Wharlest Jackson was a hard working, loyal employee of Natchez, Mississippi’s Armstrong Tire & Rubber plant and a Korean War vet. He’d been at the tire plant since 1955 and had finally gotten a promotion which would mean a 17-cent raise.
His wife, Exerlena Jackson, wanted Wharlest to get the promotion he should’ve gotten earlier in that 12-year career, but this one was a promotion she felt he should’ve passed up. The position in question was one usually given to White men in the company.
Whether he’d been given the position after being picked from a pool of Black employees or gotten it over White employees—which he did—it would’ve been a problem for Wharlest. Also important here is that the Jacksons were active in civil rights and were NAACP members, a large target at the time.
CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Family friend George Metcalfe’s promotion at Armstrong in 1965. Metcalfe became president of the local NAACP branch while Jackson became treasurer. That August, Metcalfe hopped in his car, turned the car on and was caught in an explosion.
Their friend survived the blast with severe burns and scrapes, an injured eye, and broken limbs. Wharlest and Exerlena checked on Metcalfe and nursed him back to health. A year later, he returned to work but no one was charged with the murder attempt.
Wharlest Jackson took his wife’s concerns to heart but also sought the opinion of peers. Future mayor and NAACP leader, Charles Evers suggested he take the position.
FEBRUARY 27, 1967
A month later, Wharlest Jackson was in full swing in his new position. On this particular, rainy day, he did overtime and was on his way home around 8PM. Nearing his home, he turned on his truck’s turn signal resulting in an explosion. The magnitude of the explosion was such that Exerlena could hear the explosion from the Jackson residence.
INVESTIGATION AND SUSPECTS
The FBI found that the bomb had been planted underneath the seat of Wharlest Jackson’s vehicle. Their investigation also pointed to the Silver Dollar Group, a Klan splinter group. It was known to be more violent and aggressive than even the Klan at this time.
The group’s signature was members who carried silver dollars with their birth year and bombings. Mainly based in Louisiana and Mississippi, they were also suspected in the attempted murder of George Metcalfe.
Despite suspicions and around 10,000 pages of material pointing to the Silver Dollar Group, no one was ever arrested or prosecuted.