The man suspected in three killings at Jewish institutions near Kansas City sprang from Johnston County, once fertile soil for racist activism.
While living with his family on a Johnston farm, few people anywhere in the nation were more active in promoting racial hatred and anti-Semitism than F. Glenn Miller Jr. He left the state after a lawsuit, a series of arrests and a short prison stint in the late 1980s.
On Monday, a nephew who lives in Johnston County said Miller’s most recent visit to North Carolina was perhaps a decade ago, for a relative’s funeral, though he still kept up with family members here by phone.
David Barker of Four Oaks, whose mother, Jacqueline Miller Cavanaugh, is Miller’s sister, said he last talked with his uncle two weeks ago. Miller had called to check on his sister, who had broken her leg and was in a nursing home.
“I talk to him quite often, and I just don’t know where this came from,” Barker said. “His wife told the media he had been at a casino and had won some money. I don’t know if he lost his money, or someone said something to him or he had got drunk.”
Miller, a former U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant, was forced out of the military in 1979 for activities related to racism, according to a dossier on him compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He lept to national prominence among hate groups in 1980 when he founded an organization called the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He later changed the name of the group to the Confederate Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and then to White Patriot Party as it turned into more of a paramilitary group.
For a time some Klan-watch organizations regarded it as the most active white supremacy group in the country, though they said it likely had just 150 to 300 members rather than the 1,500 Miller claimed.
In addition to his role as a white supremacist leader, Miller was known for perpetually running for office, at least in part so he could use the public platform to preach his message of hate. In North Carolina, his campaigns, with white supremacy platforms, included bids for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1984 and the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1986.
Miller was present at one of the most notorious incidents in modern North Carolina history, the 1979 “Death to the Klan” rally in Greensboro in which five members of the Communist Workers Party died in a shootout with Klan supporters. But he wasn’t charged in that case, and the Klansmen and Nazis who were charged won acquittal.
Miller’s legal downfall began in 1984, when the Southern Poverty Law Center sued his group. Millerwas forced to sign a consent order to stop harassing African-Americans and quit running a paramilitary operation.
In response to the lawsuit, he said the group would switch its focus from “black racist crime” to exposing Jewish communists. He continued to operate and staged high-profile rallies in Raleigh and in Shelby and Forest City, west of Charlotte.
In one Raleigh event in 1985, he led about 300 uniformed Klansmen, carrying Confederate battle flags, on a march to the state Capitol. In another, he drew a crowd of about 300 to the legislature for a protest against school integration. Police said about half were counter-demonstrators.
“Our goal is an all-white independent Southern republic just like our forefathers had,” he told the Charlotte Observer in 1986.
Miller was convicted that year in U.S. District Court in Raleigh of violating the consent order. Prosecutors said his group had been stockpiling weapons and was a threat to the government. He was sentenced to six months in prison and three years of probation but appealed the conviction.
While out on bond, he got permission from federal authorities to move to Virginia with his family, but then went underground and fled to Springfield, Mo. He then sent a declaration of “total war” against the government, African-Americans and Jews to his mailing list of 5,000 white supremacists. The declaration offered a point system to his followers: one point for killing an African-American, 10 for killing a Jew, 20 for an abortion provider and more for a “race traitor.”
The declaration decreed that he be buried in his White Patriot Party uniform with his arm raised in a white power salute. Within days, though, federal agents captured him and three other men in a mobile home filled with guns, hand grenades, ski masks, police scanners, 1,500 copies of the war declaration and thousands of rounds of ammunition.
The diehard racist quickly turned informant on other supremacists, and federal prosecutors recommended him for the federal witness protection program and offered him a reduced sentence. In a sentencing memo filed with the federal court, a civil rights attorney with the U.S. Justice Department said Miller had cooperated with investigations of crimes committed in at least three federal jurisdictions and had helped state investigators with a case in which three men were murdered at an adult book store in Shelby.
Klan-watch groups said white supremacists across the country who had regarded Miller as a hero began referring to him as a race traitor – worth 50 points to kill, according on his own scale.
When he got out of prison in 1990, Miller became a truck driver and moved to Iowa, then Missouri, where he also ran for office several times but never got more than a handful of write-in votes, according to the Kansas City Star. He sought the 7th District U.S. House seat from Missouri in 2006 and filed as a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate in 2010. That year, he bought or tried to buy advertising time on several Missouri radio stations for ads that bitterly denounced Jews, the federal government and African-Americans.
Miller had mostly stayed away from North Carolina since leaving prison, in part because he was so hated for giving evidence against the other white supremacists, family members said.
Barker, Miller’s nephew, said his father had served in the military with Miller and always told Barker not to be swayed by Miller’s thinking.
His uncle, Barker said, had always behaved well toward his family. He declined, though, to say whether he thought Miller was capable of the crimes he’s accused of or whether Miller had ever threatened violence.
Asked whether Miller had shared views on race and religion with him, Barker was silent a minute before simply saying yes and declining to elaborate.
“I could be putting my life on the line answering these questions,” Barker said. “He still knows a lot of people in North Carolina.”
News researcher Teresa Leonard contributed to this report.