Published: March 9, 2022
By: Josh Archote, LSU Manship School News Service
— This is the first in a three-part series.
Although 57 years have passed, Leland Boyd still can’t forget the smell of burnt human flesh.
In December 1964, Leland, then 12, stood in the doorway of a hospital room, where Frank Morris, a 51-year-old Black man from Ferriday, Louisiana, lay in critical condition after two men had torched his shoe shop.
Morris was a friend of the Boyd family. Leland and his father, Earcel Boyd Sr., spent many afternoons after school in Morris’ shop. He repaired Leland and his siblings’ shoes and even ate dinner at the white family’s home on occasion, and the friendship had continued after Earcel joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1962.
“Frank, who did this?” Leland, now 70, recalls his father repeatedly asking Morris while he lay in the hospital bed.
“I thought they were my friends,” Morris kept responding.
Morris died from his burns four days later in what the FBI viewed as a racially motivated arson-murder. Before his death, friends, family members and FBI agents would desperately probe Morris to identify his attackers, but he said he did not know them.
Leland is still haunted by that scene in the hospital room.
“Human flesh smells different when it’s burned than beef, or pork or chicken,” he said. “It’s got an odor that you won’t ever forget. That’s all I could smell. It’s one of those experiences I wish I could get out of my mind.”
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