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Spiritual Father of Hate: Joseph Paul Franklin’s Impact on Homeland Security

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist and neo-Nazi, joined 12 parishioners attending Bible study at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, took out his gun, and killed them. Thereafter, his name became associated with hate.

But before the world came to know the name Dylann Roof, there was Joseph Paul Franklin. His name is not as infamous, even though he inspired Roof and many others who share his racist views. On FBI Retired Case File Review, I interviewed legendary FBI profiler John Douglas about Joseph Franklin and Douglas’s book, The Killer’s Shadow: The FBI’s Hunt for a White Supremacist Serial Killer. During the case review Douglas told me he considered Dylann Roof to be Joseph Franklin’s spiritual son.

According to Douglas, who interviewed Franklin in prison after his murder convictions, Franklin is both a white supremacist and a serial killer. These are terms that are, fortunately, seldom used together. Douglas further described Franklin as a hate-filled, efficient killing machine who wanted to ignite a race war. If you don’t recognize Franklin by his name, you will, most likely, recognize two of his high-profile victims: Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan. Although the scale of his rampage of hate is still unclear, Franklin is believed to have killed at least 20 people and, besides his two nationally prominent victims, wounded five others.

Franklin shot and wounded Flint because Hustler magazine had featured an interracial couple in the magazine. Shot several times in the back, Flint survived but was paralyzed and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Franklin shot Vernon Jordan after seeing him riding in a car with one of his supporters, a white female. Infuriated by what he called “race mixing,” Franklin shot Jordan in the chest when he got out of the vehicle to retrieve his suitcase from the trunk. It was a miracle that he survived.

During his podcast case review, Douglas talked about a serial killer’s signature and shared that Franklin’s signature was shooting or using explosives to kill from a distance. None of his encounters with his victims were up close and personal. Ironically, although he was blind in one eye because of an accident when he was a child, he became a sharpshooter, traveling across the United States and shooting, from a distance, interracial couples and white women who had unwittingly confessed to him they had dated outside their race. He also targeted Jewish synagogues, shooting congregants entering the building or planting explosives.

If you’re wondering why it’s necessary to know the name of a White Nationalist serial killer, we need to consider the other Dylann Roofs out in the world. Lone actors of hate who feel neglected and isolated often seek something or someone to blame, while making it their divine purpose to spread racist, anti-Semitic hate. They know all about Joseph Paul Franklin and his desire to start a race war. Therefore, so should everyone who is concerned about homeland security.

Franklin was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, 2013.

To learn more about Joseph Paul Franklin, listen to the FBI Retired Case File Review Episode 222: John Douglas – Mindhunter, White Supremacist Serial Killer here or wherever you listen to audio.

Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams served 26 years as a Special Agent with the FBI. During most of her Bureau career she worked major economic fraud investigations and was amazed at the schemes and deceptions con-artist and corrupt corporate and public officials would devise to steal other people’s money. She notes that with a gun, they can steal hundreds. But with a lie, they can steal millions. Jerri often jokes that she is reliving her glory days by writing about the FBI. Her prior professional encounters with scams and schemers will provide plot lines for many years. During her FBI career, Jerri specialized in cases targeting major economic crime and corruption. Her investigation of a $350 million Ponzi scheme perpetrated against unsuspecting nonprofit organizations, high profiled philanthropists and beneficiary donors resulted in a 12-year prison sentence and multiple forfeitures; the international advance fee scam case she conducted resulted in a 14 year prison sentence and the forfeiture of the subject’s residence; and her major investigation of business-to-business telemarketing fraud, which included a long-term undercover operation, resulted in 16 search warrants, 25 convictions, and many multi-year prison terms. Jerri received numerous awards throughout her career, including four United States Attorney Awards for Distinguished Service, three of them for her work on the cases noted. Being interviewed and appearing on CNBC’s American Greed in the episode—Confessions of a Con Man—was a highlight of Jerri’s career. Toward the end of her federal law enforcement career, Jerri was appointed as the spokesperson for the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, taking on the responsibility of educating and informing the media and public about the Bureau. Post-FBI retirement, Jerri served as the spokesperson and Director of Media Relations for SEPTA, Philadelphia’s public transportation provider. Both positions often placed her in the spotlight in front of local and national news media.z Jerri is currently using her federal law enforcement experience and communication and media experience to host and produce a popular true crime and history podcast—FBI Retired Case File Review—where she interviews retired FBI agents about their high-profile cases and careers, corrects clichés and misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies, and reviews crime fiction. The podcast can be accessed on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other popular podcast apps. In her new book, FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives, she presents her top 20 clichés about the FBI. Each cliché has its own chapter, where she provides a reality check while breaking down the facts. Throughout the book, she includes quotes from retired agents about how the FBI actually works and reviews popular films and fiction featuring FBI agent characters. The entertaining companion book, FBI Word Search Puzzles: Fun for Armchair Detectives is also available. Jerri is under contract as a technical consultant for major TV networks and production companies wanting to create authentic FBI dramas and characters. Her crime novels—Pay to Play and Greedy Givers—feature a female FBI agent assigned to a Public Corruption and Fraud Squad in Philadelphia. Actual true crime FBI cases inspired the plotlines of both stories.

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