By all accounts, it was a typically sultry afternoon in tiny Meadville, Miss., on May 2, 1964, the day that two 19-year-olds, Henry Dee and Charles Moore, vanished while walking along a highway on the edge of town.
As far as anyone knew, Dee and Moore had no enemies, nor had they any connection with the burgeoning civil rights movement. They'd never done anything to pique the ire of the notoriously racist and violent White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, many of whom lived in the rural settlements across Franklin County.
Around Meadville, Dee and Moore were just known as average, law-abiding young black men.
But these were not average times in Mississippi. The civil rights struggle had become a virtual war, defined by the white supremacist KKK taking on anyone who would seek to end racial discrimination.
Ratcheting up the tension, civil rights organizations had recently announced "Freedom Summer" for 1964, a bold initiative to bring activists into the Deep South and register black voters for the coming presidential and congressional elections. Mississippi was, in fact, bracing for the worst summer in a most painful chapter of American History.
In 1964, young men like Henry Dee and Charles Moore knew that to stay safe, they needed to avoid doing anything that might be viewed by the KKK as activism. They also knew to avoid any contact with Klansmen. And so, on that early May afternoon, when a Volkswagen Beetle pulled to a stop beside them, Dee and Moore knew enough to respectfully decline the white driver's offer of a ride.
More than two months later, investigators got their first clue about what happened to the two young men when the partial remains of a black man surfaced in a remote section of the Mississippi River some 90 miles from Meadville. A college identification card found in a pants pocket helped identify the remains as those of Charles Moore.
For another two months, FBI investigators conducted a fruitless investigation of the case until they received a call from an anonymous informant who said he had information about Dee and Moore's disappearance.
The informant was so terrified of the KKK that he insisted on anonymity. The FBI gave him a code name: JN-30R.
Over the ensuing weeks, JN-30R provided the FBI all the information they would need to identify five Klansmen as prime suspects in a horrifying tale of how Henry Dee and Charles Moore were murdered for little reason beyond the color of their skin.
In dozens of pages of reports to the FBI, JN-30R described in gut-wrenching detail how Dee and Moore were kidnapped and taken deep into the Homochitto National Forest and beaten with bean-poles until their bodies were broken and bleeding profusely.
They were then stuffed into the trunk of a car and driven 90 miles to a Mississippi River bank where they were bound and tied to a Jeep engine block and dumped into the river alive.
JN-30R led FBI investigators to the exact place on the Mississippi River where they would find the engine block with human remains still attached to it.
There was no doubt that JN-30R's information was accurate. But so intense was the fear of the KKK across Mississippi in the mid-1960s that the FBI was unable to find even one witness willing to testify in support of JN-30Rs statements and the informant himself remained unwilling to testify.