This Day in History

Feb. 27, 1967: NAACP Treasurer Wharlest Jackson Murdered in Natchez

Korean War veteran, father, and Natchez NAACP treasurer Wharlest Jackson Sr. was assassinated with a car bomb in 1967. All evidence points to this being a murder by the KKK.

Here are excerpts from a story about the murder of Wharlest Jackson from the Concordia Sentinel.

When an explosion shook the neighborhood around the Armstrong Tire & Rubber plant in Natchez at 8 p.m. on a winter night in 1967, the sound carried all the way to College Hill about seven blocks away where Exerlena Jackson was resting in bed.

She sat up when she heard the blast, which rattled windows and shook nearby homes.

“Oh, Lord, that’s Jackson,” she shouted. “That’s Jackson.”

Exerlena had been especially worried in recent weeks about her husband, Wharlest Jackson Sr., 36, whom she called “Jackson.” He had just recently received a promotion at Armstrong to a position that had always been held by a white man in the past. He had been threatened.

Fearful that his life would be taken, Exerlena didn’t want him to accept the promotion. In fact, she wanted him to quit Armstrong.

But Jackson, a man who wanted to provide the best he could for his family, knew the 17-cent an hour raise would mean much economically. Because Jackson had other part-time jobs, the raise at Armstrong made it possible for Exerlena to quit her job as a cook at Jefferson College and stay home with their five children — Debra Jean, Doris Arlene, Delresia, Denise and Wharlest Jr. She was also suffering from Lupus, and needed bed rest. . . .

The murder of Wharlest Jackson — treasurer of the Natchez Chapter of the NAACP — by a bomb planted in his pickup truck on Monday, Feb. 27, 1967, made national news as did so many other events in this region during the Civil Rights-era. Jackson may have been a victim of the Silver Dollar Group, a violent cell of the Ku Klux Klan believed to have also been responsible for the disappearance and murder of Vidalia Shamrock Motel porter JoEd Edwards in July 1964, and the killing of Ferriday shoe shop owner Frank Morris in an arson in December of that year.

The group is also believed to have set a bomb in the vehicle owned by George Metcalfe, another Armstrong employee and a close friend of Jackson’s. Metcalfe survived, but was maimed in an explosion in the plant parking lot on Aug. 27, 1965. He recovered and returned to Armstrong. Metcalfe had been riding to work with Jackson but the two men went on different shifts shortly before Jackson’s pickup exploded.

. . . The Jackson family was told years ago that the men who made the bomb that seriously injured Metcalfe were just perfecting their work. The next one was predicted to be stronger and deadly.

At 8:11 p.m. — Monday, Feb. 27, 1967 — the Natchez Police Department received a call that there was an explosion on Minor Street, near the tire plant, and that a truck was nearly destroyed.

Exerlena Jackson was not surprised a few minutes after the explosion when the phone rang and she was told that her husband was being transported to the hospital, a victim of an apparent bomb. . . .

An autopsy revealed that the explosive device was placed beneath the seat of the truck “slightly to the left and slightly to the rear of the victim. The enormous magnitude of the injuries inflicted upon this unfortunate man indicated that the explosive device was of a large size.”

Police soon learned that a handful of men at Armstrong had warned that if Jackson took a “white man’s job” he would pay with his life. The fact that a number of men knew violence was planned against Jackson seems to point to a conspiracy. . .

A native of Florida, Wharlest Jackson, a Korean combat veteran, came to Natchez because he fell in love with Exerlena and he thought his family had a future in Natchez, Exerlena’s home town . . .

Read in full at Concordia Sentinel.

Read more in Families’ wounds stay open as decades-old racist killings are left unsolved in The Guardian.

See photos of the funeral for Wharlest Jackson by Jim Lucas.