Goebbels’ namesake put to death
Joseph Paul Franklin, a dedicated neo-Nazi with a deeply pathological hatred of Jews and African-Americans, was determined to “find a Jew and kill him.” He selected Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel Shul to target the crowd of worshippers on 8 October 1977 – and that was the one crime for which he got the death sentence.
He was finally put to death last week.
Gerald Gordon, then 42, was among the 350 worshippers and guests who attended services that Saturday morning as 13-year-old Ricky Kalina celebrated his bar mitzvah. Gordon was shot to death on the parking lot of BSKI.
Although the serial killer is believed to have killed as many as 28 people, and was convicted of eight, his only death sentence was for the sniper-murder of for killing 42-year-old Gordon outside the Shul.
Franklin also has admitted to shooting and wounding civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, who has been paralysed from the waist down since the 1978 attack. Franklin confessed to targeting the porn baron because of a double page spread published in Hustler showing a black man and a white woman together.
Flynt, the publisher of Hustler magazine, was left paralyzed from the waist down after an attack in 1978. Franklin admitted to shooting both Flynt and Vernon Jordan, the civil rights leader and adviser to President Bill Clinton.
But in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week, serial killer Franklin, who has been incarcerated since 1980, insisted he no longer hates black people or Jews.
Following his arrest in 1980, Franklin told detectives that he selected the St Louis Shul from the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory because he wanted to ‘find a Jew and kill him.’ He also bombed a Shul in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1977.
Joseph Paul Franklin in photos taken in 2005, 2007 and 2012
Investigators believe Franklin’s hatred of blacks and Jews had caused him to commit many more crimes than he was charged for. He confessed to at least 22 killings, 16 bank robberies and other crimes during the late 1970s until he was caught after the Salt Lake City killings in 1980.
Found comfort in ‘Mein Kampf’
Franklin said that his hate was bred from his origins and upbringing. His birth name was James Clayton Vaughn and he was born in Mobile, Alabama. He grew up in poverty and lived a childhood of abuse, he says.
“My momma didn’t care about us,” he explains, saying it affected him emotionally and stunted his mental development. He says he was locked up and not allowed to play with other children.
He found a family and comfort in the white supremacy groups of the American South in the 1960s and, he says, Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto “Mein Kampf” moved him from hate to action.
“I had this real strange feeling in my mind,” he says. “I’ve never felt that way about any other book that I read. It was something weird about that book.”
So affected was he by the Nazi manifesto that, at the age of 26, he changed his name to Joseph Paul Franklin. Joseph Paul in honour of Paul Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda and Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.