Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups

By Stephen E. Atkins | Go to book overview

T

Tarrants, Thomas Albert (1947-)

Thomas Tarrants, the bomb expert for the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan during its bombing campaign in 1967 and 1968, was born on December 20, 1947, in Mobile, Alabama. His father, a used-car salesman, was a staunch segregationist. Tarrants attended Murphy High School in Mobile when the school was in the middle of desegregation. One of the students arrested for violently demonstrating against the federal court order, he was charged by police with disorderly conduct. In his junior year, Tarrants dropped out of school and began working with several local segregationist leaders. With several young, right-wing radicals, he formed the Christian Military Defense League. Several times Mobile police stopped him and found weapons on his person. Each time he was let off with probation or without charges. In August 1967, he started a job as a maintenance worker at the Masonite plant in Laurel, Mississippi.

Tarrants approached the head of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Samuel Holloway Bowers, with a plan to launch a bombing campaign against prominent Jews and key civil rights leaders in Mississippi. At first, Bowers was reluctant to trust Tarrants because of the fear that he might be a federal undercover agent. To prove his dedication, Tarrants, and his accomplice Kathryn Madlyn Ainsworth, planted a bomb in Jackson's Temple Beth Israel Synagogue on September 18, 1967. This bombing convinced Bowers that Tarrants was sincere in his commitment to the White Knights. Because Tarrants was unknown to the rank-and-file members of the White Knights, federal agents had no clues to his identity. Tarrants conducted three more bombings in the autumn of 1967. State police had a lucky break when a policeman in Collins, Mississippi, stopped a car with Bowers and Tarrants in it in December 1967. Tarrants was arrested for possession of a 45-caliber machine gun. Federal agents looking for the bomber, however, were still unaware of the significance of this arrest.

Tarrants's career as a bomber ended when federal authorities learned about his next target. Still unaware of his existence, federal agents started looking for ways to break the case. They interrogated the Roberts brothers, Allon Wayne and Raymond, and bribed them into providing information about Tarrants. The Roberts brothers, veteran members of the White Knights, were in serious trouble with the law over their Klan activities. They were also close enough to Bowers to know about Tarrants. Tarrants's next assignment was to bomb the home of Meyer Davidson, a prominent member of the Jewish community, in Meridian, Mississippi. On the night of June 28, 1968, Tarrants picked

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Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Chronology of Events vii
  • Introduction xxi
  • A 1
  • B 26
  • C 57
  • D 80
  • E 89
  • F 96
  • G 110
  • H 123
  • I 137
  • J 142
  • K 149
  • L 166
  • M 184
  • N 215
  • O 230
  • P 238
  • Q 252
  • R 253
  • S 267
  • T 291
  • U 301
  • V 304
  • W 306
  • Y 326
  • Z 328
  • Selected Bibliography 331
  • Index 339
  • About the Author 375
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