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


COINTELPRO Operations Against the UFKKK

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COINTELPRO Operations Against the UFKKK


FBI agents in Tampa launched COINTELPRO with an interview of James Hall, leader of a small Klan group in Clearwater, so as to “compound existing suspicions that he is an informant.” 75 Hall soon died however, so agents maintained contact with another Klansman to “frustrate” Klan organizing.76 At this point, most North Florida Klansmen belonged to the three year old, loosely organized "Province # 41" of the United Florida Ku Klux Klan (UFKKK), formed from a January 1961 merger of the Florida KKK and the United KKK. According to press reports, the UFKKK grew from about 500 members in July, to about 1000 members in Fall 1964.77 FBI investigators in Tampa uncovered eleven UFKKK units: in Apopka, Auburndale, Dade City, Haines City, Lakeland, Lake Wales, Melbourne, Orlando, Plant City, plus units 7-1 and 7-2 in Orlando. Most active were the Klaverns in Plant City-the largest and fastest growing, with 90 members of whom 25-35 regularly attended Klavern meetings, the Orlando units-with 40-50 members between them, the Apoka klavern with about 30 members, and an Orlando group called the Pioneer Club that contained about 25-35.78 By December 1964, the Plant City Klavern had grown to 100 members.79 In early 1965 Grand Dragon Jason E. Kersey of Samsula was hampered by illness, so his son, Richard Kersey, carried out official duties along with Kliggrap Alton Cooksley.80

The House Un-American Activities committee estimated active membership in the UFKKK to be approximately 300, with the heaviest concentration of activity around Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Lakeland.81 The group also controlled Klaverns in Yulee, Jacksonville, Lake City, Lake Butler, Gainesville, Palatka, Ocala, Samsula, Mt Dora, Auburndale, Haines City, Lake Wales, Apopka, Ocoee, Orlando, Plant City, Sebring, Melbourne, and Dade City. Jacksonville was also home to a twenty-five member strong splinter group called the “Militant Knights,” organized by Donald J. Ballentine and Gene Forman in 1965 led by.82 MKs check83 Another independent Klavern existed in Oldsmar, calling itself the Knights of the KKK.84

They devoted particular attention to curbing the activities of NRSP agitator Connie Lynch, a nationwide organizer who was also a registered member of Jacksonville Klavern #502 (formerly #2).85 Although the Bureau never developed any information that Lynch had directly engaged in violence, his advocacy of violence raised concern, because he spoke at 57 UFKKK and KKK meetings and rallies between July 1962 and November 1963.86 He returned in summer 1964, drawing hundreds of spectators to UFKKK rallies.87

Described as a “rabble rouser,” in one FBI memorandum, Lynch was a leading national speaker for the NSRP. Successful in “stirring up violence,” Lynch referred to FBI agents as “nigger babysitters and haters of white men.” To curtail his nation-wide travel, FBI agents alerted Florida law enforcement agencies that he was driving without a valid driver’s license.88 Although the NSRP chapter in Tampa disbanded in early 1965, the group formed a chapter at Winter Beach.89 The North Florida Klan moreover, also continued to publicly attack the Bureau’s activities.90

To expose Klan activity, FBI agents maintained contact with and provided selective intelligence information to a host of anti-Klan editors. In Miami for example, agents had contacts at the Miami Herald, the Miami News, the Ft. Lauderdale News, radio stations WGRS and WIOD, and TV stations WKCT and WLBW.91 When the East Hillsborough Sportsman's Club contacted the Plant City Courier to obtain publicity about a turkey shoot they were sponsoring, FBI agents sent an anonymous letter to the paper, which revealed that the Club was in fact a cover name for the Plant City UFKKKK Klavern. Potentially favorable publicity was thus blocked, and after the Bureau initiated contact with a source at the Courier, they gained photographs of Klansmen for their investigations.92

In March and April 1965, the Bureau provided historical information on Klan activity in central Florida, the locations of contemporary Klavern buildings and their cover names, and the names and addresses of selected Klansmen, to Tampa Tribune editor James A. Clendenin.93 Smith published a series of articles that exposed the existence of five central Florida klaverns and published photographs of their meeting halls.94 Smith subtly ridiculed the Klan's professed "moral tone," "patriotic theme" and "philanthropic" activities by detailing how Klansmen engaged in floggings and intimidation of blacks who moved into traditionally white neighborhoods.95 He found that sympathy for the Klan and vigilante enforcement of sexual morality ran particularly high in the Haines City, Davenport, Dundee and Lake Hamilton area of Polk County.96 Yet "old timer Klansmen" another journalist wrote, could now only reminisce about the 1930s, when Klansmen had protected women and children and “roughed up” union organizers.97

The articles also exposed a gun club that had existed in the early 1960s, and former Tampa Klansman Clarence Eastman described a “growing” paramilitary group called the Rangers as “similar to the Minutemen.”98 He identified two members of the Keysville klavern in Hillsborough County, and exposed its relationship to the Sporting Club.99 The Klan today, was “massively infiltrated by the FBI,” according to the Tribune, which published a description of KKK rites and organizational lexicon.100 Due to “circumstances in the past,” Plant City Klavern members had long believed that their Klavern hall was bugged, and they became even more convinced that this was the case after the Tribune series was published.101

In January 1965, after the Bureau received reports that a municipal employee was cruising through the police department parking lot and observing FBI activity, Tampa agents sent an anonymous letter to city officials.102 The letter revealed that the worker was contacting UFKKK Klansmen, "including those who [had] attacked a Lake Wales policeman in the Summer of 1964," and protested the "use of a [city?] Vehicle" and the fact that a city employee was "promoting Klan activities while on the [city?] payroll."103 The Mayor subsequently instructed his City Manager to conduct an investigation. City manager Howard Burns informed the press that the city had warned the employee in question, that the city had worked with the FBI on the matter, and that the employee "will be asked to resign" if his activities "conflicted with municipal policy."104

The Jacksonville #2 unit of the UFKKK, meanwhile, was having trouble building a new klavern building, because adjacent neighbors, one of them a former Klansman, refused to allow them to build an access road through their property. When Klansmen decided to build the road through County property using County machines and employees, Bureau agents sent an anonymous letter protesting use of tax dollars to support of the Klan, to County authorities, two local television stations, a local radio station, and the Jacksonville Journal. They sent a similar letter to Jacksonville city authorities, protesting the use of city electricity by the klavern, which was holding meetings in a building leased or rented from the city until the new hall could be built.105

In so-called “progressive” states such as Florida and North Carolina, FBI agents worked closely with State Police agencies that were willing to crack down on Klan organizing activities.106 In January 1966 for example, Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputies checked automobiles for defective equipment, causing “countless numbers of persons” to turn away from attending Klan rallies.107 Klan leaders complained about “intimidation.”108 FBI agents helped such police agencies to keep tabs on Klan activity.109 On one occasion, Plant City Klansmen had made plans to beat a man but had been scared off by police patrol.110 FBI field officers also provided local law enforcement with intelligence on scheduled Klan meetings and public appearances. Thus, to "frustrate Klansmen and disrupt activity" in March 1965, FBI agents sent information to police, and anonymously informed local news media, that Plant City Klansmen planned appear in robes on public highways in the County. Undercover police conducted surveillance on the group of 15-25 Klansmen who met for 45 minutes.111 Miami field office agents encouraged the Dade County Sheriff's Department to conduct patrols "in an obvious fashion" near Sebring klavern meetings to "discourage attendance and cause concern” among members of a dying and nearly inactive klavern.112 Tampa agents notified law enforcement officials that a Klansman was carrying a concealed weapon while driving and Bureau executives made inquiries with the Army Reserve to find out if he was buying rifles and perhaps selling them to his Klan associates.113

In April 1965, Tampa agents could report that the UFKKK had been reduced to a “hard core.”114 The group still controlled eight Klaverns in the Jacksonville area, as well as units at Deland, Lake City, Lake Butler, Gainesville, Palatka, Yulee, and perhaps Sebring, but only eight of these Klaverns, containing about 500 members, remained active.115 In the June 1965 Klan elections, the Bureau was able to position an FBI informant in the state administration.116 Since the Auburndale and Lakeland Klaverns had been "consolidated" and brought "under control," Tampa agents now moved to discredit activists in the Lake Wales klavern and further disrupt the Plant City klavern.117

In August, agents mailed some anonymous letters and postcards, and made an anonymous telephone call.118 In these communications, the State Beverage Department was alerted to the fact that a third Klansman was serving alcohol to minors in his bar. Complaints were made to District Health officials about "unsanitary conditions" at a barbershop and a gasoline station run and frequented by Lake Wales Klansmen.119 Law enforcement officials were alerted that [5], a Lake Wales Klansman carried a concealed weapon while driving.120 These operations brought results. A Province Titan led to believe that [4] a Plant City Klansman working on a government contract was an informant.121 [6,4] came under suspicion “of being a stoolpigeon and he is not, therefore, trusted as a result of [agents’] efforts.”122 After [5] was thrown out of the Lake Wales klavern and filed a replevlin suit against three Klansmen who took his Klan robes and book, agents anonymously furnished information about the suit to the Lakeland Ledger.123 In early summer 1966, the Klan meeting place was shut down. A Lake Wales Klansman was thrown out for drunkenness.124

In autumn agents alerted the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department about an upcoming UFKKK rally. The Sheriff sent numerous vehicles and employees to the rally, where no trouble ensued.125 They also informed the Sheriff’s Department that two Klansmen regularly exceeded the speed limit and drove recklessly after leaving Klavern meetings.126 They sent anti-Klan cartoons to the Plant City Courier and the director of a local radio station WPLA Plant City, both known for having taken stands against Klan activity.127 They sent an anonymous note to an Orlando credit bureau to expose and disrupt a client's Klan related activities in the area.128 They made an anonymous phone call to [4] to reinforce suspicions that [7] another Orlando Klan officer, was informant for the FBI.129

As I have discussed elsewhere, between October 1965 and February 1966, the House Un-American Activities Committee interrogated leaders and members of Klan groups throughout the nation.130 The selection of witnesses was accomplished by HUAC alone, as Florida agents did "not making recommendations to HUAC concerning witnesses except in instances where security of an informant is involved."131 In October, HUAC revealed the locations of 22 Klan units in Florida. Later on, the Committee also revealed the names of many klavern officers.132 In the last two weeks of February the Committee grilled twenty Florida Klansmen, including twelve members of the UFKKK, two officers of the United Knights, and one each from UKA, the Militant Knights and the NSRP. NSRP attorney Jesse B. Stoner represented them. 133 Joseph Huett, the police chief of Mt. Dora, was revealed to be Exalted Cylops (unit leader) of the Mt. Dora Klavern.134

Reactions among Florida Klansmen varied. One, “formerly sizeable klavern in Jacksonville was “reduced to meeting in a parked automobile.”135 The city’s Militant Knights of the KKK picketed a federal building and called upon FBI to investigate HUAC.136 MKKK members also attempted to burn a black home in June, and conducted a dangerous cross-burning (bullets were wrapped in burlap on a burning cross), at the Seminole Hotel on July 21. Lakeland Klansmen rammed a four-foot high cross through the door of WWII-era Imperial Wizard James Collescott’s daughter, who had provided her fathers’ Klan records to HUAC.137

In April 1966, Klan attorney Jesse B. Stoner editorialized that the HUAC

was once a great Committee and it did much good patriotic work when it was dominated by the late Congressman John Rankin. Now, the committee is packed with leftwing pro-communist race-mixers and political quacks . . . [who] openly endeavored to insult and entrap . . . patriotic White witnesses. . . .The committee, acting as pimps for the Federal Bureau of Integration called me before the committee in an effort to entrap me; to assassinate my character and also to besmirch my reputation by reading into their record the lies of paid FBI pimps who falsely accuse me of being responsible for most of the racial violence and killings in the South. . . . [Representative] Pool gave instructions to the Committee staff to find the identities of all witnesses' employers and get them fired if they work for Jews. FBI agents went to Bart Griffin's job in Jacksonville and tried to get him fired. When the NSRP eventually wins political power, we will prosecute, imprison and execute all of those devils who persecuted us and worked with the Communist-Jewish conspiracy to destroy our religion, our race and our nation.138

Stoner was angry, because the HUAC hearings had created significant disruption.139

Jacksonville Klan leader W. Eugene Wilson, a defendant in a dynamite bombing case, published an article in the NSRP’s Thunderbolt publication proclaiming that “we want every white person to know that we're against Jews, communists, Negroes and the FBI." He called the FBI a political police, and declared that the FBI was controlled by "Jews, Communists . . . and is making every effort to destroy the constitutional rights about white people and help the Cannibals." NSRP attorney Jesse B. Stoner represented him and other United Florida Klansman before HUAC.140

The UFKKKK, according to one COINTELPRO memorandum, was "floundering."141 Only three Klaverns continued to function in Jacksonville, with #502 (formerly #2) being strongest. Small klaverns also existed in Branford, Samsula and Green Cove Springs. The Lakeland -Auburndale Klavern and Haines City Klavern were merging into the Lake Wales Klavern, where an officer had been “unfrocked” and where bad publicity ensued after a fight between Klavern members and [5]. The Orland Klavern folded and the members became inactive. The Tampa Sheriff was regularly checking [6] and his activities. The Apopka Klavern had only a few members left.142

Once the HUAC hearings ended, covert operations accelerated, and became an increasingly important component in the Bureau’s anti-Klan effort.143 In April, Jacksonville gents sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service and UFKKK Klan officers from a "disgusted former member" that month, which alleged that officers of Jacksonville Klavern #502 were embezzling money, causing disruption and concern among the leadership. Some speculated that [6], a former member had sent the letter.144 In May, they sent out the first set of cartoon postcards, entitled “Klansmen, Trying to Hide Your Identity Behind a Sheet?” to 43 Klansmen. This raised some speculation and [7] became upset. Agents launched an investigation into reports that Jacksonville Klansmen had reproduced these cards and planned to mail them to elected officials, but FBI investigative interviews deterred them. Agents sent out second set of postcards asking “Which Klan Leaders are Spending Your Money Tonight?” in mid-June.145 In July, they mailed a third set bearing the Legend “Invisible Government-someone is peeking under your Sheet.”146

In early June, Tampa agents sent out sent #2 postcards, entitled “Klansmen, Trying to Hide Your Identity Behind a Sheet?” to 52 members of the UFKKK and to all members of the Florida Pioneer Club except one. They also sent 14 #1 postcards to members of the UKA in hopes that the two groups would blame each other for the cards.147 They sent out 60 #3 cards captioned “Invisible Government” to the two groups in July.148 Officers of the Pioneer Club became “completely demoralized” and suspected [11], the non-recipient, of being a plant, and he was expelled.149 A Tampa Klavern officer resigned his office and dropped out because of the mailings. Some Klavern members suspected that the FBI was responsible, but others, reinforced by Plant City Klavern members, came to believe that another Klansman who had deliberately not been sent a cars, had sent the cards.150 Orlando Klavern members became suspicious that a certain individual had sent the cards, and [11] became upset.151

After Lake Wales Klansmen reproduced these cards and sent them to non-Klan members in order to divert suspicion from themselves, Tampa agents sent a letter to the Lake Wales Chief of Police, advising them that [Bureau deletion] was sending the cards and “harassing the good citizens of Lake Wales.”152 They also sent a letter to the wife of [6], perhaps the same Klansman, stating that she should “Check on your husband’s girlfriend and the money he is making!”153 Miami agents had sent at least one postcard to a Ft. Lauderdale Klavern #6 Klansman’s work address. [6] was the “last remaining” founding member of that unit, and his “power and influence in the UKA far exceed[ed] the duties inherent in the office” that he held. He had been campaigning for his employer but had avoided public exposure as a Klansman.154 Agents sent a photograph of him in Klan robes to the media to “neutralize his influence in County politics.155

In spring 1966, the FBI also created a "paper organization" called The National Committee For Domestic Tranquility (NCDT), to attack the Klan "from a low key, common sense and patriotic position."156 NCDT bulletins aimed to capitalize on factionalism, to heighten internal disputes, to discredit Klan officers, to reduce vigilante activity, and to facilitate the development of informants.157 As I have discussed elsewhere, FBI executives deliberately oriented these NCDT communications toward the worldview of Southern Klansman, as they perceived it. Appealing to the anticommunist aspects of the Klan’s Christian-Patriot rhetoric, NCDT communications accommodated anticommunist aspects of the Klansman's countersubversive demonology, even as they condemned Klan leaders and vigilante violence.158

Tampa agents sent 17 NCDT letters to members of the UFKKK and the Pioneer Club in May, and 23 more in June.159 Miami agents sent the first NCDT letter to less than twenty and sent the second.160 Six Klan officials in South Florida received the letter.161 A Tri-City Klavern member at Vero Beach was provoked into discrediting one communication as a Jewish attempt to ‘”discredit loyal Christians.”162 Some UFKKK Klansmen were “shook up” by the cards, and others discussed how their membership had become known, with most recipients blaming the FBI, the ADL or the government.163 Speculation in a Jacksonville klavern that a “some ‘Jew organization’” had sent it.164

Miami Klan leaders speculated that the ADL, or perhaps an ex-Klan member was responsible. Many of them became concerned as to how identities and addresses had been obtained by unauthorized people.165 In Lake Wales an announcement was made that the FBI knew the names of everyone who had ever belonged to the Klan and that the cards probably came from them, and that a lot of Klansman had reported that their automobile, home and life insurance policies were being cancelled. All rallies were being cancelled due to reports that Klan hearings were to resume in Washington D.C.166 A Tampa Klansman [4] dropped out of the Klan after receiving a card. Tampa and Plant City Klavern members became suspicious of [6,4?].167

By June, the Dade City Klavern had become inactive and the Apopka klavern was down to six not very active members. The Auburndale and Haines City Klaverns had had only one meeting since February and only one member had shown up to the latter. The few remaining members of the Lake Wales klavern remained fairly active, and the inactive Orlando 7-2 Club had an average of nine attending meetings. Only the Plant City klavern remained significant, with 75 active Klansmen with average meeting attendance of 30 in spring dropping to 17 in June. 168

At the end of July, the Jacksonville field office "attacked" the UFKKK and the MKKKK by sending a "crude newsletter" to an active Klan organizer and 21 members of Robert E. Lee Klavern #508 in Jacksonville.169 A UFKKK speaker was lambasted for being "boring" while another Klansman, it was asserted, "could've done better that one who did speak," this in order to "increase existing friction between them." Jacksonville #2 Members were holding meetings at private homes due to fear of exposure and was ridiculed for "hiding behind petticoats." The FBI letter also inferred that "a woman not generally liked by the membership is the power behind the Grand Dragon throne" and ridiculed a Militant Knights member who worked at a hospital for having "emptied nigger bedpans."170

On July 10-12, riots followed an incident in which a white gunman killed a black man in a drive-by shooting. A black-owned store was bombed in Jacksonville on 7/20/66.171

In July, agents sent a note of complaint to the Hillsborough County Courthouse, the Sheriff’s Office, the Tampa Tribune, and the Exalted Cyclops of the Plant City Klavern about Klavern members who were driving drunk and constructing a new meeting hall without having acquired proper building permits.172 The resulting exposé, exposed fact that the building permit tacked up at the Keysville construction site had been issued to someone else and dated from 1962.173 This forced authorities to take the County Plumbing inspector to task and ultimately, to suspend him for thirty days for having given the obsolete building permit to "a friend." The Commission called for a halt to all construction. 174

When informants advised that Klansmen planned quickly complete the building over the weekend, agents made an anonymous telephone call to the Tampa Tribune, which sent reporters to the scene.175 Klansmen attempted to figure out who wrote the letters, by circulating a petition in the neighborhood. They also started driving slower.176 The Klansmen eventually received a proper permit, by changing their Klavern’s cover name, but on January 20 1967, both the old and the new Klavern buildings were burned to the ground.177 Agents sent a postcard to Klavern members implicating [6] and [5] in the arson.178 Klavern leaders became "convinced" of at least one member's guilt and began to "watch [5]'s every move." Klavern members got “all stirred up” with the 20-25 regular members “fighting amongst themselves.” Some dropped out to form a new klavern and join up with the United Klans.179 Since this Klavern did not keep their money in a bank, agents sent a postcard to a Klavern officer, accusing [4] of embezzling collections from a Turkey shoot.180

By April 1967, the UFKKK had become a minor and inactive organization, with Apoka down to six members, Tampa to five, Auburndale at three to five, Orlando 7-2 “dying on the vine” and Haines City defunct. The twenty-five member Plant City Klavern was beset by schism, and the Lake Wales Klaverns had left to join the UKA.181 Area Klansmen were in no position to respond to the riots that rocked Tampa that June.182 The FBI continued to monitor the group, but no significant growth occurred. As of April 1968 the Apopka Klavern had united with the Orlando Klavern so as to have attendance for meetings. The Plant City Klavern was down to 10-15 members. When a new Klavern arose in Dade City that month, agents interrogated the members.183 As remaining UFKKK members joined the relatively larger UKA, agents apparently instructed their informants not to thwart the process.184 This may explain why Klansmen made no appearances at a Tampa High School where interracial fights broke out.185 Klansmen were not involved in the brutal beating of a black boy in Altamonte Springs, Orlando either, and did not make an appearance after interracial fights at a football game in Titusville that September.186

By April 1969 the Orlando Klavern # 7-2 was inactive.187 Units at Auburne, Dade City, Plant City and Tampa meanwhile, “continue[d] to be contained through Tampa sources.”188 An October meeting of State officers and Exalted Cyclopses in Samsula attracted only a discouraging thirteen.189 By 1970, remaining Klaverns contained very few members, with Plant City, formerly the largest unit, down to ten members.190 By March only the depopulated Orlando Sherwood # 7-2 and Plant City Klaverns remained, with Tampa defunct and Dade City having folded, their few remaining members transferring over to the UKA and Dade City.191 Held in check by interviews,192 the group was never reorganized.193






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