“The KKK is far from ‘dead’ and unfortunately is on the rise again in membership because of racial problems all over the USA,” ex-KKK member turned Christian tells Amandala
Many Belizeans were surprised to find out this week that a millionaire who has been operating a prominent beachfront hotel in San Pedro is actually a former Ku Klux Klan (KKK) leader from Denham Springs, Louisiana, USA. We don’t yet know if the businessman in question, millionaire William “Bill” Wilkinson (born Elbert Claude Wilkinson), has obtained Belizean citizenship, but indications to our newspaper are that he has been in Belize living peacefully since the 80s.
Some Belizeans have expressed concern, though, that the San Pedro-based businessman has not publicly renounced the KKK, which we understand is very much alive today – and still recruiting.
Wilkinson served as Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the KKK from 1975 to 1984. He established a rival breakaway group of David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 70s and 80s, right before he migrated to Belize and established a multi-million-dollar seaside resort hotel on the island.
In 2002, Wilkinson was featured in an article in the San Pedro Sun, which said “Like a true San Pedrano, Bill has lived those years unselfishly and continues to do so day after day, doing his part to provide security and shelter…” (The article did not mention his KKK connection.)
An ex-KKK member whom Amandala contacted today told us that he knew Wilkinson personally back in the 70s, when Wilkinson was the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the KKK in Denham Springs.
While not much is heard about the KKK today, the former member, who says that he speaks all over the world educating people about groups like the KKK, told our newspaper that, “The KKK is far from ‘dead,’ and unfortunately is on the rise again in membership because of racial problems all over the USA.”
The ex-KKK member, now a Christian, told us, though, that he could not indicate to us whether the KKK is organizing here in Belize.
As for Wilkinson, once the most powerful Klan leader in the USA, it had been alleged that he divulged Klan secrets to the FBI. He had been “off the radar” until reports surfaced that he had become a hotelier in Belize.
Of note is that the US had instituted a witness protection program under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 to protect people testifying against members of the Ku Klux Klan. There is no official indication that Wilkinson came to Belize under such a program, although one source suggests he did.
When Amandala spoke with Wilkinson today, he said that he did not have much to say and does not like to go into the past, but would rather stay in the present. He expressed his willingness to talk at a future time about his time in Belize, trying to change his reputation.
According to Wilkinson, he chose to come to Belize in 1984, incidentally, the year of his resignation from the KKK to do scuba diving. Wilkinson stated that he fell in love with the country, and 4 years later he moved to Belize permanently, after which he built his dream resort, The Seven Seas Resort, in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.
It is notable that Wilkinson would choose to migrate to a former British colony, in light of news reports that he had been deported from Britain in March 1978, at the age of 34. He had been banned beforehand from entering the country, but snuck in illegally via France, reportedly on a recruiting program for KKK members.
Wilkinson appeared in 1982 on a CNN show, incidentally titled Crossfire, and spoke in defense of the Klan and the ideology of segregation. In that interview, he expressed his conviction that they, whites, are commanded by God to be separate from other races – segregation was not invented by them, he insisted.
In a fiery exchange with Tom Braden (now deceased) – the co-host of Crossfire who pointed out that Wilkinson’s KKK predecessors had set the south aflame with cross burnings and lynchings—Wilkinson refuted assertions that he is anti-Catholic or anti-Semitic, but did not refute claims of racism. He said that in the USA at the time, whites were being treated as second-class citizens because of federal laws to protect the interests of minorities.
Braden—who said that more blacks died for their country in the Vietnam War than whites—quoted from a pamphlet he said Wilkinson’s group was issuing to high school whites, asserting the view that the final solution would be Black repatriation to Africa. He told Braden, “That’s your paper – not mine!”, but the talk show host insisted that Wilkinson had made the statement.
On Crossfire, he said he believed in God and the US, and that God had commanded them to separate themselves from other races—not because of feelings of hate or superiority, but because they feel it is God’s command, and, he said that anyone who criticized him or his religion for that would be criticizing Christianity for the last 2,000 years.
Wilkinson spoke of the need for a three-tiered education system: black schools, white schools and integrated schools, to give everyone their choice.
Two years after that CNN interview, Wilkinson resigned from his leadership position in the KKK, and soon after, migrated to Belize.
We understand that Wilkinson is now a widower, as his wife of 49 years, Barbara, passed away in May 2013.
Wilkinson’s facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/dumbass777. There, he says that he started at the School of Hard Knocks in 1988, the year he moved to Belize, and graduated in 2007.
The CNN video featuring him on Crossfire can be seen on You Tube at http://youtu.be/NYXZQ9BRiGw.