Thomas Tarrants

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Thomas Tarrants

Thomas Albert Tarrants III (born December 20, 1946) [1] [2] is the president of the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington, D.C. and a former Ku Klux Klan terrorist. He was ambushed by local police during a planned dynamite bombing at the home of Mayer Davidson a leading ADL official in Meridian, Mississippi. Tarrants was severely wounded in the attack and later served eight years in prison. His companion in the attempted bombing, Kathy Ainsworth, was killed. While in prison he renounced his racist beliefs and became a born-again Christian.

Early activism

In the fall of 1963 Tarrants attended Murphy High School in Mobil, Alabama and protested the racial mixing of his school. For his activities he was suspended for ten days. At sixteen he was part of the Barry Goldwater for President campaign. Later he met members of the John Birch Society and moved onto the National States Rights Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and The Minutemen. He began to engaged in resistance activity by shooting into the homes of Blacks.

Tarrants became aware of the Jewish origins of Communism and their role in the civil rights movement in the South. He read the "The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" and listened to tapes by the Reverend Wesley Swift an early advocate of White racist Christianity.

On June 11, 1964 at age 17 he was arrested in the company of NSRP member Robert M. Smith in Mobile and charged with possession of a sawed-off shot gun. Tarrants pleaded guilty and was given a probated sentence. On December 21, 1967 the day after his probation expired Tarrants and Mississippi Klan leader Sam Bowers were charges with possession of submachine gun in a stolen car.[3]

Klan bomber

Tarrants became a member of White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and was involved in several bombings of synagogues and homes of civil rights activists in Mississippi. On September 18, 1967 Tarrants and Kathy Ainsworth bombed Temple Beth Israel in Jackson, Mississippi.[4] On May 26, 1968 Tarrants and Danny Joe Hawkins bombed Meridian’s Temple Beth Israel.[5]


The FBI ADL and Meridian police arranged a death trap for Tarrants and Hawkins using two Klan informants to encourage the bombers to hit the home of Meyer Davidson a local ADL leader. Hawkins was replaced at the last minute by Kathy Ainsworth. On the evening of June 30, 1968 Meridian police were waiting in ambush.

By Tarrants account he approached the Davidson’s home walking up the driveway toward the carport carrying a box with the bomb inside. His pistol was in stuck in the waistband of his trousers. The police fired first. Tarrants dropped the box, turned and ran back toward his Buick Electra. The pistol he had fell out of his belt onto the ground. The police were firing from a little hill across the street. Tarrants had to run toward them to get back to the car. When he got to the front of the car he was hit with buckshot in his right leg. He got to the driver door which was opened by Kathy when she was hit by a rifle round in the neck. Her last words were "I been hit."

The police began their pursuit with officer Mike Hatcher hanging out the window firing at the car with a shotgun. The police rammed back of the car and it came to a stop. Tarrants got out first with a submachine gun and sprayed the officer’s car hitting him twice in the chest and missing the driver. He emptied the entire clip and dropped the machine gun. Then officer Tucker, the driver, had on shotgun round left and fired it at Tarrants. Tarrants ran around the corner of a house and tired to climb an electrical fence but fell back onto some bushes.

Tarrants lied there for about ten minutes until the other police arrived. They shined a light on him, turned it off, and then fired four more shotgun blasts at a distance of ten feet to finish him off. Two of the blast hit his right arm. The police pulled him out of the bushes asking "Is he dead?" The reply, "Nah the S.O.B. is still alive."[6]

Tarrants was convicted and given a 30-year sentence. In 1969 he briefly escaped prison and was recaptured by the FBI. Similarly to the shooting a year earlier, one of his companions, a fellow escaped prisoner was killed by the FBI. In prison he became a born-again Christian and was released in 1976 after serving eight years.

Born-again Christian

Tarrants enrolled at the University of Mississippi. He later attended seminary and received a Masters of Divinity degree. He authored the 1979 memoir, The Conversion of a Klansman: The Story of a Former Ku Klux Klan Terrorist. He now serves as president of the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington, D.C. [1] and has lived in the area since 1978.


  1. Nelson, p. 48
  2. St. Petersburg Times, "Meridian Tragedy: Influence of Hate", July 7, 1968
  3. St. Petersburg Times, "Meridian Tragedy: Influence of Hate", July 7, 1968
  4. The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: a history, By Michael Newton, page 177
  5. The Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi: a history, By Michael Newton, page 179
  6. The Klan, By Patsy Sims, pages 233-235

Further reading

  • Nelson, Jack. Terror in the Night: The Klan’s campaign against the Jews. Simon & Schuster, 1993 ISBN 0-671-69223-2.

See also

External links