“Burning For You”
Blue Öyster Cult
1981 — Fire of Unknown Origin
((( KKK )))

photographs by barbara hansen

september 8,  1981
vol 75 no 11

(LAKE CITY) — Six-year-old Ronnie Ginter’s eyes grew wide with fear as he watched flames engulf more and more of the 40-foot high cross.

“I don’t know why they’re doing this,” he said.

Kneeling to comfort her son, Alice Ginter began to explain about the Invincible Empire and the 19 white robed men and women bearing torches before them.

Mama will tell you what it means,” she said gently. “This is a religious type thing and it symbolizes goodness.”

Dressed in blue jeans and a red baseball cap, Bobby Smith, 18, said he turned up at the Ku Klux Klan recruitment rally to find out more about the secret organization. He clapped enthusiastically as Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson detailed the economic and social decay of American society caused by blacks, Cubans, and communists.

“It’s nice to know somebody shares my opinion,” said Smith, a K-Mart employee. “Like he said, this is one of the few places you can go and not rub shoulders with a minority.

Complete with a country and western band, speeches, and a cross burning, the for-whites-only rally in a Lake City pasture Saturday night was an attempt to drum up some new Florida support for one of the South’s oldest institutions.

“We are not based on hate,” Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson told some 200 spectators and 19 robed Klansmen.

“Our number one enemy is communism. Thank God we now have a president that agrees with us that communism is a real threat

“I for one think we need to return to a little McCarthyism to ferret out the communists,” he said.

Wilkinson who flew in from Louisiana to speak at the rally lashed out at Affirmative Action programs, the welfare system, forced busing and the influx of Cuban and Mexican immigrants into the United States. “It’s great to be a racist because if you’re a racist you’re following God’s will, ” he said.

But despite Wilkinson’s appearance and a several week buildup by North Florida newspapers and television stations, the recruitment rally drew only 200 people — an indication that the Klan has less than widespread support in the area, said UF history Professor David Chalmers.

Chalmers, author of a book on the Klan called “Hooded Americanism,” called Wilkinson’s speech “characteristic” because he was “seizing on the economic uncertainties and job fears of the white working class.”

Wilkinson is the leader of one of the three major Klan groups nationwide and is probably the most “dynamic” and “of late the most successful” of Klan leaders, Chalmers said.

Although they remian anti-Jewish, anti-black and anti-foreigners, Wilkinson’s group has dropped its opposition to Catholics and these days is recruiting women to “swell their ranks, he said.

At Saturday’s rally, a handful of robed women were present, and several handed out applications and Klan literature.

One Klan member, who refused to identify herself, had a pearl handled handgun strapped to her waist beneath her gown.

“I carry this for personal protection,” she said, adding, “I think the speech made a whole lot of sense.”

Though some spectators were reluctant to identify themselves, William Price — an unrobed High Springs businessman said he doesn’t care who knows that he belongs to the group.

“I’m not afraid to identify myself as a Klansman because I believe in our cause,” the 39-year-old man said. “We are a secret organization because many of our members fear economic reprisals. We are not stupid rednecks. Most of the people you see there (referring to robed Klansmen circling the burning cross) are respectable businessmen.”

While many spectators hooted and clapped as Wilkinson and former state legislator Shorty Bedenbaugh spoke, UF student Rick Ellis said he drove the hour to Lake City for “kicks.”

“I’m very bored,” Ellis said. “I wish they’d burn the cross and get on with it. There are too many mosquitoes.”

Alligator Staff Writers KiKi Bochi, Vinny Kuntz, Robert McClure and Donna Wares contributed to this report.

It’s great to be a racist, because if you’re a racist you’re following God’s will.”

—  Bill Wilkinson

The Grand Wizard flew in from Louisiana, and “preached” against affirmative action, welfare, forced busing, and the influx of Cuban and Mexican immigrants.

Robert McClure
Alligator Editor

Reformed Monocyclist   

barbara hansen   don wright

don wright