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.