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 2 of 2
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, did you know that the FBI called you, "J.N. Thirty R."? They didn't use your name.
GILBERT: I didn't know… what, the number. But, I trust the FBI. You know, they, they have… tried their best to protect me uh… you know, in whatever fashion they could… since all of this took place, and uh--
20/20: Mr. Gilbert? Did you… did you tell the truth when you went to the FBI and told the FBI what the killers had told you?
GILBERT: Well, I wouldn't a had any reason to lie because I knew I was putting my life on the line when I did it.
20/20: Why did you think you were putting your life on the line?
GILBERT: Well, it, it… from what you already know about these people, if they had ever known for sure, and believe me, they had me set up to, to be killed, not once but several times. And, the only, the only thing I can tell you about that is that… somebody… in the higher powers… always was there to push me out of the way, because --
20/20: To protect you?
GILBERT: What else can you say? Because, I know for a fact, you know, uh that… that they had fully intended to kill me because, evidently I was the only person that could've brought this about. They even… they even went so far as to… I think they tortured one of their own members that was involved in the thing. Uh, I, when I say "torture" now, I was told that, by somebody, that uh, he cried, and cried, and cried. They didn't kill him but, they thought he was the one that had told it.
20/20: Well, tell me, what kind of men were James Ford -- what kind of men were James Seal, and Jack Seal, and the rest of them?
GILBERT: You tell me. Uh, how, how do you explain something like that? How, how in the world can you explain uh, what… what kind of people is people that go out there and just… kill somebody just because they want to kill somebody? Why? I mean, they didn't have any cause. Nobody had a cause to kill those two kids. I call 'em kids because they wasn't but nineteen years old. And they didn't know anything. But, they was determined to kill somebody. So, I guess that satisfied their appetite for a while.
20/20: Did they kill those two boys just because of the color of their skin?
GILBERT: Why else? I mean, tell me any other reason than that they were black. Any other reason. You give me any other reason why they would want to kill those boys, just because they, you know. I, I don't know what's in those men's hearts. I don't have that kind of heart.
20/20: Two of the men are still alive. Should they go to prison for what they did?
GILBERT: There again, it's up to the law. The law knows, you know. They know everything there is to know about this. Now, I'm talking about uh, the utmost, uttermost law in the, in this nation, knows about it. It's up to them. It's not up to me. It's, in God's eyes, yes. But, that is, that is the one thing I won't do, make perfectly clear here: There is a judgement. I don't know if you're a Christian or what you are, but every one of us, I don't care who you are, you're going to stand before Christ one day… and that's the final judgement.
20/20: Well, two of the men, two of the men, two of the men -- [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS]
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, two of the men are still alive. Should they be brought to justice?
GILBERT: You tell me. You know how I feel about this. You, I have, I've already told you. I think everybody should be brought to justice that involves deliberately murdering somebody. I don't care if he's in the Klan, or if he's just out there robbing a bank, I think he ought to pay for his sin and his crime, myself.
20/20: Some people say, "It's been more than thirty years. Let those sleeping dogs lie."
GILBERT: I don't know. You know, it's just like this interview that we're doing right now. What's it going to do? Is it going to create -- is, is hatred going to rise again, from the black people, or the white people because of this interview? I have no idea. Don't think that I haven't really thought about this. It's a couple of times I've been very close to saying, "No, I'm not going to do this."
20/20: Well tell me, why, why did you decide to come forward publicly and give this information?
GILBERT: Because Harry asked me to [CHUCKLES].
20/20: No, but really.
GILBERT: Well, that, that's it. You, you, you ask him.
20/20: Well, tell me then, sir, is it, is it your conscience?
GILBERT: Well, it certainly is not because I'm getting paid to do it. You're not going to pay me anything are you?
GILBERT: Okay. You going to pay me anything, Harry?
PRODUCER: No, sir.
GILBERT: I guess it's because God wants me to do it. That's the only… if he didn't want me to do it I wouldn't be here. And, and believe me, I've come mighty close, two or three times. I prayed about this… I, uh, uh… just about constantly since it came up. And I've asked the Lord to be with me on this. And I, and I think the Lord would like to see justice done here on earth, but he's waiting. His justice is coming. Can you be forgiven for something like this? I don't know. They said… the cross that he died to save us from our sins, and any man that, that goes to him with his sins, he'll forgive him. There's only one… unpardonable sin and that's sinning against God, the Holy Ghost… according to my Bible.
20/20: [OVERLAP] Mr. Gilbert… Mm-hmm. Mr. Gilbert, what kind of guy, what, what kind of men were these five men?
GILBERT: You tell me. I don't have any name for that. I, I mean… what can I say? What kind of men are these? How many people just setting here right now that Satan might get a hold of and, and use them to cause somebody else to be… persecuted or die? I don't know.
20/20: Were they, were, were these friends of yours? Were they friends of yours?
GILBERT: I guess they were at that time.
20/20: Did you find it difficult to remain friends with them when you had this information?
GILBERT: You better believe it. I tried to… there was one of those members that… the one they had set up to kill me. And they did.
20/20: Well tell me this --
GILBERT: But, they was one of those members that I really liked. As a, you know… from his outward being, not his inward being. I didn't know him that well. And he's dead now.
20/20: Well, I'm --
GILBERT: And, and I did everything I could even after all of this happened to help him.
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, I'm trying to imagine, here you are -- [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS]
20/20: Tell me, these five men who killed Moore and Dee were actually friends of yours, and you had gone to the FBI, told them what happened. Was it difficult for you to try and remain friends with them even though you knew in your heart that you had told the FBI what they did?
GILBERT: Was it difficult? You better believe -- it's difficult 'til this minute. Everything I've done in my life since then has been difficult… to live with. And uh… were they friends? Yes, they were. And, did I rat on my friends? Yes, I did. And uh --
20/20: Why did you feel --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] I've got no, I've got nothing, I mean…
20/20: Mr. Gilbert --
GILBERT: I, I, I don't know what… I think, that if this story is put together right and it glorifies those two kids, then it's all worth it to me. But, if you try to glorify me, then, I just as soon you not never run this and it never happened. I'm not here to… my God, I… I, I don't want to be glorified in nothing. The only thing I want to do is, is try to make it up there where the Lord is… uh, pretty soon because I'm not, I don't have many years left. You're seventy-five years old, you don't… you don't have too much time left. And uh…
20/20: Mr. Gilbert --
GILBERT: I can't, I can't explain to you, uh… about, the question you asked me, about friendship. How do, how do you define friendship? I mean, really, how do you define friendship? I don't, I don't quite understand that.
20/20: All right.
GILBERT: I mean, they were acquaintances, we --
20/20: Tell me this, were they --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] We were socially friends, I guess that's what you'd call it, I don't know. But… the day that, that all of this took place… how can you be a friend to a cold-blooded murderer? How, how do you do that? I can't, I can't tell you I was… they were acquaintances. They were Klan members, and… I was a Klan member. We belonged to the same organization.
20/20: Do you now regret being a member of the Klan?
GILBERT: You damn right I do. I would give anything… there's no way I can change this. There's no way I can go back and change my life. I would give anything in the world if I had never heard the name of the Ku Klux Klan. And I guess I was just the right age or something, that… I got in it and just like right now, whatever I get into, I'll go all the way, you know, to try to do something about it. But I never told anybody to go out and kill nobody.
20/20: Do you regret the violence that occurred?
GILBERT: You better believe I regret the violence that occurred. Uh, why else would I be here? I regretted it… This is, the case that you've got going here, you can not imagine the other things that took place in my life during this time. I'm not talking about just in the Natchez area, just in the, the area where I lived. It was all over the state.
20/20: Were there other murders? Were there other murders?
GILBERT: Of course there was other murders. Brutal murders. What about Philadelphia? Check into it.
20/20: That's the case of those three young men.
GILBERT: That's what I'm talking about.
20/20: [OVERLAP] The so-called "Mississippi Burning" case.
GILBERT: I've never seen the film.
20/20: Do you --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] I don't know why I never did see it. I just never did see it.
20/20: Do you know who killed those three men?
GILBERT: I have no idea. I've got, you know, let me change that -- I've got an idea but… that's all I've got. I don't, I can't say anything about anybody that I don't know for sure about. And, if they come and told me, "Yeah, we did it," then I'd tell you, "Yeah, I know those men." But I don't. Nobody ever came -- I saved one kid's life in Philadelphia, a black kid. I just happened to be there. And, and you know what his crime was?
20/20: [OVERLAP] What case was that?
GILBERT: You know what his crime was? They said he was flirting with a white girl in a jewelry store. They arrested him and put him in jail. And… they, I happened to be in Philadelphia at a Klan meeting. Just happened to be there. And… this kid… was turned a-loose… and let out of jail… and, was picked up by me and several Klan members.
20/20: What happened to him?
GILBERT: I bought him a ticket and put him on a bus, and sent him to his grandmother in Alabama, after he told me his side of the story.
20/20: Why did you do that? You helped him.
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Because I didn't want him to be murdered. And if he'd a stayed there, he… he was supposed to have been murdered that's why he was let out of jail.
20/20: So you saved his life.
GILBERT: Well, I don't know how else it… you know, he, he would've been dead, too.
20/20: Why did you do that? Why did you --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Because it was the right thing to do. Some white… person… had said that he was flirting with a white woman.
20/20: Was it true?
GILBERT: He, he told me that she was flirting with him. And I believed him because he didn't have nothing to lose. I told him, I said, "You know, you're fixing to die. I want to know the truth. Don't tell me no lie, now, I want to know the truth." And he told me, said, "God is my witness, I never flirted with that girl. She flirted with me." [07;08;15;05] And, I had… a whole damn crew of Klan members around, said, "Leave him alone."
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] And I asked him, I said, "Is there any place that you can go, and never come back. Do you have any place that you can go and never come back here?" And he told me, "I can go to my grandmother's." I took him back to his house… in my car. I told him, I said, "Now, you go in there and get your clothes and you tell your mother what's happened." [COUGHS] "You call anybody… or if I ever hear about this again, I'll find you and I'll kill your black ass." Now that's the words I put to him. Said, "Go in there and get your clothes." He said, "I ain't got no money." I said, "I'm a buy you a bus ticket and I'm a give you twenty dollars to get to your grandmother's in Alabama. And don't you come back here, ever." And I don't know where he went. But I put him on a bus, and he had a bus ticket for that particular city in Alabama. And I stayed there until the bus pulled out. [07:09:23:18] Now, you know, you can say that was a good deed. You know, you could say that. But, what the hell? Why did it happen in the beginning? Why did somebody have to save somebody that hadn't done a damn thing? This is what I'm trying to get out of my life. These things. Why, why do people hate each other? I can look back and I can find no hate in my heart for the people that… messed up my life when I was young, messed up my life when I got older. They still keep messing up my life. [CHUCKLES] Don't you?
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, if you had a chance to talk to Charles Moore's brother, or his family members, if you had a chance to talk to Mr. Dee's family members and Mr. Moore's family members what would you say?
GILBERT: I would say that… it's too late, I can't do nothing about it. If I had a known about it before it happened, it wouldn't a happened. And uh… there's nothing I can do about it. And [COUGHS] that is why I'm on television. That's exactly why I'm on television. I don't know if -- justice was not served, in my opinion. And justice can never be served for this kind of atrocity. [CLEARS THROAT] I want you to know this… and, it's the truth -- we're all not like that. And… all of the members in the Klan weren't like that. Any time that you have a group of people together and they have got evil thoughts and evil deeds on their mind, and they belong to whatever… something bad's going to come out of it. The name Ku Klux Klan is… it's a dirty word. 'Course, if everyone knew what I know about the original beginning of the Ku Klux Klan, there never would've been any atrocities committed.
20/20: Mr. Gilbert --
GILBERT: You understand where the Klan came from, its, its origin?
GILBERT: In Scotland? Do you understand that?
20/20: Well, you know what? I think we ought to move on to a couple other things. Okay? Is that all right?
20/20: All right. Did Moore and Dee deserve to die?
GILBERT: Hell no. Nobody deserved to die.
20/20: Do the two remaining men who are suspected killers in this case, deserve to… go to, go to trial? Did -- um, forgive me. One more time. Did, three of the men have died. Did they deserve to live out their lives as free men?
GILBERT: That's God's business, that's not -- I can't answer that question, (Interviewer).
20/20: Well, what do you think? You know how you feel.
GILBERT: Well, how, how can I, life and death are in the hands of God.
20/20: Well do --
GILBERT: It's not in mine. I don't care how evil --
20/20: [OVERLAP] They, they lived free men. Three of the men named, three of the suspected killers lived as free men and died. Did they deserve to live as free men?
GILBERT: In my opinion… look, it don't make any difference how I answer that question. If I answer it, "yes," then I'm telling the FBI and, and the whole world, "You haven't done your job." If I say, "No," then, I'm telling these people, "What the hell, you got away with it." What else can I say about something like that? I am not the law enforcement. I am not the judges, I am not the Supreme Court, I am not, I don't work on the President's staff. I don't have, I don't have any control over what the FBI does.
GILBERT: I don't know how I can answer that.
20/20: All right. You know, I want to step back a minute and just ask you once again -- why are you coming forward now after thirty-six years?
GILBERT: Nobody ever asked me to before.
20/20: No but, you know --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Good question.
20/20: [OVERLAP] Something is, something is occurring in your, in your heart, your conscience. It is your conscience?
GILBERT: About what now? About coming forward?
GILBERT: I would've come forward and been on television when all this took place. Nobody wanted me on television to tell them about this. They didn't ask me anything. I guess they didn't know. They all thought I was… the one that did it maybe, you know. Nobody asked me if I… you know. The only people that, that found out about it was the people that I called and told about it. Nobody asked me to be on television. I was on television many times. I made speeches all over the country.
GILBERT: And, uh… and I might, I might have been the very one that created all of this by… a speech or something. I might have put the seed in somebody's heart, you know. But I don't remember doing that.
20/20: Do you, do you remember, do you remember two of the suspected killers coming to you and saying… let me see. Do you remember two of the suspected killers telling you that they had put two niggers in the river? Using those words.
20/20: You tell me what they said.
GILBERT: I, it's impossible for me to remember exactly what they said. It's totally impossible. I don't know how many members came to me, I guess it was two . I'm not sure, and told me about this. And the only thing I can tell you is what I've already said before. I… you know, if somebody comes and tells you, "Hey, we just killed so-and-so." Can you imagine? "Well, why in the hell are you telling me this?" You know? "Why do you want to get somebody else involved in this?"
20/20: [OVERLAP] Did you say that to them?
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] You know, if I'm going to go out there and kill somebody there ain't nobody going to knows that I'm going to kill him if I'm a hide it. I'm going by myself. I ain't going to tell my wife, I ain't going to tell my kids, I ain't going to tell no damn body that I killed.
20/20: Why did they come and tell you?
GILBERT: I don't know.
20/20: What did they say?
GILBERT: I am not a psychiatrist, I am not a person that can judge you, or nobody else. How, how can I, how can I tell you why they killed. I don't know why they killed?
20/20: What did they, no, what did they tell you ? When they came and told you that they had killed these two young men, you asked them, "Why? Why are you telling me?" Right?
20/20: And what did they say?
GILBERT: "We want somebody that wasn't involved in this to know so that if we get caught, or we get… some, uh, we'll have somebody to help us." That is the words they said.
20/20: When they told you that they had killed Moore and Dee, did you believe them?
GILBERT:I didn't know what to believe.
20/20: Did you think they were telling you the truth?
GILBERT: I didn't know. I, I can't answer that, (Interviewer). I didn't believe half of what people told me. But then all of a sudden, you know, it was on television, uh, that these two kids were missing and all of this kind of stuff. And uh… back then, I don't even know if I owned a television set or not. I think I did but uh…
20/20: How did the, how did the authorities know to dredge their bodies from the particular area that they did?
GILBERT: From what I told them, I imagine.
20/20: You told them where?
GILBERT: I told them that, that they were put in the river. I, I was told they put them in the river. And uh… They, one of them, evidently, told me where they put 'em.
20/20: So, if it --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Because otherwise I would never have known about it.
20/20: If it hadn't have been for you the FBI would never have known where to find the bodies.
GILBERT: [COUGHS] I don't know. You know, maybe I should've kept my mouth shut and let somebody else bring this to the front. Maybe somebody else was involved. Maybe I wasn't the only one. I hope it, hope not. You're not going to get the FBI to tell you a damn thing. They're not going to tell you anything, they'll, they'll tell the world everything that you tell them, but they're not going to tell you anything. And, and, in one sense, I can understand that. In another sense, I can't. You know, uh, how do you get into the… You ever done, had any dealings with the FBI?
20/20: Uh-uh. Mr. Gilbert --
GILBERT: Do they tell you stuff?
GILBERT: Come on now, (Interviewer), don't lie. [LAUGHS]
20/20: [LAUGHS] No, they don't.
GILBERT: They don't give you some leads every once in a while?
20/20: Oh, rarely. Rarely. Um --
GILBERT: I've been down there. I've been there and done that. [LAUGHS] Don't tell me you don't get some of this stuff from them.
20/20: [LAUGHS] Um… Back then, back then in the Nineteen Sixties, were you, were you given any compensation by the FBI --
GILBERT: Yes, I was.
20/20: -- for what you told?
GILBERT: Yes, I was. It wasn't, it wasn't a reward like they had posted. Yes, I was, I was given some… compensation.
20/20: Do you remember how much you were given?
GILBERT: I have no idea. I didn't, I didn't uh, I didn't put it in my bank account if you, if that's what you're asking me. Uh, I'm not even sure I had a bank account back then.
20/20: According to the FBI records you were given fifteen hundred dollars because your information helped lead to the arrests of two men, James Ford Seal and Charles Marcus Edwards.
GILBERT: If the FBI said that I'm not going to call them a liar. I don't remember. Now, I, I ain't, I'm saying they did or they didn't because uh… uh… the money wasn't the object. If there was any money passed hands, that, that wasn't it. I was, I did this because I couldn't live with it. Is that, does that answer your question? Now, you, you put that on the air.
GILBERT: Uh, I, I'm not getting paid for this interview, am I?
GILBERT: I'm doing that because I'd like to clear my conscience. And I'd like for the world to know that I didn't have anything to do with that. You know, I was a member of the Klan and I was told about it because I was, uh, a high-ranking member of the Klan. But… I'm not proud of any of that. You know. Uh, I, I'm not, it's, it's a thing that drags my life down. It's the thing that… keeps me from finding peace. And I'm going to tell you one thing, I had finally got, got it kind of calmed down in my soul, and then here y'all call. And you're gonna… Harry, Harry told me. I said, "Harry, don't do this. Let's don't do this" … "I'm going to do it whether you want me to or not."
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, um --
GILBERT: So I don't have any choice, now, do I?
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, what you, what you just said brought up the question in my mind and I'll ask you directly. Were you, personally, ever involved in the killings of Moore and Dee?
GILBERT: Hell no I was never personally involved. I didn't know about it beforehand… and the only way I knew about it, I was told what happened. I don't know, I never saw those kids in my life. I, I, wouldn't a… I don't know, I never seen a picture of them. I don't know anything about 'em. And, uh, uh, and let me, let me clarify something for you. And this, this is not to make me look good. I was… totally against all of the marches and the… what they called the white people in the state of Mississippi and all over this country. I was totally disgusted with it. Uh, I'm not going to call names, but one man brought on more damn misery when it didn't have to happen in this country than its had since the Civil War. One man. And I won't call his name, but he created more hate that is just now beginning to die. People that never thought about uh… black people one way or the other, you know, they were just people.
20/20: Are you talking about George Wallace?
GILBERT: No, I'm talking about a black man.
20/20: Oh, Sam Bowers.
GILBERT: No, I'm talking about a black man caused all of this trouble. One.
20/20: One? Who's that? Martin Luther King?
GILBERT: Whatever. And uh, and the federal government, they, if you want to lay the blame of this on somebody, you, you go up to Washington and you tell 'em. Why in the hell didn't you and the Congress, and the Senate, and the House of Representative and all of these people, go to the states and talk to them and give the people a right to vote? Why didn't you do that? Why did the people have to, why did you have to cause a war, and hate and all of this stuff? It never would've happened if the right thing had a been done to begin with.
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, let me ask you this?
GILBERT: You going to put that on tape? I mean, you going to put that on --
20/20: Well, I think, yeah, we may. I think so. Maybe.
GILBERT: I want you to put that on the air.
20/20: Mm-hmm. Okay. At the time of the murders of Moore and Dee, at the time of the murders only two men were arrested. Do you know why the others weren't arrested?
GILBERT: I have no idea.
20/20: Tell me, when the two who were arrested, when charges were dropped against the two who were arrested, how did you feel about that? Were you upset?
GILBERT: Scared the hell out of me.
20/20: I'm sorry, I interrupted you. How did you -- were you upset? What was your reaction?
GILBERT: Is there any way you can put yourself in my shoes for a while? I'm just a plain old human being.
20/20: You know what? I interrupted you. You said, "Scared the heck out of me." So, why don't I let you do that again.
GILBERT: Do what?
20/20: You said, "Scared the heck out of me." And I didn't, I interrupted you, so let me ask you again. All right?
GILBERT: All right. [COUGHS]
20/20: When you found out the charges were dismissed against Charles Marcus Edwards and James Ford Seal, what did you think?
GILBERT: I didn't understand it. I didn't know the charges had been dismissed to this day. Now that, if that answers your question, I never knew that the charges were ever dismissed. Now, nobody came and told me that. I thought those people were still under investigation until… right now. The ones that are still alive.
20/20: Okay. Mr. Gilbert, if the two remaining men who are still, still alive, if the two suspected killers are still alive, are brought before trial are you willing to testify against them?
GILBERT: No, I'm not.
20/20: Why not?
GILBERT: Because I have done all of my testimony to the proper authorities. I'm giving my testimony to you. If they can't take that use that, then I am not going up there. It's not my duty to do that. I didn't have anything to do with crime, I helped in every way I knew how. Now, I'm not going to do… the federal government's for them. They don't pay me. And I wouldn't do it if they paid me. They've got me out there they, that they pay… humongous salaries to. They've got men that's supposed to be the most intelligent people on the face of this earth. If they can't make the charges stick then… something's wrong with the criminal justice system of our, our nation. Is it the judges? Is it the law enforcement? Who is it? Why, why is it in such shambles today?
20/20: Tell me, are you saying if James Ford Seal and Charles Marcus Edwards are brought to trial, will you testify against them?
GILBERT: I will not testify against them. They have all of the information. What good is it going to do me to get up there and test -- and, and the people say, "Well, hell, he was one of them. How can he testify against?" Any jury's going to turn 'em a-loose. Any jury. Believe me. Even a black man is not going to, is not going to submit to that kind of stuff.
20/20: Why not?
GILBERT: Because --
20/20: Why do you say a jury would turn them loose?
20/20: Why do you say a jury would turn them loose?
GILBERT: Just because of what I just said. If they don't have the evidence and, which they do have, the only thing that, that they need to, to put 'em jail and make 'em serve time for is [COUGHS] is to get a jury… that can relate to the time this took place, and have a trial. That's what our justice system is all about. And me going up there testifying… what could I testify to? I wasn't there. I don't know who was involved in this. All I know is what I've told.
20/20: But there were men who confessed to you.
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] No. No, no, no.
20/20: [OVERLAP] Four of those men talked to you and told you exactly what happened.
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] One man talked to me.
20/20: Who was that?
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Not all four of them.
20/20: Ernest Parker?
GILBERT: No, it was Jack.
20/20: Jack Seal.
20/20: Jack Seal told you exactly what happened.
GILBERT: He, I don't know if he told me exactly what happened or not. He told me about… how, how do you say exactly what happened?
20/20: Well, I don't mean it then. Jack Seal told you what happened.
GILBERT: He gave me the preliminaries of what took place. In other words, uh, that… he didn't go into detail and say, "We did this, and this, and this, and that." He didn't, he didn't' tell me that. He didn't say that, "I killed him, he killed him, we killed him."
20/20: But didn't Ernest --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] He, he never said that.
20/20: Mm-hmm. But, okay. We need to change tape. Okay. [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS]
GILBERT: … I don't think it should have waited this long. I think this should've all been settled after the… the facts came out.
20/20: You mean thirty some years ago.
GILBERT: That's what I'm talking, 36 years ago, I think. I don't know. But, why now? I mean…
20/20: You say there isn't anything you can do, but there is. You could be a witness at a trial.
GILBERT: A witness to what? Of what somebody told me? I wasn't there, I don't know what they did. All I'm going by is what one person told me.
20/20: No there were, weren't there four people who talked to you?
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] That didn't make any difference. One person did all the talking. And… I mean, any court in the world's going to throw it out. No judge would even attempt to try something like that. He knows the, the case is going to lose. I mean, you can't go back that far and… unless you've got written proof. Written proof.
20/20: Well, the FBI documents show that you told the FBI all sorts of information more than thirty years ago.
20/20: And it's right there in black and white.
GILBERT: That's what I'm talking about, but they didn't do a damn thing about it. They couldn't do anything about it. Let me put it this way, somebody had their hands tied.
20/20: You think so?
GILBERT: If they was, if they was going to take me and put me on the witness stand, why didn't they do it then? I'm not going on no witness stand now.
20/20: Why not?
GILBERT: Because it's not going to help, it's going to open up… something that you don't want. I don't, I don't care how hungry you are for the news, you don't want what could happen from this interview.
20/20: What do you think could happen?
GILBERT: What… somebody else could get killed. Me. For one. And if somebody comes after me and I see 'em, I'm a kill him. I, I carry my gun with me everywhere I go, I have all, all this time. If you think I'm going to stand here and let some son-of-a-bitch kill me, you're crazy. I don't care who he is. I don't care if he's white, black, red, yellow, or green. If I think he's fitting to kill me I'm a let him down.
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, we have talked with both James Ford Seal and Charles Marcus Edwards and they say they had nothing to do with those murders.
GILBERT: I don't know whether they did or not. I'm tell, that's what I'm telling you. The only thing I told the FBI was what was told to me, which is hearsay. I wasn't there, I wasn't involved in it in any way. I did what I thought was right. I can not say that they were or they weren't. They didn't, you know, they didn't tell me, "I did this, and I did that." I don't remember who I talked to. I talked to one person, that's the only person I talked to.
20/20: Jack Seal.
GILBERT: Right. And Jack's dead.
20/20: But Jack Seal gave you the details, and the other men gave you details. They told you about it.
20/20: Okay. Let me ask you this. When you were, when you were head of the, when you were uh, when you head of the White Knights of the K.K.K. you held a news conference, remember?
GILBERT: I held a news conference?
20/20: You held many news conferences regarding violence among the K.K.K. You said, you said that the K.K.K. was non-violent, correct?
GILBERT: It wasn't non-violent as far, as far as I was concerned.
20/20: When you held a, when you held a news conference in --
20/20: When you held a news conference in 1965, you said that the K.K.K. was non-violent, but you knew otherwise, didn't you?
GILBERT: The, the organization itself, the name of it under the charter that we was working on was not violent. You can not… then, and you can not now, you can take any group of people that belong to a church or anything else, and… if, if you've got the greatest conversation -- uh, uh, congregation in the world in a church, there might be five Christians, or the rest of them are… they don't know what they wanna do.
20/20: Well, but, you --
GILBERT: And it holds true in life, (Interviewer).
20/20: Okay, I understand what you are saying. When you held that news conference in Nineteen, when you held a news conference in 1965 saying that the K.K.K. was non-violent --
GILBERT: As far as I was concerned, it wasn't. But I had no damn control over the membership. Uh, I'm non, I don't believe in violence. My God, I, I've seen enough violence in my life, I've seen enough people killed, I hate violence.
20/20: But in --
GILBERT: Some of my very best friends that I ever had in life died next to me.
20/20: During World War II.
GILBERT: Right. And it blew my mind. I went crazy.
20/20: But what I'm getting at is that, you knew, you knew that the, you knew that the Moore and Dee murders had occurred in '64. But the next year --
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] That did not represent the charter that we was living under of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. That did not represent the organization that was put together. It represented… a group of outlaws that took the law into their own hand. If they took, if they did what they did, do you think that… a oath they took in the Klan meant a damn thing to them? I didn't mean nothing. It was a place of protection that I didn't realize then that I found out later. It was a place of protection for them to get in to do their dirty work.
20/20: You think these bad seeds just went in to, just joined the K.K.K. so that they could do whatever they wanted to?
GILBERT: Absolutely. There was a group in the, in the Klan that figured, "What the hell, we can do, we got, we got all the people behind us." They didn't have nobody behind them. "And, and we're Klan members. And we can, we can go out and do what we want to do." [COUGHS]
20/20: Let's sit back and think a minute about, when you, when you sit down and think about those two young men, when you sit down and think about Moore and Dee, what goes through your mind? Those two boys, Charles Moore and Henry Dee.
GILBERT: [SIGHS] My mind… when I think about that I think about my kids. What if the Black Panthers had done one of my kids that way? That's what I think about. What if, after this interview some of those people are still alive and they come after me and blow up my house, or my, my children's house, home… to get even? That's what I think about. And uh, they can't touch you. They can't touch the law enforcement, they gotta get back at somebody. That's me. And uh… that's why I have to walk a… a certain line in life. That's why that… before I go to bed at night I pray to God to protect my family. Doesn't matter about me. If they want to kill me, that's not hard to do. You know, I mean, I've lived a full life. I'd like to see my little grandkids grow up. I'm seventy-five years old, I'm going to repeat this again. I've died twice. Two times I've died, my heart quit beating. And they brought me back to life. I'm wearing a pacemaker, if it quits I'm a go just like that [SNAPS FINGERS]. I have to get it checked constantly. I mean, I'm not… I'm not afraid to die for something that's worth dying for. I'm not afraid of that at all. But I'm not, I'm not gonna sit, sit down on my butt, or stand there looking them in the face and let 'em kill me… murder me. I'm a take 'em with me if I can. Now, that's the way I feel about it. I don't care who it is. If somebody is trying to harm my family… you can do what you want to to me, I just really don't care. As long as it doesn't reflect on my family.
20/20: Okay, Mr. Gilbert --
GILBERT: Leave them alone. You know, they're not in this and uh… they had no part of this and --
20/20: Mr. Gilbert, now that, now that you have publicly told, now that you have publicly told everyone that indeed it was five K.K.K. members who killed those two young men, do you feel… relieved?
GILBERT: I don't, I don't know if it was five or how many it was, but I feel like I did the right thing. Do I feel relieved? No. I don't feel relieved. I feel like that I'm a marked man for the rest of my life. Not only by the Klan, but the FBI, by the news media. I mean, when you go out and, and you try to do something that's right, uh… anybody that tries to do the right thing in life is gonna be marked by somebody because there's too damn many people getting too much money from somebody else to, to try to bring down right. You see, wrong can't survive where right is. There's no way wrong can survive where right is. It, it might flourish for a little while, but it's got to die. And, I believe I've done what's right. I… but I can't excuse myself for ever becoming a member of the Klan. Does that explain what I'm trying to tell you?
20/20: You can't forgive yourself… for that?
GILBERT: How am I going to forgive myself? I was… maybe I caused this by something I said, or something, something that somebody read in me that wasn't there? I mean, how do I know that I'm not the, the cause of this? How, how can I say, "I didn't have nothing to do with this?" If you was in the Klan, you had something to do with it because you represented the biggest hate group that ever walked the earth. And I don't hate nobody. I mean, I don't hate a living soul. I don't care what color he is. I don't even hate a, hate a Jap. And anybody got a reason to hate 'em, I have, but I don't hate them. They was doing what their leader made 'em do. No, I don't, I don't, I don't feel like I got any hate. I don't hate nobody. I just wish everybody could live and do the right thing in life. And, if somebody don't want to be bothered, leave 'em alone. You know? And, I don't believe in all of this government stuff that goes on now, that ain't nothing but just lies. Just constant lies.
GILBERT: You can read, you can look through it and see. Ninety percent of what y'all put on television.
20/20: [CHUCKLES]. Okay.
GILBERT: I mean, if it --
20/20: Anything else? No. Okay.
GILBERT: [OVERLAP] Okay.
20/20: All right. Sorry. [OFF CAMERA COMMENTS]
GILBERT: But this is not a lie what I've told you today. I've told you the truth. If you, if you put it together like I told you… and let the truth come out, and let these kids be… let's let 'em die. You know what the Bible said about Cain and Abel? Would you like for me to repeat it to you? God told Cain, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground." I want [COUGHS] [CRIES] I want [CRIES] I want justice for those kids, that's what I want, not me.
20/20: That's why you've come forward now.
GILBERT: [CRYING] Yes. This is not about me. [SNIFFS] It's not about you. This is about two little kids that were brutally murdered and were innocent. Don't glorify me, glorify them.
20/20: Should the two remaining men, the suspected killers, be brought to trial?
GILBERT: How can I tell--? What have I just got through saying? How much better can I explain it? If, if I said, "Yes," that's not, that doesn't solve -- I have tried to explain that ever since I sat down here to talk to you. I don't care if this government of ours doesn't ever bring them to justice. They're going to face justice… just like me. Just like for everything I've done in my life. Being a part of the Klan, I'm a have to answer to that when I, when I get up there. [SNIFFS]… And just like you. You get on television and you cause some person hurt for the rest of their life and don't know the facts about it. If you did something like that you're gonna have to answer for that. I mean, it's a short time here, but that's eternity up there. Wherever it is. And, you and I both gonna answer when we get there. We, we're gonna have to re-do this interview when we get there.
20/20: [LAUGHS] When we re-do it what's going to happen?
GILBERT: I don't know.
GILBERT: I don't know what he's gonna say.
20/20: He's gonna say, "Take two." [LAUGHS]
GILBERT: [LAUGHS] Okay. Okay. [SNIFFS].
20/20: [LAUGHS] Okay.