Add Jack Roberts and Florida TV interview from post dis and BH file section 3 The FBI, COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE, and the Ku Klux Klan in Florida 1964-1971
Between September 1964 and April 1971, the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a domestic covert action program named COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE. This counterintelligence program endeavored to discredit, disrupt, and vitiate the Ku Klux Klan and other white-supremacist vigilante groups.1 While historians are quite familiar with the FBI's efforts to nurture anticommunism and to disrupt civil rights and leftist movements, the FBI's role in neutralizing KKK groups in the American South during the late 1960s has not been systematically assessed.2 Kenneth O’Reilly, William Keller and Richard Gid Powers have described the process by which Johnson administration officials pressured the FBI to conduct domestic security investigations against the Klans, and analyzed why the Bureau exceeded this mandate in September 1964, by launching the covert action program. David Cunningham has described the organizational structures of the FBI, and analyzed its influence on COINTELPRO targeting decisions. He has distilled a typology of COINTELPRO tactics and advanced arguments as to why they proved effective. Yet no one has systematically assessed the actual effects of COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE on the Klans.3 This article describes and assesses the effects of COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE operations against Florida Klan groups. It provides an important comparison to FBI operations in the Deep South, where local law enforcement authorities were often less willing to suppress Klan activity. Along with my studies of COINTELPRO-WHITE HATE in other states, this article provides the first detailed account of COINTELPRO’s effect upon white-supremacist groups in the 1960s.4 Klan Activity in Florida Before 1964 According to historian David Chalmers, Florida hosted 30,000 Klansmen, including 1500 in Miami during the 1920s.5 They joined a myriad of individual Klaverns, and Klan activity was characterized by “anarchic localism.”6 Vigilantes intimidated black voters in Orlando, Jacksonville, and Duval and Orange counties in Fall 1920, and whipped a black man in Miami. Klansmen whipped more than 100 people in 192, and in Key West lynched Manolo Cabeza that Christmas.7 In January 1923, Klansmen participated in the destruction of the independent black community of Rosewood, killing perhaps one hundred residents.8 Perhaps because no Klan leader ever emerged to lead a united drive for political power, the Florida Klans met with public acquiescence. Thus although Klan activity declined in most of the rest of country after 1928 in the wake of political and moral scandals, Klan vigilantism lasted into the 1930s in Florida.9 In the citrus-growing areas of Central Florida for example, Klansmen targeted vice and organized labor.10
In Tampa, businessmen sponsored extralegal vigilante violence, repressing a cigar worker strike in 1931.11 By mid-decade, however, "notable members of Tampa's economic elite, including . . . leaders of the Chamber of Commerce, joined most cigar manufacturers in accepting union recognition and collective bargaining under the New Deal," according to Robert Ingalls.12 A lynching of a black prisoner in 1934 reinforced a growing view among Tampa’s business and commercial elites that vigilante violence had to be contained, lest the city's violent image discourage capital investment. When an opposing political candidate was flogged to death by a group of policemen and Klansmen who "identified with traditional southern values that equated socialism with communism and race mixing" in 1935, local officials decried the violence and, for the first time, State authorities prosecuted a group of vigilantes.13 By 1940, Tampa had been dropped from the American Civil Liberties Union’s annual survey of communities that suppressed civil liberties.14
In the 1960s, Tampa whites "responded nonviolently" to the civil rights movement. They emphasized “moderation and cooperation," and made “a conscious attempt to avoid violence by blacks or whites that would tarnish the city's progressive image."15 Civic and business elites avoided coercion and repression, relying instead on persuasion and volunteerism to integrate public facilities.16 In keeping with this approach, Tampa police cracked down on vigilante activities. In April 1960 for example, police broke the Tampa Amalgamated Gun Club, after discovering that the Klan group had stockpiled weapons. Several Klan members were interrogated in connection with a shooting into a home. In September, police arrested several Florida Ku Klux Klan members after they chased and threatened black teenagers in Plant City, a community located 25 miles to the east. Police also maintained public order, consistently thwarting Klansmen who planned to disrupt sit-ins, thereby “just about caused Plant City klavern to break up.” Across the Bay in Bradenton, police arrested several members of the United Klans, who had demonstrated the Klan’s presence by walking city streets in Klan robes, in 1961.17
Elsewhere in the state however changes in race relations such as an increase in black voting registration that made them a factor in elections fomented an “incipient backlash” after WW II.18 In Polk County, night riders fired into homes in July 1949. In 1950, crosses burned in at the Lakeland home of a civil rights activist, and vigilantes bombed a restaurant in Bartow.19 From his home base in Tallahassee Bill Hendrix organized Klan units (Klaverns) in Palm Beach and Orlando. In 1951, Klansmen murdered two black men, in Winter garden and Tampa, and nearly killed an Orlando man after beating him. In Miami, the desegregation of the city’s Carver Village housing project that summer precipitated Klan organizing, white motorcades accompanied by rock throwing, and the shooting of a black man. On September 22, two 100-pound boxes of dynamite blasted an untenanted building at the complex. In October, three bombs exploded, at Jewish schools and synagogues in the city. On November 30 a second blast rocked an empty building at the complex, and bombs exploded at Carver Village, a Jewish Synagogue, and in a residential area. Another bomb found on the steps of a Catholic church during this period. Floggings were reported in Orange County. Then, on Christmas Eve, NAACP leader Harry Moore and his wife were killed by a bomb that someone had planted under their home in Mims, just north of Titusville.20
In addition to pushing black voting rights and equal pay for black teachers since the 1930s, Moore had pursued a recent case of police brutality involving rape suspects in Groveland Florida, a case that the FBI had dropped. Bureau relations with south law enforcement had become strained by Civil Rights investigations despite the Justice Department’s dismal record of obtaining convictions by Southern juries.21 The Moore killing precipitated an intense uproar of international press coverage, and sparring with Soviet representatives at the United Nations, even as President Truman and the Governor of Florida were swamped with letters. Unions and church groups also protested, with some threatening to boycott Florida citrus fruit and the State tourism industry. Attorney General Howard McGrath and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were inundated with demands to investigate the crime, and McGrath granted "unprecedented authority" to FBI, for first time in its history, to find the perpetrators.22
The FBI "conducted an exhausted, full-throttled, no holds-barred investigation."23 Twenty FBI agents uncovered a three-year reign of terror, including an incident in 1947 in which a black woman’s house in a white neighborhood had been razed in an arson-attack. Agents interviewed dozens of Klansmen in Orlando, Winter Garden and Apopka, as well as many known and former Klansmen in Orange County. They reviewed documents stolen from the Apopka Klavern by local businessman Lee MacWhithey. They placed Orlando Klan renegades Tillman Belvin and Earle Brooklyn, (alleged to have displayed map of Moore’s residence at an Apopka Klavern meeting), under constant surveillance, and tapped their phones until September 1952. Agents found evidence of Klan infiltration of law enforcement agencies, and came to focus on a Brevard County political boss who controlled the City machine and the local Democratic Party. The largest employer of blacks in the County, the sawmill owner had controlled black vote in previous elections.24 According to FBI informants, Sheriff McCall had gone to an Atsula Klan meeting after the bombing and advised Klansmen not to talk to the Bureau.
Klan violence continued into 1952, yet Klan leader Edgar W. Waybright was elected Chair of the Duval County Democratic Party.25 In October, a Federal Grand Jury heard testimony on all the Miami bombings and subpoenaed forty-seven witnesses, including twelve Klansmen. On 9 December 1952, the Grand Jury indicted three Klansmen for lying-to federal agents or on federal job applications-with regard to the Carver City bombings. Thirty witnesses were subpoenaed for the Moore bombing in February 1953. In late March, the Grand Jury is sued an indictment for the murder, flogging, dynamiting, and arson encompassing the period 1943-1951. It clearly placed blame for the Moore killing on the John B. Gordon Klavern in Hialeah. A Federal Judge ruled that none of the crimes involved federal jurisdiction however, and the Justice Department chose not to appeal.26 One Hialeah Klansman was convicted of concealing membership in a secret organization in his application to be a postal employee, based upon testimony from a Ft. Lauderdale police officer elected to a Klan office after he infiltrating the group for the FBI.27
After the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, segregation became the dominant issue in Florida politics. To counter a segregationist insurgency, including Klan threats, during the 1956 gubernatorial primary, formerly moderate Governor LeRoy Collins moved far to the right. In the two succeeding gubernatorial contests, the strongest segregationist candidate won by attacking his opponents for being too moderate on race.28 Florida gained the second largest number of Klansmen in any state as of 1957, organized under the Florida Ku Klux Klan.29
Dade County undertook token school desegregation in 1959.30 Several hotels, mostly Jewish owned, had desegregated in 1956.31 CORE conducted voting rights drives between 1958 and 1964, speeding the end of Jim Crow in Miami as politicians began to solicit black votes.32 Governor Collins also reversed course and began voicing support for desegregation.33 CORE conducted sit-ins in 1959 and after two years, suceeded in integrating downtown lunch counters, restaurants, hotels and theaters, by negotiating behind the scenes with city and county buisiness leaders, as well as Mayor Robert High and Governor Collins. The NAACP and the Urban League joined to integrate Broward County beaches, parks, pools and golf courses in 1960-1961.
Thus, Florida authorities flirted with massive resistance, but resistance was relatively weak in South Florida due to heavy in-migration of northerners, who responded favorably to black initiatives.34 The Citizens Councils thrived in black belt, and Northern Florida saw the rise of several resistance groups, including Klan groups, strongest in the rural counties adjacent to the Apalachicola and Suwannee Rivers, and concentrated in the area from Marion county northward. Central Florida also experienced Klan revival. In St. Petersburg, Rev. C. Lewis Fowler, who headed the Kingdom Bible Seminary, was an active Klan organizer.35 A racially mixed family of citrus pickers forced out of Eustis Florida by men claiming to be Mt. Dora Klansmen.36 Four hooded white men fired shotgun blasts into a labor rally, wounding twelve blacks in Umatilla. Shotgun blasts were fired through windows of a Masonic Hall during labor meeting to organize citrus workers in Lake County, the scene of at least three shootings.37
Journalist Stetson Kennedy linked the Georgia Klan-Columbians story to Klan violence in Florida, keeping Brown Scare era themes alive in anticipation of anti-Klan exposés in the 1960s.38 Nevertheless, by 1957, Florida had the second largest Klan membership in the nation.39 Five bombings occurred in Jacksonville and one in Miami and Havana in 1958.40 Two Jewish community centers in Jacksonville and a synagogue in Miami. Claimed by Confederate Underground.41 Governor Leroy Collins instructed sheriffs to ban as far as lawfully possible and Klan or NAACP demonstrations.42 By the end of the 1950s, remaining Klan strength coalesced in the Northeast corner of the State, with about 1000 Klansmen spread among five Klan organizations.43 The postwar and post-Brown period then, was also characterized by localism, as a myriad of statewide and regional Klan groups rose and fell, incorporating local Klaverns (Klan units) into constantly shifting coalitions.44
In response to the advent of direct action phase of the civil rights movement in August 1960, a Jacksonville group called the Florida Ku Klux Klan marched, burned crosses and beat sit-in protesters with ax handles.45 Despite forewarning, police failed to act against what appeared to be a carefully planned assault against peaceful demonstrators, as well as black citizens who had nothing to do with the sit-ins, arresting and assaulting blacks instead of stopping the mob.46 Governor Collins, however, sent a staff member to work with the NAACP for a resolution of racial problems in the city.47
By late-Spring 1962, two Klan groups had organized in the city, as well as seven in the Tampa area, but no activity in Miami.48 3/63 reports that “freemen” formed action group to eliminate jewish businessmen, govt. officials and commies, while Council for Statehood engage in target practice in West Palm beach.49 ANP near Jacksonville50 In response to civil disturbances in November 1963, agents provided intelligence to local police about militants said to possess hand grenades, and rumors of an assassination plot against NAACP activist Dr. Robert Hayling.51 Yet law enforcement officers in St. Augustine worked with this group of lower middle class vigilantes in 1963-1964. Sheriff L. O. Davis deputized more than 100 members of the United Florida KKK’s St. Augustine Klavern, led by Holstead, "Hoss" Manucy, to suppress black demonstrations.52
Watchdog groups detected an upsurge in Klan activity during 1964, with total membership rising in the three most active Florida counties, Duval, St. Johns, and Nassau.53 Membership in Eunice Grover Fallaw’s Ancient City Gun Club swelled after he introduced NSRP agitator Connie Lynch to Klan audiences outside St. Augustine and participated in the beating of NAACP activist Robert Hayling. FBI agents became concerned about “criminal types” in this group that “would take action just for kicks.”54 In Duval, a group of United Florida Klansmen stole 13 cases of dynamite and made crude fragmentary grenades, which they hurled at the Jacksonville NAACP office and a black-owned liquor store in early 1964. On February 6, Robert E. Lee Klavern Kligrapp Robert Gentry shot at a black truck driver from a car driven by Indiana resident William Rosencrans, who had been recruited by Exalted Cyclops Bart Griffin. Ten days later Rosecrans bombed the family home of six year old Donald Godfrey, a black child who had integrated Lackawana elementary school the previous September.
The Klan helped Rosecrans flee to St. Augustine, where Sheriff Davis helped to hide him, but Mauncy fingered Rosencrans to FBI agents investigating a February 27 double bombing of a strike-bound Florida East Coast railway, in an effort to collect money for the information. A polygraph test absolved Rosecrans of those crimes, but pointed to his guilt in other cases; his fingerprints were found on sticks of dynamite recovered on a highway. Rosecrans confessed to the Godfrey bombing, naming six accomplices. His guilty plea resulted in a seven-year prison sentence, but none of the other defendants were convicted.55
In November 1964, while on a recruiting trip in Jacksonville, United Klans of America officers had met with these defendants. UKA Imperial Klonsul Matt Murphy served as an attorney for some of them even though UKA Kleagles expected trouble while recruiting in UFKKK territory. FBI informant Gary Thomas Rowe later testified that UKA officers including Robert Scoggin and members of the Imperial Klokan Committee, agreed to eliminate Rosecrans if an opportunity presented itself and that certain Alabama Klansmen were assigned to this task.56 The National States Rights Party (NSRP) however, protested what it called a “conspiracy against Jacksonville whites,” in its Thunderbolt newspaper and staunchly defended Rosecrans, alleging that the FBI had coerced him into pleading guilty, and had threatened other Klan members. The new UFKKK Grand Titan, the Thunderbolt alleged, was a FBI spy.57 In November, Barton Griffin and Gene Wilson were introduced at a NSRP meeting in Birmingham as “white Patriots who had been framed” by the FBI.58
The bombing, investigation, and arrests brought racial tensions to a head in Jacksonville. Police had already arrested 200 children and 23 adults during two weeks of demonstrations aimed at desegregating restaurants and hotels, when rioting broke out. A black housewife was killed in a drive-by shooting, and at least a dozen whites were injured in racial attacks, including one white man who was tied to tree and cut up. After police arrested 465 black citizens, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP accused police of overreacting. He demanded that the FBI investigate a forcible police entry at the Jacksonville NAACP office, as well as police arrests without warrants, and assaults on workers. Reluctantly, the Mayor appointed a biracial commission.59
On April 25, a firebomb razed Griffin’s home to the ground. Recruiters for different Klan groups attempted to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the trial of the remaining defendants. On May 2 Griffin shared a speaker platform with NSRP activist and defense attorney Jesse Stoner, who denounced J. Edgar Hoover as a pawn of Jewish-communists and homosexual. A pre-rally parade organized by a UKA Titan also included marchers from a black-robed group called the Knights of the Golden Eagle. Assisted by UKA Klonsel Matt Murphy, Stoner argued that federal agents were attempting to frame the defendants by paying informants to lie in court. An all white jury acquitted one defendant on both counts of conspiracy and violation of Godfrey’s civil rights, cleared a second on one count, and failed to reach a verdict on the remaining charges.60 In response, Bureau executives stepped up their efforts to predict and contain outbreaks of racial violence, investigating whether Sheriff L. O. Davis had deputized Klansmen, and making inquiries with informants as to Klan plans.61
On June 22, 275 whites marched and listened to J. B. Stoner’s harangues, and police rescued New York Times reporter John Herbers rescued from the mob. Young whites waded knee deep into the surf to strike four blacks attempting to integrate beaches, and thwarted a wade-in the next day. An white Episcopal church allowed blacks to worship, but four blacks and one white were arrested for attempting to integrate a Methodist church.62 In the second week of July, a gang of whites wielding baseball bats and rubber hoses attacked four black teenagers who were attempting to integrate a re-segregated restaurant.63 FBI agents photographed the perpetrators and provided copies to Justice Department prosecutors.64 A U.S. District Court judge briefly jailed Manucy and Jermome Goodwin for refusing to supply Klan membership lists.65
In late July, St. Augustine police arrested Jacksonville Klan leader Paul Cochran, along with Stoner, Lynch, Barton Griffin and Bill Coleman, for burning a cross at a Bakery. William Stewart Williamson and Robert Edward Leonard were arrested for carrying concealed weapons and pornographic materials. That same day however, someone firebombed a motel that was undergoing pressure to desegregate.66At the end of August, vigilantes fired five shotgun blasts into civil rights workers’ cars in Madison.67 In November someone took six shots at black businessman Sam Solomon, three of which hit his moving automobile near St. Augustine,.68
The Ancient City Gun Club however, began succumbing to “severe internal disorder,” during these months. After “violent arguments,” the group became inactive and disorganized, evidently because an informant in the group had caused disruption.69 Public exposure finally forced local authorities to curb armed UFKKK motorcades in late 1964-early 1965. The UFKKK? ACGC? collapsed after completion of court action in St. Augustine.70 According to informants, Manucy was “dropped from a comman position in St. Augustine.”71 By April, informants reported that the unit had broken up because Manucy had held down violence and provided information about Jacksonville Klansmen, and that Buddy Cooper had formed a new Klan unit.72
In Orlando, after members of the black “Nasty Bono” gang committed a series of crimes in which white victims were beaten, raising concerns that white citizens might arm themselves and patrol the streets at night, the FBI pursued and arrested two fugitive gang members in West Virginia.73 Agents also opened an intensive investigation after receiving reports that Klansmen were plotting to kill several individuals active in the integration of the Indian River County School system.74