Stoner, Jesse Benjamin, 1924-2005


Jesse Benjamin Stoner, Jr. was born in 1924 in Walker County, Ga., near Chattanooga. At 18, he re-chartered a dormant chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Chattanooga. His philosophy, according to Taylor Branch in his 1998 book "Pillar of Fire," derived from a California fundamentalist, Wesley Swift, who saw Anglo-Saxons as God's chosen people. Mr. Stoner started an anti-Semitic political party in 1945, graduated from Atlanta Law School in 1952 and soon started a second anti-Semitic party. He also helped found the National States Right Party and ran for vice president on the party's ticket in 1964, receiving 6,980 of 70.6 million votes cast. A member of the Ku Klux Klan from his teens, he shadowed the man he called Martin Lucifer King as Dr. King led demonstrations across the South, holding rallies of his own. He was later on the legal team for James Earl Ray, Dr. King's assassin, in the appeal of his conviction. While campaigning again for governor in 1977, he was indicted on charges of bombing Bethel Church in Birmingham in 1958; there were no casualties. He was convicted in 1980 and served three and a half years of a 10-year sentence. -- New York Times Obituaries, April 29, 2005.

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