Interview with Ernest Gilbert for "20/20" May 2000
The "20/20" report "Justice at Last," which aired in June 2000, investigated the unsolved 1964 slayings of two young black men -- Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore -- in Mississippi.
Six-and-a-half years later, a federal grand jury has indicted a reputed former Klansman for kidnapping with the aggravating circumstance of murder in the deaths. James Ford Seale, 71, pleaded not guilty this week to the crimes.
The following is a transcript of a "20/20" interview with Ernest Gilbert, the former FBI informant whose information helped shed light on a civil rights murder case that had gone cold.
Part 1 of 2
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, were you a member of the KKK in the nineteen Sixties?
GILBERT: Yes, I was.
20/20: Did you hold a leadership position in the Ku Klux Klan?
GILBERT: I held several leadership positions in the Klan.
20/20: Were you elected to a leadership position in the Klan?
GILBERT: Yes, I was.
20/20: What were you?
GILBERT: Well… I was… the state… national organizer for the Klan. Uh, I started out uh… I had got involved in the Klan when I lived in Brookhaven, Mississippi. And uh… that was… the first Klan I belonged to was the old, original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
20/20: The original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan?
GILBERT: The old, original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The gentleman that headed that up, I don't know his name, but he lived across the river from Natchez in Louisiana.
20/20: Tell me, did you, did you believe what the Klan believed in… at that time?
GILBERT: I'm not sure that I… I have never believed in cold-blooded murder. I never believed in burning churches, that's God's house. There are so many things that the Klan did after I got involved in it that I did not approve of. And, the Klan itself, it didn't make any difference what position you held. There was this little group, and this little group, and another group, and all of them did what they wanted to do and they didn't answer to anybody. And there were many, many good people in the Klan that… abhors the violence that took place. Including me. I, I mean, I never once thought about going out and killing somebody, burning their house, or anything like that. It was, in the beginning it was supposed to be a political organization to elect officials to try and stop the Civil Rights Movement. Now that's what, uh, it was told to me what we was going to do when I first got in it.
20/20: But, did it change? Did it become --?
GILBERT: It changed --
20/20: Did the Klan, did the --?
GILBERT: It changed drastically.
20/20: I'm sorry, I interrupted you. Let me ask you then, did, did the Klan, did the Klan then, did the Klan become violent?
GILBERT: Yes. It became violent. Very, very violent. But it was only one-tenth of one percent of the Klan membership. And uh, the violence that came out of Natchez, Mississippi was not supposed to be that kind of things take place in the organization.
20/20: All right. Let me, let me follow on. Did you have, did you have a job with the Klan? A specific job? Were you the recruiter?
GILBERT: I was uh… I was elected as the organizer, state organizer of the Ku Klux Klan.
20/20: In Mississippi.