KKK Imperial Wizard Found In Belize After Fleeing The U.S 30 Years Ago
By Daily Mail
A former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who now lives in Belize, alongside the very race of people he fought to segregate, has told Daily Mail Online: ‘I don’t hate blacks… Ain’t that something?’
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.
‘I never have hated blacks, I still don’t hate blacks, I don’t hate anyone.’
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.
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Smiling segregationist: Bill Wilkinson took Daily Mail Online on a tour of San Pedro, Belize, where he lives, to show that even if he does not want white and black living side by side he is ‘not a racist’ and was greeted by market trader Bernice like an old friend
Reality: Bill Wilkinson in Baton Rouge, LA, in 1977, when he led what the FBI warned was the most dangerous and violent version of the KKK. Unlike other KKK leaders, he was happy to show his face
Shameless: Bill Wilkinson posed in the robes he wore to show his leadership of the outlawed group. Such was his ambition to cause racial unrest that he traveled illegally to the United Kingdom to foment hatred there
‘God has commanded me not to mix with other races.
‘I have not changed, I’m the same man I always have been.
‘I wouldn’t let one [a black person] marry my children or my grandchildren.’
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.
‘People here know about my past but they don’t care, they accept me for who I am.’
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.
He said: ‘I would get asked similar questions during the 70s and 80s.
Greeting: Bill Wilkinson took Daily Mail Online on a tour of the town to show how he gets on with people of all racists. He greeted disabled local artist Kirt Cruz with a fist bump
Relaxed: Ex KKK leader Bill Wilkinson with Kirt Cruz, a local artist in the town. Cruz said he knew Wilkinson’s views and said: ‘It takes a mentally insane person to think like that.’
Friendly greeting: Bill Wilkinson with a Lebanese shop owner who he nicknames ‘The Turk’.’When ya’ll going back to where you came from,’ Wilkinson joked to the man who called him ‘King of the red-necks’
Happy neighbor: As he walked through San Pedro, Bill Wilkinson said: ‘Some of them [black people) shout from across the street and make the shape of a Klan hood on their head but they do it with a smile.’
‘I am a segregationist. By segregation I believe no intermingling in the schools and churches, things of that nature.’
When it was pointed out to him that many people will be mystified as to why a former Imperial Wizard would decide to live among a black population in Central America, he laughed and said: ‘Ain’t that something? I don’t hate ’em [black people].’
When our reporter pointed out the fact that his toxic views are reviled by the majority of right-minded people around the world, he replied: ‘You’d be surprised.’
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.
‘Some of them (black people) shout from across the street and make the shape of a Klan hood on their head,’ he says, ‘but they do it with a smile.’
He added: ‘That doesn’t mean I would let my children or grandchildren marry em’.
Greeting another black woman he knows in town, he said: ‘What’s up gorgeous?’
After a friendly encounter, he said afterwards: ‘Do you have any doubts she knows who I am?’
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.
‘I don’t like to ask people about their past. He’s a good person, we mess with each other.’
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.
Evangelist for hatred: Wilkinson wanted to spread his message of racial division beyond the US and dodged a travel ban to hld a KKK rally in the UK in 1978, parading in Kent, south-east of London
Fiery: Posing with followers who kept their faces covered, Bill Wilkinson reveled in his use of the then 100-year-old symbols of the KKK – white robes and burning crosses
Brazen: Before he disappeared from the US, Bill Wilkinson was happy to discuss his views, going on the Phil Donahue show in 1980 and later appearing on CNN’s Crossfire
‘If you’re gonna talk like this I’m gonna leave,’ Wilkinson said.
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.
‘It takes a mentally insane person to think like that.’
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.
‘I know about his past, but I tend not to talk about it. He’s a red-neck, king of the red-necks.’
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.
Shopping: KKK leader Bill Wilkinson regularly stops at a local BBQ stall for chicken for himself and his girlfriend
Happy greeting: ‘Mr Bill, sir, how you doin’? I’m here to feed you,’ the BBQ seller said
Custom: Bill Wilkinson is a regular at the BBQ stall and says it shows ‘none of these people have a problem with me’.
Regular: Bill Wilkindon exchanges greetings with one of the members of staff at a local hardware store
Accepted: Bill Wilkinson said the friendly reaction he received in San Pedro was proof that he had no problem with other races – just that he believed in segregation
‘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’.
Victim: Viola Liuzzio was murdered by KKK ‘nightriders’ in 1965 during the Selma march
He even organized a Youth Corp within his Invisible Empire to indoctrinate young children into the KKK.
During one march in Selma, Alabama in August 1979 he told the gathering: ‘We want a free enterprise, where the best man wins. And we know who that is – the white man.’
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.
Wilkinson said Mrs Liuzzo ‘was promoting race-mixing and that’s the highest sin you can commit.’
Asked whether ‘race-mixing’ was a higher sin than murder, he replied, ‘Yes, higher than murder.’
These days Wilkinson seems in denial over the shocking views he once held, and claims the Post misquoted him.
Murder: Viola Luizzio was murdered in her car on US 80 by Klansmen. In 1979 Bill Wilkinson told the Washington Post he had ‘no remorse’ over the murder by his organization as she was ‘promoting race-mixing’
Struggle: Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr (center) leading the Selma marches 50 years ago, a scene which represents everything Bill Wilkinson opposes
‘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.
‘Black was not a word that was used, people were either called “negros” or the other N-word which I’m not going to repeat.’
Astonishingly, Wilkinson claims he and other Klan members ‘never’ sought to impose their values on any body else.
‘We’re not the great Satan. The presidents of the United States, they had slaves, Billy Graham, he operated segregation in his audiences and it was accepted at that time.’
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.
Violent: Bill Wilkinson at his paramilitary training camp in Alabama. He is the only one in civilian clothes. The camp was one of the reasons the FBI warned about his group’s danger.
Busted: In December 1980 Bill Wilkinson and his followers tired to participate in a Christmas parade in Nashville, before being repelled by police barricades and FBI agents in plain clothes
Armed: As well as advising his followers to use weapons, Wilkinson – photographed at his headquarters in Bogalusa, LA, in 1976 – was often accompanied by an armed bodyguard
‘That was the trigger for me and that’s why I joined the Klan and I did the best I could to find a solution to improve the schools.’
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.
‘He saw this happening in the background and I knew he wanted some money and I agreed to buy his membership. ‘To be honest I did it to further alienate him and had the transaction video-taped.’
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.
Yet today Wilkinson denies he hates or even dislikes black people.
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.
‘Even when I was Imperial Wizard, I was a contractor and I had black sub-contractors that I hired routinely.’
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.
Resort: This is the property owned and managed by Wilkinson, which is valued at $3 million
Relaxed: Bill Wilkinson says he likes the lifestyle in Belize, where he was recommended to go in 1984 as the oil economy in Louisiana suffered. His flight led to rumors he had turned FBI informant, which he denies
Known: The town authorities in San Pedro were aware of Bill Wilkinson and granted him a license
‘There was a point when we thought one [a race war] might happen and we wanted to prepare, but let me tell you, people say that we were the most violent and dangerous, but there was never Klansmen in my organization that were convicted of any violent crime against anybody.’
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.
‘If the fact that I say we’re facing a race war in this country 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.
‘I don’t take that personally, I believe in freedom of expression and everybody who opposed me had a right to say in the right context what they think.’
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.
Idyll: San Pedro is on the Caribbean and known for its diving and fishing as well as its relaxed lifestyle
Informal: Because it is an island, most people get around the relaxed San Pedro on golf buggies
Happy: Bill Wilkinson says he loves being in Belize and is unaffected by its racial mix
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.
‘But there was enough people that disliked President Kennedy and he was assassinated, so I don’t take it personally.’
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.
‘A friend of mine recommended that I come here [Belize], he said it was the best scuba diving. So I thought why not.’
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 seems like a man firmly in denial.
Happy: Bill Wilkinson poses with a lobster he caught in the Caribbean, and says he does not regret quitting the KKK and moving to Belize – even though it is hardly the segregated society he wants
Widowed: Wilkinson lost his wife, Barbara, of 49 years in 2013. He now has a new girlfriend
WHY BELIZE MIGHT NOT BE IDEAL FOR A KKK IMPERIAL WIZARD
The 2010 national census, shows that Belize, a former British colony, has a tiny group of people declaring themselves to be white.
Out of a population of 303,422, just 3,099, a fraction over 1%, called themselves white/Caucasian.
By far the largest group – at 150,921, was those calling themselves ‘mestizo’, Spanish, or Latino, who were counted as one racial group.
Given that it could include white Spanish speakers, the figure suggests many of 3,099 white/Caucasian are likely to be from an English-speaking background.
The second largest group is Creole, meaning the descendants of black slaves, at 63,057, while 44,092 declared themselves to be from native American groups, almost all of them Mayan tribes, like the majority of people on Wilkinson’s island.
Other smaller groups included black Africans, Asians, East Indians, and 10,865 Mennonites.
Asked if his views had mellowed, he said: ‘I can’t pass judgment on myself, that’s for other people on the outside to do.’
Wilkinson says he no longer has any involvement in Klan activity not even from a distance.
‘When I resigned I left the organization and that was that,’ he said.
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.
‘I’m not going down that road,’ he said.
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.
‘I spoke with the FBI yes, but I wasn’t an informant,’ he said.
‘I told all my members that had to operate within the law and civil rights, I didn’t want anyone killed.’
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.
Many would argue that Wilkinson is hugely hypocritical.
His vile views don’t match his actions or lifestyle.
Or could it be that this is one former Imperial Wizard who has found peace with himself and those around him – black or white?
That would be something.
SO CAN AN IMPERIAL WIZARD REALLY CHANGE? EXPERTS ARE SPLIT
Experts on extremism divided today on whether Wilkinson had changed in his views.
Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said his organization has kept close tabs on Wilkinson over the years.
‘We knew Wilkinson had gone to Belize, our impression was that he had essentially drifted away from the white supremacist movement,’ he said.
‘We never heard him explicitly denounce the doctrines of the Klan, but it seems quite clear that he’s not the same man he once was.
‘I think that’s evidenced in where he lives and his relationships with people around him.
Proof? One expert suggested it was possible for Wilkinson to have moderated his views bit a sociologists said ‘not hating’ black people and white supremacism can be compatible
‘His Facebook page is full of Hispanic and some black friends and they seem to be genuine friends.
‘So while he still holds on to his ideology, which is utterly loathsome, I think Wilkinson’s case shows that it is possible for people to change at least in small ways.’
Potok also says Wilkinson is at conflict with himself and doesn’t want to lose face by admitting he’s changed.
‘Other Klansmen would certainly see him as a race traitor and other nasty things,’ he said.
Boston based journalist and scholar, Chip Berlet, who has studied white supremacy for 40 years, said: ‘Wilkinson is a racist thug who now owns a resort in the sun, he was not a nice person.
‘Words cannot describe the vastness of the irony around him living on this island.
‘It illustrates perfectly the importance of understanding the difference between personal racism and political racism because the two exist, often in concert, but not necessarily in the same way.’
Berlet said the fact Wilkinson seemed to have black friends doesn’t surprise him.
He pointed to a study by sociologist Kathleen Blee which showed that there is an odd number of white supremacists with black friends.
He said: ‘This is a known phenomenon. The cities in the north-east of America are remarkably segregated by race, but in the South, where the Klan was born, white supremacists and black people still live side by side and that’s a peculiarity of Southern life.’
On the fact that Wilkinson says he ‘doesn’t hate blacks’ Berlet said: ‘There’s a serious group of people who study and organize against white supremacy who don’t like the term hate because it masks a more complicated reality, which is not to apologize for white racism, but to say it’s very different to what people think.
‘People who don’t hate can still be white supremacists.’
But Berlet added that he is doubtful that Wilkinson spoke the truth about his views.
‘Why would any one trust the word of an informer who sold out his friends,’ he said, referring to reports that Wilkinson’s supposedly betrayed the Klan to become an FBI informer, claims Wilkinson has denied.