BOGALUSA — “That’s my daddy,” Barbara Hicks-Collins, now 72, said as her hand gingerly swept across the image on the Louisiana Historical Site landmark.
Her father, Robert “Bob” Hicks, was an integral part of the Deacons for Defense and Justice, a black group that combated the Ku Klux Klan in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi in the 1960s.
The Deacons believed that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept for nonviolent resistance only worked in bigger cities. But in smaller places like Bogalusa, more drastic measures were needed to keep the Klan at bay. So the Deacons armed themselves to protect their families and their neighbors, though they maintained a crucial rule — don’t shoot unless you’ve been shot at.
In the summer of 1965, Bogalusa was on the brink of becoming a war zone between the Klan and the Deacons. Then-Gov. John J. McKeithen sent in 150 state troopers to join 72 others already there in case of mass conflict. No battle broke out, and there have been no documented deaths because of the Deacons’ activism.
The FBI files also include a Los Angeles Times article in which Thomas was quoted as saying that the Deacons had contacts in Chicago and Houston for .30-caliber and .50-caliber automatic weapons.