JACKSON- They laid Jim Ingram to rest in the gently rolling hills of Madison County last week near the grave of his old sidekick, Roy K. Moore.
Together, the FBI team of Roy Moore and Jim Ingram wrote an important chapter in Mississippi history: they broke the back of the fierce White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, ending a reign of Klan terror that swept much of the state from 1964 into the 1970s.
Moore-Ingram reminded you of the old comic strip, Mutt and Jeff. There was the big Jim Ingram, the size of an NFL linebacker, towering over the stubby Roy Moore, and 17 years Ingram’s senior. But whenever they went after the Klan as a team, be it the Neshoba civil rights murders or the Vernon Dahmer firebomb killing at Hattiesburg, heaven help the Kluxers.
Jim Ingram, at age 77, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer on August 3, but almost to the end, he had kept his hand in as a lawman to the core. Even while undergoing chemo and radiation treatment, he persuaded the FBI to temporarily reactivate him four years ago to assist Atty. Gen. Jim Hood in convicting Edgar Ray Killen in a Neshoba Circuit court for the 1964 slaying of three young civil rights activists.
The Killen trial brought Ingram back to the scene of the nationally infamous murders of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman where 40 years earlier he had trod the county’s red clay hills as a young FBI agent assigned to the bureau’s huge, newly-established office in Jackson. Roy Moore, the already-renowned FBI troubleshooter, was sent to head the office.
After a massive three-month investigation, the Moore-led agents established that the lynch-like slaying of the three young men was a Klan murder plot, and the FBI identified 25 men, including Neshoba’s chief deputy sheriff as part of the plot. The state declined to prosecute the case, but in 1967 the FBI’s evidence was used to charge 18 Klansmen in federal court under post-Civil War civil rights laws. Eight were convicted, among them White Knights wizard Sam Bowers, but within six years they were out of prison.
Killen, a part-time preacher, had been most wanted by the FBI as the lynch party organizer, but federal jurors deadlocked on his guilt. Four decades later and after a remarkable reversal in attitudes, Neshoba County would convict Killen, and Jim Ingram would see justice done.
Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Nelson–whose reporting career began in Biloxi–tells tenaciously in his “Terror in the Night,” that Jim Ingram emerges as one of heroes in cracking the Klan’s war on Mississippi Jews in the late 1960s. “Outwardly amiable,” Nelson writes of Ingram, “he knew how to intimidate a Klansman.” Once, as Nelson relates, Ingram and another FBI agent showed up at the house of a man suspected in the fire-bomb slaying of Vernon Dahmer. The man had made claims he would shoot any agent who came on his property outside Laurel. A double-barreled shotgun in the hands of the man greeted Ingram and his companion.
Ingram positioned himself and his fellow agent where if the man fired at one of them, the other would kill the suspect. “If you lay down your shotgun we can talk peacefully,” said Ingram coolly. Tearfully, the man put down the gun, saying he had threatened the agents on orders from Imperial Wizard Bowers.
After he took his FBI retirement, the Oklahoma-native Ingram came back to Mississippi and took on another career in law enforcement for eight years as the state’s Public Safety commissioner.
As his old pal Roy Moore slipped into Alzheimer’s, Ingram kept a watchful eye on him, even putting out word to law authorities throughout the region to contact him if Roy showed up somewhere without any memory of how he got there. When Moore died last October at age 94, an ailing Jim Ingram delivered a memorable eulogy at the funeral.