Sam Bowers

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Samuel Holloway Bowers
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Samuel Bowers
Born August 25, 1924(1924-08-25)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Died November 5, 2006 (aged 82)
Mississippi State Penitentiary
Sunflower County, Mississippi, U.S.

Samuel Holloway Bowers, Jr. (August 6, 1924, – November 5, 2006), was Imperial Wizard of the Mississippi-based White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He was convicted in 1998 of ordering the fire bombing and death of a civil rights worker in 1966. Five earlier attempts to convict Bowers ended in hung juries.[1] Samuel Bowers was serving a life sentence and died in prison in 2006 at age 82.

Early life

Bowers was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Sam Bowers Sr., a salesman, and Evangeline Peyton. Both sides of his family were well educated and successful. One grandfather, Eaton J. Bowers, was a four-term Congressman from Mississippi and the other a Southern planter.[2] His parents divorced when he was fourteen.

Bowers attended Fortier High School but after the attack on Pearl Harbor left to join the Navy. After the war he studied a year at Tulane University and transferred to the University of Southern California as an engineering student.[3] He moved back to Mississippi and became a partner in a vending machine business in Laurel.

White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

The Mississippi of his time was a hotbed of activism. Bowers, along with many other southern whites, was highly disturbed by and deeply feared the new changes that were sweeping the nation. He perceived the new civil rights legislation and forced integration as a direct threat to the "Southern way of life." Bowers decided to fight “the forces of Satan on this earth” by joining the Ku Klux Klan.[4]

In 1955 he joined the Louisiana based Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Natchez, Mississippi but later thought the Original Knights as being too passive. On February 15, 1964, at a meeting in Brookhaven, Mississippi, he convinced about 200 members of the Original Knights to defect and join a highly secret Klan, to be called the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, that would not hesitate to use violence to achieve its goals.

Philosophy of the White Knights

His Klan, as Bowers wrote in one of his internal memoranda, was "a nocturnal organization that works best at night. We must remember that the Communists who are directing the agitators want us to engage in pitched battles in the streets so they can declare martial law."[citation needed]

In an Imperial Executive Order issued at a Klan meeting June 7, 1964, and recorded by the FBI, Bowers wrote:

"This summer, within a very few days, the enemy will launch his final push for victory here in Mississippi. This offensive will consist of two basic salients[...]
One. Massive street demonstrations by blacks[...]designed to provoke white militants into counterdemonstrations and open, pitched street battles[...]to provide an excuse for:
Two. A decree from communist authorities in charge of the national government[...]declaring martial law[...]
When the first waves of blacks hit our streets this summer, we must avoid open daylight conflict with them[...]we must counterattack the individual leaders at night."[5]

Weaving religion into the mix, he further declared "As Christians we are disposed to kindness, generosity, affection, and humility in our dealings with others. As militants we are disposed to use physical force against our enemies. How can we reconcile these two apparently contradictory philosophies? The answer of course, is to purge malice, bitterness, and vengeance from our hearts." (Charles Marsh, God's Long Summer, p. 61) (See also: Christian Identity)

Violent campaign

In 1964, exponents of the Black-Jewish-Marxist Revolution, primarily bussed in from Northern states, launched so-called "Freedom Summer". Later that year, five of these activists: Charles Eddie Moore, James Chaney, Henry Hezekiah Dee, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were murdered by Klansmen.

In 1966 the White Knights firebombed the house of civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer. According to later testimony by ex-White Knights member T. Webber Rogers, Bowers gave the direct order to have Dahmer killed "in any way possible." After four previous trials ended in deadlock (a 1968 jury split 11 to 1 in favor of guilty, and in 1969 a jury split 10-2 in favor of conviction [1]), Bowers was convicted for the murder in August 1998 and sentenced to life in prison.

In 1967, the White Knights began a campaign against Jewish targets in Mississippi. Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson and Congregation Beth Israel in Meridian were bombed. Also, the home of Jackson's Rabbi Perry Nussbaum was attacked. The actual perpetrators of these crimes were Thomas Tarrants and Kathy Ainsworth. The later being killed in a FBI-ADL death trap.

Sam Bowers was convicted on conspiracy charges for his role in the Chaney-Schwerner-Goodman killings and served more than six years at McNeil Island Federal Prison in Washington. He was released in 1976. At the time of his death, the former Imperial Wizard was serving a 1998 sentence of life in a Mississippi prison for the 1966 bombing. During his life Bowers never apologized for his actions or asked anyone for forgiveness.

Notes

  1. "Samuel Bowers, 82, Klan Leader Convicted in Fatal Bombing, Dies", The New York Times, November 6, 2006
  2. "Samuel Bowers, 82, Klan Leader Convicted in Fatal Bombing, Dies", The New York Times, November 6, 2006
  3. The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: A History, By Michael Newton, page 127
  4. God's long summer: stories of faith and civil rights, By Charles Marsh, page 27
  5. Whitehead, Don (1970). Attack on Terror. New York: Funk and Wagnall's. 

See also

External links

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