Mississippi Klan: Just Turn Over a Rock

I got directions to the Lawrence, Miss., home of the reputed Grand Dragon of the state's Ku Klux Klan. No one seemed to be home at the residence on U.S. 80 marked with four flags.

That doesn't mean the Kluxers aren't around. Here's what happens when you turn over a rock in Mississippi.

Frank Edmondson owns the 2,000-circulation Messenger in the east Mississippi hamlet of Lake.

He's also a Baptist minister and a former broadcaster for 25 years. His wife of 34 years, Liz, is Catholic, a slightly remarkable Southern union for its time. They raised their three sons with awareness of both denominations.

"Two of them grew up practicing Baptists, one a practicing Catholic," Liz chuckles. "The emphasis is on the 'practicing.'"

Frank and Liz are in Philadelphia, Miss., for the trial of Edgar Ray Killen, Klansman and part-time Baptist preacher, who is accused of masterminding the slaying of three civil rights workers in 1964.

One of the Edmondsons' sons attends East Central Community College, in Decatur - a town not far from the Grand Dragon's address.

A college romance ended in tragedy. The son found out his girlfriend was dating another boy, an African-American.

"It wasn't that he was black, but that she lied to our son that hurt so much," Frank says. "We'd brought our sons up without hatred. It was just the deception."

A decidedly banal anecdote - except that it has a decidedly Old South ending.

Another young man approached the son at school, Frank says. "He told our son that he was with the Klan and they had been watching" what the girl had been doing.

The Klansman offered the Edmondson boy "help." Exactly what kind wasn't defined, but the proposal clearly held the threat of violence against the black man and, perhaps, the girl.

The offer was declined. "It was all very disturbing," Frank says. "But that's how it is still around here."

-By John F. Sugg

John Sugg, senior editor for Creative Loafing and Weekly Planet newspapers, is in Philadelphia covering the Edgar Ray Killen trial. For more, go to johnsugg.com.

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