SPLC: Landmark Cases: Bobby Person

In March of 1983, when Bobby Person (an Affrican American) applied for a supervisory position at the Moore County, North Carolina, Correctional Unit, an act unheard of in the history of the prison, he was met with great opposition from the KKK. On May 30, a cross was burned in front of his house and Klan literature was strewn across his lawn sometime later. The letters "KKK" were scratched onto the hood of his father's pickup truck and his wife and children were harrassed by another driver the next day. On October 12, 1983 at about four o'clock in the morning, Jerry Michael Lewis, a fellow guard, drove by in a truck robed in his Klan attire holding his hand out in a Nazi-style salute. At dusk, the truck returned with two other passengers who called for Person to come out of his house. Carrying a .22 rifle, Gregory Short, yelled out to Person who was standing behind a tree with his own rifle: "Come out from behind that tree, nigger, and I'll whip your ass."

After his retirement from the Green Beret, Klansman Glenn Miller had become a leader in the pro-Nazi National States Rights party. In December 1980, he resigned from the Nazis and founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Anointing himself Grand Dragon, Miller announced that his goal was to create the Carolina Free State, "an all-white nation within the bounds of North and South Carolina. Separation is the key." In 1981, Miller told the Duke Chronicle that "over 90 percent of the murders [in 1980] were committed by niggers...It's pretty obvious that white people are going to have to use their weapons." Miller created a KKK influenced by his military training and Klanwatch received reports of paramilitary-type training situated at Miller's twenty-seven acre farm at Angier. The White Carolinian was Miller's primary means of rallying again black, Jews, and other non-Whites.

The threats at Person's house ceased until March 31, 1984 when Lewis appeared and cursed and yelled racial epithets at Person's wife and children while Person was at work. In the spring of 1984, Morris Dees ensured a suit against the Carolina Knights while others planned his execution. Lewis joined the Klan because he was angry that blacks were promoted ahead of "better-qualified" white in the Department of Corrections. In his deposition he gave radical explanations for the violence he created and even insisted that Person had been the agressor in the truck rides. After being called as a defendant, Lewis liked the idea of being dropped from the case because he was trying to start life over by enrolling in the Tennessee Temple University, a Christian school in Chattanooga.

The settlement agreement stated that Miller would not operate a paramilitary organization and do other acts prohibited by two North Carolina statutes. One was a prohibition of civil disorder and the banding, mustering, drilling, or practicing of military evolutions without state authority.

This case was the beginning of states putting limits on the actions of hate groups. However by the end of the 1980s, the Klan had gone into decline and other hate groups, i.e. militia groups like the Patriots rose. But militia activity was important to those groups and the precendent set by this case in North Carolina was a basis for prohibition to other states. In fact the practice of an active militia is still an issue today.

deposition of Jerry Michael Lewis:

Q: So the only reason you went up that road was to go up to his house with your Klan uniform on and stand in the back of your truck?
A: Well, see...the Pope wears a white robe. My church, we wear white robes to sing in choir....I use my same robe I go to the Klan meetings with at the church where I sing in the choir. It's the same thing.
Q: Have you got any symbols on it, blood drops or anything?
A: Weve go the blood drop patch, but you can take that off....
Q: When you were riding in the back of the truck that day, were you singing in the choir? Were you out there as a Klan member?
A: No... I was just practicing a parade, because we had Klan parades coming up and down, pretty soon.
Q: So you went out there as a Klansman?
A: As a Klansman. (229)


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