Monday, April 14, 2014

The KKK, N.C. and the Jewish slayings

If news reports are true, the suspected shooter in the Overland Park, Kansas, killings of three people at two Jewish centers was likely involved in Ku Klux Klan activities in North Carolina at the same time I was coordinating coverage of the Klan here as an assistant state editor of the Observer in the mid 1980s.

The Overland Park shooter has been identified as Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who is also known as F. Glenn Miller. The suspect, who has been a white supremacist for decades, allegedly yelled a Nazi salute after the shooting, witnesses said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has documented Miller's activities and said he served as grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and founded the White Patriot Party in 1980. He was a candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary election in North Carolina in 1984 and ran in a Republican primary for a state Senate seat in 1986 - finishing last both times.

In 1985, Observer reporters were detailing an ongoing presence of the Klan in places like Iredell County. I remember driving through the county and seeing a sign that blatantly proclaimed "welcome to Klan country."

It wasn't as disconcerting as it might seem these days. I had already covered Klan parades in Florida as a reporter a few years earlier. And Klan parades were still happening all across the South.

In 1986, the Observer editorial board commended then Gov. Jim Martin for "his decision to establish a state commission on bigotry and hate groups, charged with studying the causes and possible cures of the recent increase in racially motivated violence. The mere existence of the commission represents a statement - a declaration that North Carolina does not welcome the stain of racial bigotry on its conscience and political climate, and that our officials intend to do something about it. We're also glad to see aggressive police work aimed at hate groups - the kind of vigilance that recently led to the arrest of three White Patriot Party sympathizers [including Miller, by the way] ..."

One of the big Klan leaders we covered in the Tar Heel state for a number of years was Virgil Griffin, who established a presence in Iredell County, just a few months after federal investigators began filing charges against members of a rival Klan faction. Griffin, 41 at the time in 1985, of Mount Holly in Gaston County, "is best known as one of the nine Klansmen and Nazis acquitted in the fatal shootings of five communists at a Greensboro housing project in 1979," our reporter Keith Griffin wrote at the time.

Griffin died in 2009. He was still preaching his hate in 2005 when a commission revisited the Greensboro shootings, declaring that "maybe God guided the bullets" that killed those who died.

I don't know if Griffin's and Miller's paths crossed. But if Miller did what he is accused of, he carries the same brand of hatred around.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Miller "has been in the movement nearly his entire life. ... [The center sued him in the 1980s] for operating an illegal paramilitary organization and using intimidation tactics against African Americans.

"After subsequently forming another Klan group, the White Patriot Party, he was found in criminal contempt and sentenced to six months in prison for violating the court settlement. He went underground while his conviction was under appeal but was caught by the FBI with a weapons cache in Missouri. He served three years in federal prison after being indicted on weapons charges and for plotting robberies and the assassination of SPLC founder Morris Dees. As part of a plea bargain, Miller testified against other Klan leaders in a 1988 sedition trial."

"Our research shows that racist killers are hiding among us in plain sight. A forthcoming two-year study by the SPLC will show that nearly 100 people in the last five years have been murdered by active users on another prominent racist website, Stormfront.org."

It's sad that this kind of hatred persists.

- Fannie Flono

5 comments:

NC reader said...

None of the three slaying victims in Kansas was Jewish.

OldMod1 said...

Three words: American, "Christian", terrorists.

Garth Vader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garth Vader said...

Too bad Miller didn't just order up thousands of drone bombings; he coulda won a Nobel Peace Prize.

larryfla said...

It would have been so much nicer if he hadn't been a Klan member, right? Seriously, a killer is a killer.