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KKK Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson found in Belize insists he isn't racist

March 17, 2015 3:03 PM
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KKK Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson found in Belize insists he isn't racist

Breaking his 30-year silence Bill Wilkinson – once the most powerful white supremacist in the world - hit back at claims he is a racist.

Speaking from the sun-drenched hotel resort he owns and where Daily Mail Online tracked him down, Wilkinson said: 'Don't call me racist, I don't hate blacks.

But in a baffling contradiction Wilkinson added that he had not 'changed' since his KKK days.

He said: 'I'm just a Bible-crashing segregationist. I still believe in segregation, that's how it should be.

Wilkinson owns a multi-millionaire dollar holiday resort in San Pedro on the island of Amergris Caye, living alongside the island's majority black population – the same race of people he fought to segregate in the 1970s and 80s.

Yesterday Daily Mail Online revealed that he had been discovered. In the wake of the disclosure, he took Daily Mail Online on a tour of his hometown of San Pedro, to 'show how I am with the blacks'.

The 72-year-old – who served as Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the KKK from 1975 to 1984 - reveals he is now 'happy' living among the island's mostly Black, Mayan and Hispanic population.

Wilkinson said: 'Life is real good, I love the island, it's full of very friendly people.

'I enjoy scuba diving, that's what I came here for, snorkeling, fishing.

Astonishingly Wilkinson – who runs the Seven Seas Resort in the popular tourist destination – says he doesn't believe he is 'mixing' with other races by living in Belize.

Wilkinson openly admitted he was friendly with the local black population and reveled in giving us the grand tour.

'Blacks, Rastafarians, Hispanics, you should see me with them,' he said.

The Daily Mail Online witnessed Wilkinson seemingly at ease greeting black men and women he said were his friends.

He laughed, joked, hugged and kissed several locals – black men and women whom he admitted he once marched against.

The hotel owner seems almost thrilled at the bizarre acceptance he has achieved in San Pedro.

He added: 'That doesn't mean I would let my children or grandchildren marry em'.

On the tour he introduced us to a penniless Rastafarian street artist called Kurt who called Wilkinson 'Mr Bill' and said he is his friend.

'I used to be in a wheelchair and when I met Mr Bill he gave me a cigarette and some money,' said Kurt.

Wilkinson fist-bumped the man and gave him a Gatorade to quench his thirst and seemingly enjoyed their shared humor.

But he became unhappy when our reporter began to detail to Kurt some of his old friend's more extreme racist views.

But Kurt clearly has the measure of his friend, he said: 'He may think that, but that's not what everybody thinks.

'He speaks like we can't all live together, but he's living in a f***ing town where all the people live, you've got black people, you've got Mayans, you've got Creoles, you've got Spanish.

Wilkinson says many of his black and minority acquaintances in San Pedro know about his Klan past – after all he has lived here 30 years.

Moving on he introduces us to a Lebanese shop owner who he nicknames 'The Turk'.

'When ya'll going back to where you came from,' Wilkinson joked with the man in his Louisiana drawl.

The shop-owner laughed and joked with Wilkinson and called him 'King of the red-necks'.

'Let me tell you something about this guy, he is a happy man,' the shop owner said.

On the way home Wilkinson sees another friendly black man and tosses more casual prejudice his way – something he seems to revel in.

The man asks how Wilkinson is and he responds: 'Yeah, life is good, and you? You're a long way from home,' a subtle reference to the fact that his racial origins are in Africa, despite being born on the island.

Wilkinson - whose racial origins of course do not lie in Belize either - then instructs us to stop at a food stand where he regularly buys BBQ chicken for himself and his girlfriend.

'Mr Bill sir, how you doin'? I'm here to feed you,' the Belizian seller said.

'You see, none of these people have a problem with me,' said Wilkinson as we pulled up on the golf cart.

Despite his tour of the town to 'prove' his black friends have accepted him for who he is, there's no doubt Wilkinson still harbors a racist under-belly – something he continually denies.

You only have to examine his history and some of the things he has said publicly in more detail to appreciate the true prejudice bubbling inside him.

Wilkinson was the most powerful white-supremacist in the world during his reign at the top of the Klan.

He organized hundreds of marches across America to stir up racial hatred and recruit more members.

And he encouraged his Klansmen to carry guns, knives and clubs at rallies inevitably leading to a string of violent clashes.

Such was his passion for the cause Wilkinson set up a paramilitary style training camp – he dubbed the 'Klan Guard' - to equip Klansmen with the combat skills needed in the event of a 'race war'.

He even organized a Youth Corp within his Invisible Empire to indoctrinate young children into the KKK.

During the demo Wilkinson showed a complete disrespect for civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo who was shot and killed by Klan nightriders in 1965.

It was on the last day of the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr-led march that Mrs Liuzzo, a white Detroit housewife, died in a hail of bullets fired from a carload of Klansmen along US 80.

Reminded of Mrs Liuzzo's slaying during the black Selma march, Wilkinson told the Washington Post in 1979 that he felt 'no remorse' about her death.

'She was doing an unsanctimonious thing, helping those n*****s,' he told the paper.

These days Wilkinson seems in denial over the shocking views he once held, and claims the Post misquoted him.

'I never used that word (n*****s), in any interview ever, they misrepresented that word, I always used "negro", that upset a lot of people, but that's the word I used in all my Klan days.

Astonishingly, Wilkinson claims he and other Klan members 'never' sought to impose their values on any body else.

Billy Graham, the respected American evangelical Southern Baptist minister, has been the subject of debate over his original views on race - some of his earliest rallies were segregated - but not those of most of his public ministry.

In 1953 he tore down ropes at a segregated rally, and took part in the 1957 Montgomery bus boycott, invited Dr King to preach with him, and posted bail for the civil rights hero when he was arrested.

Wilkinson said he joined the Klan after the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

'After the schools became integrated they started to have disciplinary problems and black people started to get automatic promotions, whether they passed the grades or not,' he said.

'The majority of the problems was with the blacks, they were not scholastically achieving as the whites did, so they [the establishment] started promoting them up.

'Eventually what they started doing was promoting everybody [all blacks] and I was catching on that they were lowering the standards of teaching.

Wilkinson says he was a lieutenant to then leader David Duke, but after a power play at the top of the organization he managed to elbow Duke aside.

'People came to understand that Mr Duke was not serious to the cause, he had ulterior motives and that's when we splintered off,' he said.

'I didn't think of doing it, hordes of people had asked me to because they wanted to get away from him.

Duke's departure propelled Wilkinson in to the top seat and he dedicated all his time to the Klan, travelling across America to address white supremacist rallies in a private Klan-owned four-seater plane.

When asked if he has changed, he would only say: 'I'm still a segregationist, in the facts that I don't believe that schools should be integrated and I don't believe people should inter-marry.

Asked about the violence he perpetrated during his Klan days and statements he made about a 'race war', Wilkinson said: 'We believed in being prepared, we believed in having our weapons for self-defense.

At rallies Wilkinson often surrounded himself with 'nighthawks' - Klan security guards toting sub-machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.

In a 1980 interview with the Associated Press he was a little more forthright about the Klan's violent intentions: 'If the fact that I say we're going to defend ourselves by any means is violent, then I'm violent.

Asked if he was comfortable being a hated man, even today, Wilkinson added: 'You might be surprised how few people hated me.

The hatred against Wilkinson and his Klan bubbled over at a KKK rally in 1977.

A man plowed a Jaguar sports car into a crowd of 250 people in a bid to kill Wilkinson.

Wilkinson was addressing the outdoor rally in Plains, Georgia when a man revved up his Jaguar and smashed through the speakers' platform and into the crowd, witnesses said.

Of the 32 persons injured, 19 required hospitalization, many with broken bones.

'He said he was trying to get Wilkinson,' Sumter County Sheriff Randy Howard told the Associated Press.

'He said he had a lot of black friends and he was going to get even with Wilkinson for what he was saying about the blacks,' the sheriff said.

A 30-year-old mechanic called Buddy Cochran, who had been drinking heavily, was taken into custody following the incident.

Wilkinson recalls the near miss. He said: 'He didn't like me, a lot of people were injured, all I got was three cracked ribs.

What's worse, Wilkinson doesn't believe today any of the reported 10,000 former members of the Klan who followed him in the 1980s would be upset in the knowledge their former leader now fraternizes with the local Black and Mayan population in Belize.

He claims he came to the country in 1984 when the US was experiencing an economic decline.

'It was bad particularly in the oil producing states, Louisiana being one of them,' he said.

Wilkinson's nonchalant attitude towards his relocation to a multi-cultural place like Belize may seem dumbfounding.

He even said he refused to shake the hand of black reporters he met along his travels, but 'only cause they wrote bad things about me', he said.

Wilkinson says he no longer has any involvement in Klan activity not even from a distance.

But when pressed on what his true views are today – in particular his thoughts on a black American President - he is reluctant to open up.

Wilkinson also denied claims he was an FBI informant – a reason some have speculated was the reason why he fled the States and seemingly vanished from the white-supremacist scene.

For now widower Wilkinson, who lost his wife of 49 years in 2013, enjoys a quiet life in paradise with a younger girlfriend from Louisiana.

On his plans for retirement he says he hopes to sell his $3million resort and buy himself a house further up the coast.

'I just wanna continue enjoy scuba-diving and snorkeling and spear-fishing,' he said.

While enjoying life in Belize is good he refuses to turn his back on his past in Louisiana.

Or could it be that this is one former Imperial Wizard who has found peace with himself and those around him – black or white?


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