By Sean Dunlap
Almost six decades after the deaths of two African American teenagers from Franklin County, a historic marker was dedicated on Thursday, July 15 near the spot where the two were taken against their will to be tortured and later killed.
The Mississippi Department of Archives and History monument on Main Street — across the road from the Tastee Shack restaurant — in Meadville commemorates the lives of Henry Hezekiah Dee, a mill worker, and Charles Eddie Moore, a college student, who disappeared on May 2, 1964.
Their bodies were recovered on July 12, 1964, after being dumped into the Mississippi River.
Thomas Moore, the brother of Charles Eddie Moore, championed the cause of justice for the two young men and noted his faith carried him through many years of darkness in looking for answers.
“When this happened, I was a young man who had just gone into the Army and was on my way to Vietnam,” Thomas Moore said.
“My mama told me the Lord would make a way, but how does a 21 year old understand that? I had heard about God, but didn’t know who he was.”
He said the old spiritual, “I Will Trust In The Lord,” helped keep him in pursuit of who killed the two men, and he sang some of the lyrics during Thursday’s dedication event.
He also noted his life’s journey has been best compared to running a race with this past week’s recognition ceremony as a finish line of sorts.
Around the time when Dee and Moore went missing locally, news of their situation became overshadowed by the disappearance of three Civil Rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — in Neshoba County.
The trio were kidnapped in June, 1964, near Philadelphia and their bodies were recovered from an earthen dam two months later.
“I spent 57 years running for justice because of the way they treated Charles Moore and Henry Dee,” he continued.
“When their bodies were found, they said they were nobody because they were looking for the three workers.
“But none of us who knew them forgot, and I made a promise to them that as long as I live I would run until I would fall dead in trying to get as much information for the families that I possibly could.
“This brings final recognition that they were somebody. They weren’t nobodies. Today, we hear a lot about black lives matter, but they mattered back then, too.”
Pastor Tim Mason, a first cousin to Thomas Moore, said he was thankful to God who allowed justice to be served for the families involved.
“We can rest our lives in the knowledge that God alone can turn the evil man designs into something good,” Mason continued.
Thomas Moore said he met countless people along the way that God put in his path to help him in his decades-long investigation and search for the truth.
Those individuals included Thelma Collins, who is the surviving sister of Henry Dee; David Rigden of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation whose documentary, “Mississippi Cold Case,” drew attention to the deaths; Dunn Lampton, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, who ultimately brought the case to federal court; and Shannon Sieckert of Walnut Creek, Calif., who pushed for the placement of the monument.
Sieckert said she learned of the deaths of Dee and Moore through her involvement with the Sojourn Project, a program which seeks to promote social justice education by focusing on the Civil Rights movement and the people who were directly or indirectly impacted during the era.
“It is important for the families and for the community to know the lives of these two men mattered,” she noted.
“It is also important for people to know their story because only when you know history you can do something to repair it. The truth needs to be there forever.”
Sieckert said she was happy to play a role in helping move the effort to get the monument forward.
“Really, all I did was a lot of paperwork, and I am so happy Thomas and Thelma were here to see this in their lifetime,” she added.
Dudley Lampton, the twin brother of the late Dunn Lampton, said his brother had served with Thomas Moore in the military.
“When he learned Thomas Moore was a sergeant major in his division, that was instant credibility,” Dudley Lampton said. “He knew (Thomas Moore) was not going to bust up into office with a bunch of half-cooked ideas and decided to pursue the case.
“Dunn knew there was a statute of limitations, but said if he could get a conviction, he believed justice would be done. He said if this case was overturned on a technicality, he believed justice would have been done.”
Dudley Lampton said his brother’s work in prosecuting the case was aided by the volumes of investigative work undertaken by Thomas Moore.
“He walked into Dunn’s office with years of work and provided documents,” Dudley Lampton said. “Thomas would not take credit for it, but deserves it for pulling everything together. Before he met Dunn, he had done everything and pushed this thing forward.”
Lampton ultimately brought charges in January, 2007 against James Ford Seale for his role in the deaths, and got a conviction on June 14, 2007, on one count of conspiracy to kidnap two persons, and two counts of kidnapping where the victims were not released unharmed.
In 2008, Seale’s kidnapping conviction was overturned by a panel of the Fifth United States Court of Appeals, before being reinstated by that court sitting en banc the following year.
Seale was imprisoned in Terre Haute, Ind., and died in 2011.
“We are so grateful to Sgt. Maj. Moore to go to the great lengths he did to contact us and have Dunn’s name on the monument,” Dudley Lampton said. “The family appreciates it.”
Another member of the Lampton family — Sidney, an attorney who is Dunn Lampton’s daughter — said her father’s involvement in the Dee and Moore case had an impact on her life.
“In law school, I wrote about this case,” Sidney Lampton said. “I was 12 when the case happened, and I remember the passion Thomas had for his brother and for the love Ms. Collins had for her brother. This brought people together at the right time and I was just proud to have had the chance to watch it.”
Collins, who is now 82 years old, stood beside the roadside historic plaque honoring her brother’s life and noted the dedication was truly bittersweet for her.
“I feel blessed to get to see this day after so many years,” Collins said.
“Even after all of the time that has passed, I will think back on Henry’s life and his death and I still cry about what happened to him. I hope this monument will be a lasting legacy to him and Charles Moore.”
Collins said she greatly appreciated the kindness shown her by those in attendance during the gathering, and was proud to stand beside Thomas Moore in seeing both young men remembered in a positive way.
Thomas Moore said he thinks of Collins as a “sister” because of the burden she carried in the death of the teens so many years ago.
“Something like this tends to draw people together, and we were brought together by unbelievable hurt and pain,” he said.
Still, despite the years of anguish and personal hurt he endured, Thomas Moore said he bears no ill will against those who played a role in the death of his brother and Dee.
“We don’t hold grudges because one of the guys who testified against Seale asked for my forgiveness,” he added. “The Bible said to forgive, and I forgave him. From that moment on, that released me from the cell I had locked myself in. Thanks to him I learned who, what, when, where, why and how.”