Helfrich (Robert B.) Papers
1966 - 2001
22 cubic feet
This collection was donated by Hon. Robert B. Helfrich in March of 2003.
Available for research use by the serious student and scholar.
This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright
Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).
In 1998 three former
Ku Klux Klan members were arrested in connection with the 1966 murder
of Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. of Forrest County, Mississippi. Two of these
men went to trial, prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Robert B.
Helfrich. One trial ended in the conviction of Sam Bowers, the former
Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. The other trial, concerning Charles
Noble an alleged accomplice to the murder, ended in a mistrial.
Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. was a successful businessman who owned a store,
a sawmill, a planing mill, and commercially farmed cotton on 300 acres.
Mr. Dahmer and his wife, Ellie Jewell Davis Dahmer, had eight children,
seven sons and one daughter. The Dahmer’s home was located on a
200-acre farm in north Forrest County that was part of the Kelly Settlement.
During the 1960s Mr. Dahmer served as president of the Forrest County
Chapter, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
He also played a significant role in leading voter registration drives,
and in 1965 he allowed African Americans to pay their poll tax and register
to vote in his grocery store.
On January 10, 1966 the home and business of Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. was
firebombed and burned to the ground. Two carloads of men believed to be
associated with the Ku Klux Klan carried out this attack on the Dahmer
residence, armed with shotguns and 12 gallons of gasoline. Mr. Dahmer
managed to save his three children that were in the home, his wife, and
an aunt by remaining in the burning house firing his own gun out the front
window at the attackers. As a result Mr. Dahmer died in Forrest General
hospital on January 11, 1966.
Thirteen men, who were allegedly connected with the Ku Klux Klan, were
eventually brought to trial in the late 1960s on charges that ranged from
conspiracy to intimidate, to arson and murder. At that time, however,
only four of the men were convicted and one entered a guilty plea.
In the late 1990s three men, Sam Bowers, Charles Noble, and Deavours Nix,
were arrested again in connection with the Dahmer murder. Sam Bowers,
the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, had previously been tried four
times for the crimes committed on the Dahmer family, however each trial
ended in a mistrial. Although Bowers was not present at the attack on
the Dahmer home in 1966, he was accused of having ordered the attack to
take place. In August of 1998, Bowers was tried for the fifth time in
connection with the Dahmer murder, and this time he was convicted of murder
and arson and received a sentence of life in prison.
Charles Noble was tried in connection with the Dahmer murder in 1999,
however his trial ended in a mistrial. Deavours Nix died before his trial
Contents of Collection
M250 Dahmer (Vernon F.) Collection
State of Mississippi Twelfth Circuit Court District Forest and Perry Counties
Retrieved on March 30, 2005 from http://www.12thcircuitcourtms.com/judge.html.
Scope and Content:
Robert B. Helfrich
was the prosecuting attorney in both the 1998 Sam Bowers trial and the
1999 Charles Noble trial that took place in Mississippi. Mr. Helfrich
received his undergraduate degree from George Mason University and his
Juris Doctorate from the University of Mississippi in 1985. In January
2003 Mr. Helfrich began his appointment as Circuit Court Judge for the
Twelfth Circuit Court District in Mississippi. The materials in this collection
consist of the documentation and evidence that Mr. Helfrich researched
and collected to prepare for the Bowers and Noble court cases. The collection
is arranged into six series:
Series I FBI Files
Series II State v. Charles Noble
Series III Helfrich Subject Files
Series IV Created Subject Files
Series V Notebooks
Series VI Photographic Exhibits
Series I: FBI Files
Series I contains files received by Robert Helfrich from the FBI during
his research for the 1998 Sam Bowers trial and 1999 Charles Noble trial.
The bulk of these files are unredacted, although certain pages do contain
names or other sensitive material that has been blacked out. This series
is divided into two Subseries:
Subseries 1: FBI Files 157
Subseries 2: FBI Files 44-1512
Subseries 1: FBI Files 157 consists of FBI Files on 16 different individuals
who were investigated for their involvement in the 1966 Dahmer firebombing.
Many of the files include statements made by the individuals, or statements
made by informants about the individuals; descriptions of crimes associated
with the Ku Klux Klan; and details of the individuals’ roles in
Klan activities including the Dahmer firebombing. Subseries 1 is arranged
alphabetically by the individuals’ last names.
Subseries 2: FBI Files 44-1512 is entitled “Daburn.” This
extensive FBI record concerns the Dahmer burning (coded by the FBI as
Daburn). These files contain information related to and concerning the
murder of Vernon F. Dahmer Sr. and the burning of his home and business
that was uncovered by the FBI investigation in 1966. Subseries 2 is arranged
numerically by volume number.
Series II: State v.
Series II focuses on the 1999 Charles Noble murder trail. This series
contains audiocassette recordings of statements from several witnesses,
including a statement made by Billy Roy Pitts (1998). The FBI File 157
on Charles Noble is in this series, as well as documents from the State
of Mississippi vs. Charles Noble trial (1999). Newspaper clippings concerning
the Dahmer murder trials (1966; 1968-1969; 1991-1994; undated) and some
crime scene evidence photographs are also in this series. Additional information
about Noble’s trial is found in other series as well.
Series III: Helfrich Subject Files
Series III contains files designated by Assistant D.A. Robert Helfrich
during his research in preparation for the 1998 Sam Bowers trial and 1999
Charles Noble trial. Included in this series are selected pages from the
larger 1966 FBI Files of the individuals associated with the Dahmer case
and the notes that Mr. Helfrich made during his analysis of the files.
Mr. Helfrich has included newspaper clippings (1966; 1969; 1998; undated);
crime scene evidence, including photographs and lab reports; jury information;
and cross-examination materials from the Noble trial.
Series IV: Created Subject Files
Series IV contains subject files created to accommodate unfoldered and
unlabeled materials. This series includes a transcript from the Sam Bowers
trial (1998) and video news footage of his arrest. Also contained in this
series is an undated video entitled “Crimes of the Klan / Pride
& the Fall / Nail Fils.” This series contains the mugshots of
Bowers, Nix and Noble from their 1998 arrests and newspaper clippings
related to both the Bowers and Noble trials (ca. May 29, 1998 –
June 20, 1999; March 16, 1999 – January 23, 2001). Briefs concerning
Byron de la Beckwith's unsuccessful 1994 appeal to the Mississippi Supreme
Court can be found in this series as well. Beckwith was convicted of the
1963 murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
Series V: Notebooks
Series V contains the contents of 25 different three ring binders arranged
in alphabetical order according to the title found on each notebook. The
notebooks contain documentation and reports of the 1966 Dahmer firebombing
for preparation of the late 1990s trials.
Series VI: Photographic
Series VI contains 22 different 13” X 17” matted photographs
that were used as photographic exhibits during the Dahmer murder trials.
The photographs are documentation of the evidence found on the Dahmer
property in 1966 after the firebombing. Included are photographs of the
property before it was burned and several photographs of the property
in ruins after the burning. See Photograph Log for more details.
Dahmer (Vernon F.) Collection.
M404 Dukes (William)
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