ustxtxb_obs_1976_05_07_50_00004-00000_000.pdf

Page 6

by

me they were going to show them to Virgie, my wife.” The county courtroom, where the press conference was held, was packed with East Texas newspeople, county politicos, and many tof Virgie Lack’s friends from the Bethel Baptist Church. Lack told his listeners, “It is not easy for me, a practicing, born-again Christian to come before TV cameras and admit that I have feet of clay. 1 calling on all people of good will to accept my apologies and grant me forgiveness if your conscience will permit.” He asked “for anyone present, and this specifically includes Sheriff Paine and District Attorney Coe, to bring forward the pictures for Virgie’s inspection…. I believe if they are shown to my wife, she can tell whether they are of me or not. I have seen faked photos before, but I am not an expert. But there are a few things about my body that only me and my wife know about.” Coe obliged by taping three photos to the wall of the courtroom. “This is what can happen in Mexico if you drink too much Seven-Up,” he said. The three rather fuzzy photos showed a man resembling Lack in various stages of undress in the company of a very friendly Mexican woman. The next day all three pictures were reproduced in The Silsbee Bee and the Enterprise and Journal. After the photos had been on the wall for a few minutes, Virgie Lack tore them down, examined them, and announced, “That’s not my husband.” Five church women who were clustered around her echoed, “That’s not Emmett. That’s not Emmett.” One of the women insisted that a dark spot on the male subject’s arm just above the elbow was a tattoo. \(It looked to most observers like a hand belonging to a woman press conference, Lack obliged the church ladies by removing his coat and shirt to show that he has no tattoo. “It’s a bad day when you have to take your clothes off to prove you’re innocent,” Thompson said. The upshot of the press conference was that Lack apologized for having feet of clay but never actually admitted that it was he in the photos. Friends and strangers rallied to support poor Emmett Lack. One group held a church meeting that night and read portions of the Bible in defense of the judge. Letters to the Beaumont paper are running 15 to 1 in his favor. As Archer Fullingim, the retired editor of The Kountze News, explained, “Hell, the only reason you go to Boys Town is to nuzzle up to a whore. There’s nothing wrong with that. The crime was showing the pictures. That was the crime.” According to Buddy Moore, “People in Kountze are saying they don’t think the pictures are of Emmett, but even if they are, they shouldn’t have been brought out.” Most people the Observer interviewed in East Texas think that Stanley Coe is going to have a very hard time being re-elected. 4 The Texas Observer Houston Thompson is jubilant. He says that Coe’s mistake was in taping the pictures to the wall. “If he had handed them to Virgie in a sealed envelope, he would have been okay. Then Virgie would have had to open them in public just to show she wasn’t scared to.” Thompson added that he was not at all unhappy to see the photos disposed of this year while Stanley Coe is up for re-election and Emmett Lack is not. Coe is on the defensive about the photo episode. “Lack was calling me a ‘blackmailer and the only way I could put that to rest was to expose the pictures,” he said. “I saw the pictures before the election last year. Had I wanted to blackmail him, I could have done it last year when he was running for county judge. Some people discussed exposing the pictures then. “They’re worn out as a blackmail issue,” he added. “They have been passed around the country club at Silsbee, and they’re in the possession of a cafe owner who shows them to special customers. Why, Emmett had a party in back of the commissioners courtroom a while back. He had a decorated cake with the well-breasted body of a scantily-clad lady. It was a big joke. It wasn’t taken seriously.” Lack and The Kountze News accused Coe of showing the photos to two separate grand juries. The first grand jury saw them last April after Hugh Bevil beat Buddy Moore all the way across the courtroom. Moore, 47, is considerably more abrasive than Arch Fullingim, if that can be believed. Sometimes his accusations run pretty wild. He has even angered the Bluebirds, who disinvited him to their annual awards banquet. Beaumont Enterprise Coe: ‘Too much Seven-Up’ Commissioner Hugh Bevil Means took offense at an April 24, 1975, story that referred to “alleged kickbacks” for some county equipment. At the time of the beating, Moore was working as an administrative aide to Emmett Lack as well as editing the paper. On April 25, Moore wandered into the commissioners courtroom and sat down in the first pew to listen to Means argue with Talmadge Coombs about garbage problems. Means said to Coombs, “It’s guys like you to take over Hardin County.” Then, as recreated for the Observer by Judge Lack, who witnessed the whole thing, Means walked over to Moore, who was still seated, and proceeded to hammer him with ten right punches and five left punches, propelling Moore all the way to the end of the pew. Means finally quit when Moore slid beneath the bench. Moore lost his glasses on about the second punch. He’s legally blind without them. “I’ve never seen a man beat up like that before , ” Lack said. Moore, who got a broken nose and a dislocated shoulder, not to mention sundry cuts and bruises, said, “I wish he’d written a letter to the editor.” Sheriff Paine and a Texas Ranger were both in the courthouse at the time, but there seems to be disagreement over when they arrived on the scene. They certainly got there in time to see Buddy Moore a bloody mess on the floor, but they made no arrest. The Beaumont paper reported that Means had previously hit a probation officer and a preacher. Means said he hit the probation officer “because he was going to force me to tell some things I didn’t believe he needed to know. I don’t recall hitting a preacher, but if I did, he probably deserved it.” As for his future in politics after the incident with Moore, Means told the Enterprise, “If you can get hauled out of office for knocking the hell out of a son of a bitch, then there are lots of people going to get hauled out of office.” As this episode should emphasize, Means is nothing if not direct. The locals say that when he has a difference with somebody, he settles it with his fists. For this reason, he is not generally suspected of being the distributor of the “blackmail” pictures, despite the fact that he went on the trip to Mexico. It’s just not Hugh Bevil’s style. Means told reporters last year that Moore wouldn’t file charges against him because he was taking advice from Lack and “Lack knows things will come out that he doesn’t want to come out.” This apparently did not have reference to the photos but to the fact that Moore was employed by Lack at $700-a-month with federal funds from the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act. The money is supposed to go to people living on poverty-level incomes, and there were questions as to whether Moore was sufficiently poor. Moore said that at the time he was making less than $2,300 from the newspaper. Later in the year, some of the commissioners got the Texas Employment Commission to check out the legality of Moore’s employment. TEC said he qualified for the funds, but Moore quit the job anyway in October and went back to fulltime newspaper work. The Moore/Means episode went to the grand jury. The jurors did not take action