Puneet Varma (Editor)

Dixie Mafia

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Founded by
Mike Gillich, Jr.

Years active
Late 1960s – present

Founding location
Membership (est.)
100 +/-

Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Mississippi

Mostly White Southerners from Southern United States

Dead Man Incorporated, Hammerskins, Friends Stand United

The Dixie Mafia is a criminal organization based in Biloxi, Mississippi that operates primarily in the Southern United States (hence the name dixie). The group uses each member's talents in various crime categories to help move stolen merchandise, illegal alcohol, and illegal drugs. It is also known for violence.


Early days

Beginning in the late 1960s, the Dixie Mafia began working as a loosely knit group of traveling criminals performing residential burglary, robbery, and theft. The gang did not function with a set chain of command, but was led by whoever had the most money. Despite the informal structure, the Dixie Mafia had one rule that members were expected to obey: "Thou shalt not snitch to the cops".

Unlike members of the Sicilian Mafia, the members of the Dixie Mafia were not connected by family or country of origin. They were loosely connected individuals of many nationalities with a common goal: to make money and wield control over illegal moneymaking operations by any means, including influence peddling, bribery of public officials, and murder.

The gang became known for carrying out contract killings, particularly against former members. During its peak, from the early 1970s to the late 1980s, dozens of people were murdered (usually shot) by its members. Victims were most often murdered because they testified, or threatened to testify, against fellow members. One contract killer William Miller (also known as "Blue Eyes") was said to have carried out many of the contract killings. This could never be proven due to lack of information or evidence.

Mike Gillich was also patron and protector of Kirksey McCord Nix, Jr., one of the gang's most notable members. In December, 1965, at the age of 22, Nix was caught carrying illegal automatic weapons in Fort Smith, Arkansas. An old friend of his, Juanda Jones, ran a bordello there, and Nix became involved with Jones' adolescent daughter, Sheri LaRa. In later years, she would play a key role in his operations, including direct ties to the murders of Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife, Margaret, a former Biloxi councilwoman and mayoral candidate.

Edward Humes, in his 1994 book, Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia, chronicled the Sherry murders, and the subsequent investigation of Gillich, Kirksey Nix, Bobby Fabian and others that were involved either loosely or actively in the murders. Bobby Fabian began cooperating with the FBI on the Sherry murders and was pleading with any law enforcement officials to move him out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) because he felt he would be murdered. Fabian was transferred out of Angola but not a moment too soon as Dixie Mafia member (Florida Boss) Jeffery Carter had managed to be assigned to Camp-D within the penitentiary, exactly where Fabian was being housed.

LSP security obtained information from a confidential informant that Jeffery Carter was armed with a knife and that Carter was going to kill Fabian on the prison yard. Angola security immediately reacted to the information and actually spotted Jeffery Carter walking towards Bobby Fabian at which time a correctional officer ran up on Carter who was only 50 yards from Bobby Fabian and took control of Carter. Upon searching Jeffery Carter, correctional officers found a Buck knife in the open position on Carter's person.

With the aid of his father's connections in Oklahoma, Kirksey Nix beat the weapons charges in Ft. Smith and moved on to other crimes. He was suspected in the gangland-style murder of a gambler named Harry Bennett, who was about to turn state's evidence against several Dixie Mafia members. Although Nix's involvement in Bennett's murder was never proven, this incident precipitated a string of killings that left twenty-five people dead in six states over the next four years.

Nix was a suspect in the attempted assassination of McNairy County, Tennessee Sheriff Buford Pusser, and in the murder of Pusser's wife. Nix was also convicted of murdering wealthy New Orleans grocery owner Frank Corso. At the time of the murder, Kirksey Nix was believed to be employed by Darrel Ward in Clarksville, Texas. Mr. Ward was a noted associate of syndicate boss Sam "Momo" Giancana and is thought to have controlled organized crime and bootlegging throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi. The Dixie Mafia was strongly connected to the State Line Mob and its leader Carl Douglas "Towhead" White.

Mike Gillich, Jr. died at age 82 of cancer in his Biloxi home on April 28, 2012. He reportedly had a religious conversion to Christianity in the years prior to his death. As of 2014 there has been a single group that has reestablished the Dixie Mafia in Wisconsin, mainly in Milwaukee. This newly formed Dixie Mafia focuses more on violence than the original Dixie Mafia.

Dixie Mafia's locales

The Dixie Mafia's origins were in the Appalachian states. The group operated in many large Southern cities and some of the group's criminal activities were in more obscure parts of their major areas of operation, making the group and their activities harder to pinpoint. The Dixie Mafia committed most of their crimes in areas that lacked strong, coordinated law enforcement, particularly in small communities throughout the South. In doing so, murders, intimidation, or other criminal activities could take place with less risk of local law enforcement being able to directly link the crimes to the organization. Small town and county law enforcement agencies, especially in poorer sections of the South up to the 1990s, were usually inadequately equipped, and rarely had officers with extensive experience in the investigation of homicide or organized crime.

The members of the Dixie Mafia usually created small, seemingly legitimate, businesses such as buying and selling junk or antiques. These businesses would provide fronts for the operators to buy and sell stolen items provided by others within the network. The businesses would usually operate until they aroused suspicion, then move to another location.

Many members of the Dixie Mafia were former state or federal prisoners. Members were usually recruited while in prison; a history of violent behavior was generally a prerequisite to becoming a member. According to an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal, the gang was well known for its violence in collecting debts owed to gambling houses and strip clubs.

The terms "Dixie Mafia" and "Southern Mafia" have been used interchangeably. Documented use of the two terms existed as early as 1993, when Scarfone wrote about the "Dixie Mafia" or the "Southern Mafia" working together with the "Italian Mafia" in the South. His accounts of the "Good Ol' Boy's Southern-Mafia" in Parts 3 and 4 of the article describe the group's indigenous nature. It is unclear whether or not all journalistic and literary references to the "Dixie Mafia" and the "Southern Mafia" refer to the same group of individuals. Therefore, these terms have become terms of general reference to any illegal enterprise in the Southern states that, for cultural reasons, can expect a certain amount of support, both intended and unintended, from the local population

Dixie Mafia at the Louisiana State Penitentiary

Louisiana State Penitentiary is home to many Dixie Mafia members. Most have life sentences without any chance of parole. Some mafia members have served a lengthy prison sentence and have been released from prison. One such Dixie Mafia member who is suspected of numerous murders around the United States (and Mexico) is Jeffery Carter. Jeffery Carter served a 20-year sentence in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola) for the death and sexual assault of a New Orleans prostitute. Carter has since been released from custody and resides in or near Madison County, Florida.

Jeffery Carter is suspected to be the Florida boss of the mafia, taking orders only from members behind bars in Angola, Louisiana (Peter Mule) and Marion, Illinois (Kirksey Nix). Shortly after Jeffery Carter's release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary, Federal authorities were involved in an airplane chase over the Gulf of Mexico after authorities spotted a low flying Piper Cub flying at full speed just a few hundred yards off shore. The pilot of this aircraft ignored the Federal authorities attempt to communicate. The pilot made a dangerous belly landing just yards away from the shore and was seen swimming to shore by authorities using infrared night vision. Despite all efforts to have law enforcement on the ground to locate this pilot, the pilot was never caught. The airplane was later determined to be stolen, and there was nothing illegal on board. However, law enforcement authorities believe that this low flying pilot was Dixie Mafia member Jeffery Carter. There was never enough evidence to arrest Carter as the pilot. Law enforcement agencies have confirmed that in 1981 Jeffery Carter was befriended by infamous pilot and drug smuggler Barry Seal, while Carter was a bartender at a French Quarter bar in New Orleans Louisiana. Barry Seal, in 1982, compelled Carter to relocate to Mena Arkansas to work for Seal at Seal's new business called Rich Mountain Aviation, at the Mena Airport. It is unclear what Jeffery Carter's work responsibilities were, but it is widely believed that Jeffery Carter was a protege of Barry Seal, and learned his flying skills from Barry Seal.

A 2011 NPR report claimed some of the people associated with this group were imprisoned in a highly restrictive Communication Management Unit.

  • A 1999 episode of The FBI Files details the FBI investigation of the Dixie Mafia, preempted by the 1987 murder-for-hire killings of Mississippi Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret in Biloxi, Mississippi.
  • The Dixie Mafia features prominently in the Kentucky-set television series Justified, which aired from 2010 until 2015.
  • The 2014 film Cold in July, set in Texas in 1989, tells the story of a man who uncovers a conspiracy involving the Dixie Mafia, local police and a snuff film ring.
  • The Dixie Mafia feature as antagonists in the 2016 video game Mafia III, which is set in a fictionalized version of New Orleans circa 1968.
  • References

    Dixie Mafia Wikipedia