Powerboats, high-performance Cadillacs, and turbo-prop airplanes criss-crossed Louisiana, and the rest of the south as the cartel waged a reign of terror that saw dozens of killings, and enormous amounts of money go into the gang’s coffers
By the mid-70s, 75 deaths of drug dealers, police officers, people in the wrong place at the wrong time, and enemies of the gang had been attributed to the cartel.
But a home invasion gone wrong in New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood would spell the downfall of the Dixie Mafia.It’s a Friday evening in Muskogee, Oklahoma, March 1962, and a drunk teenage boy has been ordered to leave a honky tonk by a pair of police officers. Once outside, Kirksey McCord Nix Jr, son of a judge, “retained belligerent tendencies,” and was arrested.
This marks the first brush with the law of a man who would go on to become the feared kingpin of the Dixie Mafia.
It would not be the last.
Six years later, in March 1968, Nix got in a high-speed chase with law enforcement. Once they finally put the wildman under arrest he was found to have an illegal police radio in his “late model, luxury automobile.”
The young Nix then decided to decamp from Oklahoma to the greener pastures of Georgia but once again he ran afoul of the law. In April 1968, he led a four-man crew of safecrackers into an Atlanta high rise where they were surprised by a security guard on the fourth floor of the building. A shootout erupted – the guard was wounded – and the crew went on the run. Nix was found hiding in a nearby creek bed, and taken directly to the jailhouse.
What they are,” says Gene Matthews, a special agent in the intelligence division of the Fulton County (Atlanta) District Attorney’s office, is a loose knit group of traveling criminals that operates in the Southeast: burglars, car thieves, narcotics operators, a little bit of everything.
Less than a year later, Nix’s Dixie Mafia crew graduated to home-invasion stickups done “commando-style” in upmarket Dallas neighborhoods. One particularly memorable haul netted him, and his companions 2,000 pounds of rare coins. When the gang feared a police informant was about to finger them the snitch went missing, and was soon found shot dead.In February 1969, the Nix arm of the Dixie Mafia lit out for Covington, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb where a crew of gypsies had set up an encampment at Skeebow Trailer Court in the piney woods near Lake Pontchartrain. The travelers were itinerant workers vending bits and bobs in the nearby French Quarter for the busy Mardi Gras season. They worked for cash, and word had gotten back to Nix that the camp was filled with money, and the gypsies would be easy pickings.
“They, the victims, were herded out like a bunch of cows, and chained up like animals.” Lieutenant Hayden Laving-House would say. Gypsy Queen Margie George, balked at opening a safe in their compound, and had a hatchet buried in her skull. To drive home the point, one of Nix’s gang pumped a .45 caliber bullet into her face in spite of the fact that she was already dead.
The stickup netted the robbers $40,000
“They are a vicious, cunning, and professional group who will stop at nothing…” Chief Deputy Wallace Laird, Covington police.
The gang went on the lam with ringleader Nix seeing posses across the southern US formed in an effort to hunt him down. When one of the Mafia members was reckoned to be an informant his body was found bobbing in the Sabine River in East Texas. He’d taken three bullets to the chest before being tossed off a bridge.
On March 10th, 1969, Kirksey Nix Jr, tired of running, turned himself in to police in Atlanta. He quickly pleaded guilty to an old charge of attempting to bribe a police officer, and was sentenced to two years in jail. Louisiana officials announced they were still going to attempt to extradite him on the Gypsy Queen murder beef.
This Georgia conviction marked Nix’s first felony in an already-storied career in crime.Seven months later, in October 1969, Dixie Mafia member, and tugboat worker, Bobby Gail Gwinn was found shot dead on a parish road outside Shreveport shortly after agreeing to testify against Nix in the Margie George murder case. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana deputies last reported him to be in the company of Stanley “The Creeper” Cook, a Dixie Mafia contract killer whose friendship with Nix stretched back to their youth in Oklahoma.
With the only witness dead, law enforcement in Covington was forced to drop the gypsy camp murder case, and Nix walked free from the Georgia penitentiary in Fall 1970Cook himself would be shot dead in a nightclub parking lot in Dallas two years after his old friend Nix was freed.
On Easter Sunday, 1971, Kirksey Nix Jr’s luck finally ran out on the lakefront of New Orleans.
Nix, Peter Mule, John Fulford, and James Ratcliff Knight used a hydraulic jack to pry open an iron security fence that ringed grocery store executive Frank J. Corso’s home in an invasion bid.
Once they got inside the home the redneck mobsters were met with .38 pistol fire from Corso who was gunned down in the battle. Corso took five rounds, and would later die in the hospital.
His wife Marion grabbed the businessman’s pistol and continued blazing away as the mafia boys took it on the hoof.
Nix caught a round in the belly, and dropped his 9mm along with the hydraulic jack the gang had used to effect entry onto the estate.Their wheelman, James Ratcliff Knight, gathered the brigands into a late-model Oldsmobile, and sped off into the night. They fled to Nix, and his wife Sandra’s apartment where arrangements were quickly made to fly the wounded kingpin to Dallas, and St. Paul Hospital where he could receive treatment.
Dixie Mafia lieutenant Stanley Cook scrambled an airplane from Dallas to New Orleans’ Lakefront Airport the next morning.
Kirksey would check in to St. Paul that afternoon. Alarmed by the gunshot victim’s arrival, hospital officials immediately contacted the police. Teletype machines were humming across the south as the cops descended on Nix’s hospital room. The arriving officers quickly chained the shot-up criminal to the bed he was recovering from surgery in.
By the end of April all four Mafia members who’d participated in the Corso home-invasion were facing murder charges.
Law enforcement went code red five months later in September when two heavies got off a plane in New Orleans where it had been rumored some Mafia torpedoes were coming to town to “blast Nix out of jail.” John Darwin Eads and Glenda Henderson were arrested, and a car filled with shotguns, pistols, and carbines was impounded.Kirksey Nix Jr was quickly transferred to the high-security unit of Central Lockup in downtown New Orleans. He would sit there for five months til he went on a stopgap trial on charges of violating federal firearms laws. After being found guilty, and sentenced to five years in prison he had a quick legal turnaround as the following month in March 1972 he was due in court to face District Attorney Jim Garrison over the Corso charges.
Frank J Corso’s widow Marion provided compelling testimony as she faced her husband’s murderer in court. She related a harrowing scene where in the middle of the night she went to the kitchen for a drink of water and saw three men standing in the breezeway of her kitchen with the door propped open.
She immediately began screaming for her husband. Corso grabbed a .32 caliber pistol and ran down the hallway towards danger. “Get out of the way!” he barked.
“Then there were balls of fire coming from both ways – two men standing at the end of the hall shooting, and one came in from the side shooting.”
“My husband fell.”
After a 10 day trial, the all-male jury retired to chambers where they debated for two and and a half hours.
Kirksey Nix, Frank Fulford, and Pete Mule were declared guilty of murder. A week later the three men were sentenced to “life at hard labor” in prison. Nix was 29 years old.
Later, Nix Jr described District Attorney Jim Garrison as a “political animal of the base rank and whose morals and ethics are themselves in serious question.”
Kirksey Nix would stay out of the headlines, and in prison, til 1989 when he was implicated in the murders of Circuit Court Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret of Biloxi, Mississippi.
There’s quite the backstory:
Nix knew the only way he was ever going to breathe free air again was to earn enough money behind bars to bribe the governor of Louisiana, and be issued an official pardon.
Outsiders may scoff but this was not exactly a longshot bid for freedom. Louisiana is infamously one of the most corrupt states in the union, and has seen plenty governors jailed for taking bribes.
To accomplish his goal Nix had been running an extortion ring from his jail cell in the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. The conman was running magazine ads targeting lovelorn gay men, and extorting money from them.
“Be my summer lover. Gay white male, 140 pounds, cute,
slim. Seeks sincere warm relationship. Willing to relocate
for the summer or permanently. If love blooms, I’m romantic,
cuddly, shy and need someone special in my life. West Texas
is too lonesome…”Kirksey was funneling the extortion money to Biloxi Judge Vincent Sherry, and his attorney wife Margaret. When Nix became suspicious that the Sherrys were holding back some of his ill-gotten gains there was only one solution.
They had to die.
A half a million dollars hung in the balance.
The Sherrys were shot to death in their house in the Ancient Oaks neighborhood of northwest Biloxi on Sept. 14, 1987. The judge was shot three times, his wife four. The killer used a .22 caliber pistol.
The murders would be investigated for two years before suspicions fell on Nix. At the time the middle-aged conman was facing 74 counts of theft and conspiracy in the gay magazine extortion scam. While Mississippi officials, and the FBI were doing bloodhound work on the Sherry murders, a federal grand jury indicted Nix and two cohorts on charges they had “schemed to possess marijuana in Jackson County, Mississippi in 1986.”
When asked to discuss the charges, Nix responded from his prison cell, “That’s not my line of business. I think it’s been made fairly clear what my line of business is. I’m not the patron saint of Angola.”
Attempting to move a few dozen pounds of weed would soon be the least of Nix’s problems. On May 15th, 1991, a federal grand jury indicted him on charges of conspiracy, fraud, and causing travel-in-interstate commerce to commit murder-for-hire. The indictment only mentioned Vincent Sherry as a victim.
It had been three, and a half years since the judge, and his wife Margaret had been murdered.Finally on October 1st, 1991, Nix and his co-defendants would stand against their accusers. Following a trial that ran six weeks long, Nix, and Golden Nugget strip club owner Mike Gillich were found guilty of conspiring to murder Judge Sherry, and his wife. Prosecutors failed to prove Dixie Mafia underling John Ransom was the triggerman.
November 11th, 1991 would foreshadow the end of Kirksey McCord Nix Jr’s time as a resident of the notorious Angola Prison in Louisiana. Angola would look like a room at the Embassy Suites compared to where he was headed: Colorado’s Supermax.
On March 12th, 1992, Nix and Gillich were sentenced to 15 years apiece for the Sherry murder. Three months later Nix drew 15 years in prison on the old marijuana beef.
On September 22nd, 1997, Nix who had been swept up alongside former Biloxi mayor Pete Halat in the latest raft of charges related to the Sherry murders was sentenced to yet another life sentence. U.S District Judge Charles Pickering recommended Nix spend the sentence in a federal prison. Nix’s most recent convictions were for racketeering and wire fraud.
Pickering couldn’t resist the opportunity to rub a little salt in the Oklahoma conman’s wounds saying, “I challenge you to turn your life around in prison. I’d hate to go into eternity with the blood on my hands that you have on your hands.”
As those words echoed through the courtroom Nix was led outside and down the hall by two deputies. His next stop? The United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility prison in Florence, Colorado, the same prison housing Theodore John Kaczynski aka The Unabomber.
Muskogee Times Democrat, March 31st, 1962
Daily Oklahoman, April 30, 1968
Daily Oklahoman, February 21, 1969
Daily Advertiser, April 24th, 1971
New York Daily News, September 5th, 1971
Orlando Sentinel, November 23rd, 1971
Shreveport Journal, February 25th, 1972
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