Robert Shelton (Ku Klux Klan)

Robert Marvin Shelton (June 12, 1929 – March 17, 2003) was an American former car-tire salesman and printer who became nationally famous as the Imperial Wizard of United Klans of America (UKA), a Ku Klux Klan group.

Robert M. Shelton
1st Grand Wizard of the
United Klans of America Inc.
In office
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
Personal details
Robert Marvin Shelton

June 12, 1929
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, U.S.
DiedMarch 17, 2003 (2003-03-18) (aged 73)
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, U.S.
Occupationfactory worker, car-tire salesman, printer
Known forImperial Wizard of United Klans of America

Career and KKK activities edit

Shelton was a factory worker and a car-tire salesman.[1] He also owned a printing business, with an office on Union Boulevard.[1] In the late 1960s, Shelton ran for Police Commissioner in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He finished in fifth place.

Following the death of Imperial Wizard Eldon Edwards, the original KKK organization began to fracture during the leadership of Imperial Wizard Roy Davis during the 1960s. Shelton started a new KKK organization, the United Klans of America in an effort to unite the various KKK factions, and served as the UKA leader starting in 1961.[1] which peaked with an estimated 30,000 members.[2] By 1965, Shelton's organization had outgrown the other KKK factions to become the largest in the United States, according to the FBI.[3] In 1966, Shelton was sentenced to one year in prison and fined $1,000 for contempt of the United States Congress, "for refusing to turn over membership lists to the House Committee on Un-American Activities." In 1969, after losing his appeals, he reported to prison to serve his sentence.[2][4]

In 1984, James Knowles, a UKA member of the UKA's Klavern 900 in Mobile, was convicted of the 1981 murder of Michael Donald.[5] At trial, Knowles said he and Henry Hays killed Donald "in order to show Klan strength in Alabama."[5] In 1987, the Southern Poverty Law Center brought a civil case, on behalf of the victim's family, against the United Klans of America for being responsible in the lynching of Donald, a 19-year-old black man.[6] Unable to come up with the $7 million awarded by a jury, the UKA was forced to turn over its national headquarters to Donald's mother, who then sold it.[7] During the civil trial Knowles said he was "carrying out the orders" of Bennie Jack Hays, Henry Hays' father and a long-time Shelton lieutenant.[5]

In 1994, Shelton described the Klan as a shadow of what it once was:

"The Klan will never return. Not with the robes and the rallies and the cross lightings and parades, everything that made the Klan the Klan, the mysticism, what we called Klankraft. I’m still a Klansman, always will be. The Klan is my belief, my religion. But it won't work anymore. The Klan is gone. Forever."[2][8]

Death edit

Shelton died of a heart attack on March 17, 2003, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.[2]

References edit

  1. ^ a b c Theroux, Paul (2015). Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads. London, UK: Hamish Hamilton. p. 74. ISBN 9780241146729.
  2. ^ a b c d "Robert Shelton, 73, Leader of Big Klan Faction". The New York Times. March 20, 2003. Retrieved February 5, 2022.
  3. ^ "No Assistance Given In Case". Lake Charles American Press. May 18, 1965.
  4. ^ "Shelton, Klan Leader, Goes to Prison for Contempt". The New York Times. February 15, 1969. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 9, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c "Emergence of the UKA". Anti-Defamation League. 2007. Archived from the original on November 10, 2007. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  6. ^ "Donald v. United Klans of America". Southern Poverty Law Center. 1988. Archived from the original on February 6, 2006. Retrieved September 18, 2007.
  7. ^ Morris Dees and Steve Fiffer. Hate on Trial: The Case Against America's Most Dangerous Neo-Nazi. Villard Books, 1993. page 11
  8. ^ Correspondent, JULES LOH Associated Press Special (December 26, 1994). "THE END? KU KLUX KLAN IS DEAD". Greensboro News and Record. Retrieved March 20, 2024.

External links edit

Preceded by Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan
1961 – 1987
Succeeded by