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Ex-FBI agent investigates civil rights cases from the 1960s

  • Story Highlights
  • Jim Ingram worked in the FBI's Mississippi office during the turbulent 1960s
  • In 2005, the bureau asked for his help in re-examining unsolved cases
  • His work helped convict James Ford Seale for the 1964 murder of two teens
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(CNN) -- Retired FBI agent Jim Ingram is charged with chasing down stories and shadows more than four decades old.

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Retired FBI agent Jim Ingram is helping the bureau re-examine civil rights cases from the 1960s.

"I knew these old informants, I knew these old witnesses," Ingram said. "Some of them cannot hear, some of them have really lost their eyesight almost, but you still, most of them had good memories.

"And those are the ones that we called upon to testify."

In the 1960s, as a young FBI agent, Ingram investigated civil rights cases in Mississippi. "The 1960s were turbulent years in Mississippi. Oh, my goodness," Ingram said. "Oh, we had a lot of action."

In 2005, after he'd been retired for years, the FBI asked him to help re-examine dozens of unsolved civil rights cases that had slipped through history's cracks.

"I never in my wildest dreams thought the FBI would call upon a 75-year-old man to assist them," Ingram said of his work in the bureau's cold-case initiative. His tasks include sifting through old evidence, tracking down witnesses and re-interviewing them. Sometimes, he testifies in court.

His work helped convict James Ford Seale, a former Mississippi sheriff's deputy, of kidnapping and conspiracy in the 1964 deaths of black teenagers Henry Dee and Charles Eddie Moore. According to the Jackson (Mississippi) Clarion-Ledger -- citing FBI documents -- Dee and Moore were picked up by two men while hitchhiking on May 2, 1964. The men were members of the Ku Klux Klan, but they told the two teenagers they were law enforcement officials.

Instead of giving them a ride, however, the men drove the pair deep into the woods and beat them. Later, they drove them across the Mississippi River, weighed them down with a Jeep motor block and dumped them into the Old River in Louisiana.

A fisherman found one of the bodies in July of that year and reported it to authorities, the Clarion-Ledger said. Seale and another man were suspected in the case, but authorities had trouble lining up witnesses. Pursuit of the case dissipated over time, but as other civil rights-era cases were solved, notably the 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen for the deaths of three civil rights workers, interest was regenerated.

"You can just imagine the terror of these two young men after being beaten in the woods," Ingram said. He and another FBI agent retraced the steps of that spring day with federal prosecutors, Ingram said.

"They knew they were going to die because ... [the men] told them what they were going to do."

Seale will be sentenced later this year, Ingram said.

Ingram says he does feel a sense of accomplishment for bringing Seale and others to justice.

"There is a feeling of satisfaction because I've been at this thing for years," Ingram said. "I entered the FBI in 1953, and here it is, my goodness, 2007, and I'm still active in many ways, and I told the FBI as long as my memory holds up, I'll help them," he said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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