippi.

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 chair."

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 Capitol grounds.

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.

Fairly: Right.

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.

Fairly: Yes.

Derr: That's what you're saying. Yes, exactly.

(brief interruption)

Fairly: It's been a long time ago for some of it.

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 gave me.

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.

Derr: Shelton?

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.

Fairly: Right.

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 with him?

Fairly: Very close. Good friends, still are.

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.

Fairly: Right.

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 the FBI.

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 or resource.

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 investigator--

Derr: From Mississippi?

Fairly: Yes, from the state.

Derr: OK.

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 an advantage.

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 toes.

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 necessary--good-bye.

Derr: You didn't know them personally, though.

Fairly: No.

Derr: OK.

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 to know.

(brief interruption)

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 affidavit.

Derr: Right.

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.

Derr: OK.

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 officers.

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 campus.

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 there?

Fairly: Well, it closed Lynch Street to through traffic.

Derr: Right.

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 frenzy.

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 incite trouble?

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.

Derr: Right.

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, you--

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--

Derr: NAACP?

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 administration.

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, very patient.

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., OK.

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?

Derr: Yes.

Fairly: Did he submit it?

Derr: Yes.

Fairly: OK.

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 came in.

Derr: Exactly.

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, was he?

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?

Fairly: Fine.

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

Tax Commission.

Derr: Could be.

Fairly: Kenneth Stewart.

Derr: Right.

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--

(brief interruption)

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 area.

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 of Jackson.

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."

Derr: Yes.

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.

Derr: Wooo!

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 association networking--

Derr: Was the FBI involved in any of that stuff?

Fairly: No. It should have been probably. I don't know whether there's a federal law against it. I'm sure it is.

Derr: Yes.

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 there.

(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.

Fairly: No.

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. Very effective.

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 time being.

(brief interruption)

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 stories.

Derr: Right.

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 tapped.

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.

Derr: Right.

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 mind.

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 same thing.

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.

Derr: Right.

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 out churches.

Fairly: Oh, yes.

Derr: There was a lot of activity but--go ahead.

Fairly: This was a regular weekend detail. They were trying to catch people that were burning the black churches.

Derr: Right.

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.

Fairly: Right.

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.

Fairly: Yes.

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 not guilty.

Derr: Yes.

Fairly: But that was local retaliation against the highway patrol.

Derr: This was whites, now, that brought that indictment?

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, I see.

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 and--

(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: Right.

(brief interruption)

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, [19]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 real well.

Derr: Oh, you do?

Fairly: Yes.

Derr: I had a good visit with him.

(brief interruption)

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.

Derr: Right.

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 to--

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)

 
 

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