By Woody Woodrick
MEADVILLE – Thomas Moore spent more than 40 years seething with anger over the murder of his brother Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964.
Yet faith that God would bring justice to his family and the confession of one of the men involved in the killings turned Thomas Moore from what he called “a killer into a healer.”
Moore shared his story with United Methodists and others as part of the Mississippi Conference Commission on Religion and Race’s series of gatherings called Journey Toward the Light. The series takes conference leaders to places of importance during the civil rights era to hear the stories of those involved. The gathering here was held June 30 at New Fork United Methodist Church.
Thomas Moore had already joined the Army, where he was trained as a sniper, when his brother Charles Moore and Henry Dee disappeared in May 1964. The teens had been trying to hitchhike along U.S. 98 when James Ford Seale picked them up, telling them he was a federal revenue agent. Seale, a known member of the Ku Klux Klan, got other Klansmen to join him as he drove Charles Moore and Dee deep into the Homochitto National Forest. There, the two were beaten, wrapped in tarp and taken west to the Mississippi River, where they were thrown still alive. The bodies were found more than two months later.
Although the deaths were investigated, no charges were filed and no trial was held.
Thomas Moore said he spent years filled with anger and hate for the fate of his brother. When he finally began pushing to find out the truth about what happened those many years ago, he began to feel relief from his anger and hate. “My faith began to grow,” he said. “The old warrior now was being transformed. I learned the meaning of grace because I did not deserve to have any special treatment from God, but I felt the spirit of God on my shoulders.”
Over the years, it was believed that those involved in the murders had died. However, media reports eventually found that Seale and Charles Marcus Edwards were both still alive. Aided by media and federal authorities more willing to pursue the case, both men were eventually arrested.
Moore shared how he became convinced Edwards had been involved and described his face-to-face meeting with the man.
“He said ‘fella, for 42 years I’ve walked around with that burden on my shoulders,’” Thomas Moore said.
Edwards eventually contacted the FBI, and he and Seale were arrested and charged with federal kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Edwards testified against Seale, who in 2007 received three life sentences.
Thelma Collins, a relative of Henry Dee, also shared her family’s pain and it waited years to see justice done in the case. Thomas Moore and Collins have filed a civil suit against Franklin County for not pursuing the case earlier.
As part of the event, those attending visited the site where the young men were picked up and the site where Edwards said they were beaten.
The Rev. Brenda Cager said the gathering was important for the Meadville community, which still bears the scars of the case. “I think it will help bring about the healing process,” she said. “It will help people understand the past and move forward into the future.”
She said the event will bring people together “because greater understanding has taken place now.”