Nelson discusses latest book, ‘Klan of Devils’

By T. Scott Boatright

Pulitzer Prize finalist and Louisiana Tech University journalism graduate Stanley Nelson has drawn national attention for his investigations into cold cases from the past involving the Ku Klux Klan.

Over the years his work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and on CNN and NPR, and his latest book, “Klan of Devils,” was released earlier this year.

On Thursday night, Nelson appeared at the Lincoln Parish Library Events Center to discuss his newest book and sign copies for those wishing to purchase a copy.

Nelson, a native of nearby Sicily Island, is a 1977 graduate of Louisiana Tech’s journalism program and began his newspaper career at the Hammond Daily Star before moving back home to work at the Concordia (Parish) Sentinel.

His latest book details a 1965 incident in which several Ku Klux Klan members riding in a pickup truck allegedly shot two Black deputies on patrol in Washington Parish in south Louisiana. 

Deputy Oneal Moore, the driver of the patrol car and father of four daughters, died instantly. His partner, Creed Rogers, survived and radioed in a description of the vehicle.

Less than an hour later, police in Mississippi spotted the truck and arrested its driver, a decorated World War II veteran named Ernest Ray McElveen, who spent eleven days in jail before being released. 

The FBI later sent its top inspector to Bogalusa to study the case, which was the only civil rights-era FBI investigation into the killing of a Black law enforcement officer by the KKK.

But despite that FBI assistance,  a lack of evidence and witnesses unwilling to come forward eventually forced Louisiana prosecutors to drop all charges against McElveen. The FBI continued its investigation but could not gather enough evidence to file charges, leaving the murder of Oneal Moore unsolved to this day.

Rogers could not identify the driver of the truck, but he was certain the truck was the one driven at the time by McElveen, identifying the black pick-up from the Confederate flag license plate placed off center to the passenger side at the front of the truck.

“You just have to go knock on doors,” Nelson said of his investigation of the case. “Some people are embarrassed. Some are ashamed of what happened. The amazing thing is that Mrs. Moore, who’s in her 80s and uses a walker now, has four daughters. They’re a close and loving family. But she doesn’t have an ounce of bitterness in her. How does that happen? She’s come to accept, as Creed Rogers did, that there was just not going to be justice in this case. 

“Before he died Creed Rogers kept talking about the fact that he couldn’t see the driver of that truck to be able to certainly identify him. For the rest of his life he would pass McElveen on the road, knowing that’s whose truck was used in the attack that night.”

The book comes on the heels of Nelson’s 2016 publication, “Devils Walking, Klan Murders Along the Mississippi in the 1960s,” which  detailed a December 1964 incident in Ferriday during which Frank Morris awoke to the sound of Klansmen breaking a window and tossing a lit match inside of his shoe store, which had been doused in gasoline — instantly set the building ablaze. A shotgun pointed at Morris’s head blocked his escape from the flames and he was badly burned. Four days later Morris died, though he managed in his last hours to describe his attackers to the FBI. 

“For families involved in these cold cases, the information, any information, is important. But that information doesn’t just come to you — you have to go out and find it.”

Nelson said it took about two years to write “Klan of Devils.”

“But I had done a lot of research before I started writing it,” Nelson said. “It took me a while.”

After presenting the basic information about the south Louisiana case discussed in “Klan of Devils,” Nelson told those in the audience at the LPL Events Center that they would have to buy a copy of the book for more extensive information.

“That’s the short version about what the book is about,” Nelson said. “McElveen might not have fired a shot, but he was driving the truck. He did it. I thank you for coming tonight.”

Nelson’s books can be found for purchase online and the Lincoln Parish Library does have copies available to be checked out.