“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ferriday in Concordia Parish, Louisiana — The American South (West South Central)

Frank Morris


Frank Morris Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Cosmos Mariner, May 23, 2014
1. Frank Morris Marker
Inscription.  For more than a quarter of a century, Frank Morris operated one of the most successful African-American businesses in Concordia Parish. From the late 1930s until 1964, Morris’ shoe shop on Hwy. 84 in Ferriday was one of the busiest establishments in town. Morris was one of the few black businessmen in the South to successfully cater to a black and white clientele. But during the early morning hours of December 10, 1964, Klansmen, under the cover of darkness, spread gasoline around the shoe shop and set it ablaze. Asleep in a small room in the back of the shop, Morris confronted his attackers seconds before the fire was set. One of the men outside pointed a shotgun at Morris and refused his exit to safety out the front door just as the building erupted in flames. The 51-year-old businessman was forced to find his way through fire and smoke to the back door. He emerged from the building completely naked, his body smoldering. As he ran to safety he left behind a trail of bloody footprints. The arson was committed on the very day a world away in Oslo, Norway, Dr. Martin Luther King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for civil rights and
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freedom for all men, regardless of race, creed, origin or gender. Suffering third degree burns over 100 percent of his body, Morris died on December 14, 1964, but not before providing a few details about what had happened to the FBI. The bureau launched an intensive investigation –- called a “special” –- in which a number of agents were brought into town to find Morris’ killers. But by late 1965, the case had turned cold while civil unrest continued to rage throughout this region. The case was reopened in 1967, but again turned cold.

In Ferriday, Morris had a reputation as an outgoing, friendly and talkative man. He took great pride in his work and in serving his loyal customers. A town of many poor people, both whites and black depended on Morris to keep their families in shoes. He was known for his leather work, too, and a number of ranchers and horsemen depended on him to care for bridles, saddles and other accessories. Often, Morris traveled out of town to buy equipment for his shop or to learn more about the shoe repair business. He rebuilt shoes and sold dry goods.

An early member of the NAACP, Morris was also an usher in the Mercy Seat Baptist Church and was known for his patriotism and support of the community. Many young black men were given their first jobs by Morris. They all remembered him as a man who taught them to treat
Frank Morris Marker (<i>wide view; marker on right; Jerry Lee Lewis "Rock-a-Billy" Park behind </i>) image. Click for full size.
2. Frank Morris Marker (wide view; marker on right; Jerry Lee Lewis "Rock-a-Billy" Park behind )
people well and with respect. During the last years of his life, Morris hosted a weekly gospel radio show on KFNV in Ferriday. He played gospel music, often dedicating songs to people in the community, both black and white.

Morris' success both in business and his popularity in the community came to an end when the Civil Rights movement clashed with a Klan that was growing more violent and aggressive. Morris' very success as a black businessman and the interracial clientele he served drew the ire of Klansmen and a few in law enforcement. His refusal to provide continued free shoe repair work for a notorious Concordia Parish deputy may have been the trigger for the arson. In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it was reviewing 100-plus unsolved Civil Rights era murders, including Frank Morris'. So heinous was the murder that in 2011, Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, called the crime “an unspeakable act.” Following aggressive coverage of the Morris case and other Civil Rights era murders by the Concordia Sentinel in Ferriday, a Grand Jury was convened in the parish in 2011 to further investigate the homicide. In recognition of its four-year probe, Ferriday's newspaper -- the Sentinel -- was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 2011 for its “courageous
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and determined efforts to unravel a long forgotten Ku Klux Klan murder during the Civil Rights era.” By the spring of 2012, the case remained under federal investigation with the assistance of the Concordia Parish District Attorney. At the same time, local residents, both black and white, continue to deal with the parish's ugly racial past. Frank Morris was an honest man who worked hard, lived modestly and dedicated himself to serving this community. He died because of hatred. It is in his memory and in hope for racial reconciliation and for justice that Ferriday honors the life of this good citizen.
Erected by City of Ferriday, Louisiana.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansChurches & ReligionCivil RightsIndustry & Commerce. A significant historical date for this entry is December 10, 1964.
Location. 31° 37.822′ N, 91° 33.094′ W. Marker is in Ferriday, Louisiana, in Concordia Parish. Marker is on North 1st Street (State Highway 568) south of Greathouse Street, on the right when traveling south. Marker is located in front of Ferriday's Jerry Lee Lewis Rock-Billy Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Ferriday LA 71334, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Haney's Big House (within shouting distance of this marker); Leon "Pee Wee" Whittaker (within shouting distance of this marker); Mickey Gilley (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Jerry Lee Lewis (about 700 feet away); Jimmy Lee Swaggart (about 700 feet away); The Blues Trail: Mississippi to Louisiana (about 700 feet away); Bayou Memorial Park Flags (approx. 0.6 miles away); DePrato Mounds (approx. 1½ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ferriday.
Also see . . .
1. A small-town reporter's big influence. A black businessman was burned to death in tiny Ferriday, La., in 1964. Justice may finally be served, thanks to the reporting of Stanley Nelson of the weekly Concordia Sentinel. In the story, three people talked about how an alleged former Klansman, their relative by birth or marriage, told them he was one of those responsible for burning a black man to death 46 years ago in what is remembered as one of the ugliest killings in this region's violent racial past. (Submitted on December 4, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. Cold case Klan murder cases plague Louisiana. Frank Morris played a special role in 1960s Ferriday as a successful business owner and black man. He owned a small shoe shop, where for a quarter of a century, he ran an honest trade repairing and selling shoes. His success would unfortunately lead to his downfall. In 1964, as Morris was sleeping in his shop, he heard a ruckus outside. When he approached the door, a man with a shotgun prevented him leaving, while another poured liquid across the front of his shop. They set his shop ablaze and retreated into the night. The shop exploded into a fireball, sending debris into the street and setting Morris on fire. He was able to make it out, but not before the fire had taken its toll. (Submitted on December 4, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

3. Solving A 1964 Cold Case: Mystery Of Frank Morris. (This link presents a photo of Frank Morris in front of his Ferriday Shoe Shop in the 1950s.) The Frank Morris case is just one of many civil rights era cold cases that journalists like Stanley Nelson and David Ridgen are investigating as part of The Civil Rights Cold Case Project, which is an unprecedented collaboration of journalists from across the media spectrum, created in the aftermath of the trial of former Klansman James Ford Seale. (Submitted on December 4, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
Additional keywords. hate groups, terrorism
Credits. This page was last revised on November 21, 2019. It was originally submitted on December 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 547 times since then and 62 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on December 4, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 22, 2024