Miss. FBI chief from civil rights era dies at 94

Published 1:38 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Roy K. Moore, an FBI agent who oversaw investigations into some of the most notorious civil rights-era killings, including those depicted in the movie “Mississippi Burning,” has died. He was 94.

Moore’s daughter, Sandra Giglio, said he died Sunday in a Madison, Miss., nursing home of complications from pneumonia and other ailments.

Moore, a former Marine and native of Oregon, had established a solid reputation in the FBI when bureau director J. Edgar Hoover sent him to Mississippi in 1964 after the disappearance of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Nearly two months later, their bodies were dug out of an earthen dam in Neshoba County. “Mississippi Burning,” released in 1988 and starring Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe, was based on the case.

Bill Minor, a veteran Mississippi journalist who covered the civil rights struggles, said Monday that Moore established the first “full-fledged FBI bureau” in Mississippi and set his sights on the Ku Klux Klan.

“Those who underestimated the bulldog determination of Roy Moore and the corps of agents he assembled — many of whom had never been to Mississippi when Moore got the job — made a mistake,” Minor wrote in a 1971 article republished in his 2002 book “Eyes on Mississippi.”

Nineteen men were indicted in 1967 on federal charges of violating the civil rights of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman. Seven were tried and convicted and served six years or less in prison.

The federal trial ended in a hung jury for Edgar Ray Killen, a part-time preacher and saw mill operator. However, the case was reopened decades later and Killen was convicted of manslaughter in state court in 2005 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Giglio said Moore was respected by his law enforcement colleagues.

“The men that worked for him said he was tough and strict but they really respected his work ethic,” Giglio said. “And he was a good dad and he was a good husband. His job took him away a lot and demanded a lot, but he was there for us.”

Moore retired from the FBI in 1974 and worked as a security expert in the banking industry. He also stayed active in civic organizations, his daughter said.

Giglio said Moore made such an impression on her husband and her sister’s husband that both men joined the FBI after getting to know him.

“I guess he was a pretty good recruiter in that way,” she said.

Services for Moore are at 2 p.m. Friday at Wright and Ferguson Funeral Home in Ridgeland, Miss.