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Roy E. Frankhouser Jr., a veteran Ku Klux Klan leader, died Friday of natural causes at a nursing home in southeastern Pennsylvania, Berks County Coroner Dennis J. Hess confirmed earlier this week.
The 69-year-old Frankhouser found himself in legal trouble repeatedly during his decades-long involvement with hate groups and twice served time in federal prison. “[Frankhouser] at various times proclaimed himself to be a leader of the American Nazi Party and several Ku Klux Klan organizations, and was a member of at least four dozen right-wing parties,” wrote John D. Forester Jr. in a column published Sunday in Frankhouser’s hometown newspaper, the Reading (Pa.) Eagle. “He also claimed to be an undercover agent for several federal spy and law enforcement agencies and had ties to some of the most notorious crimes of the past century.”
In recent years, Frankhouser was best known for settling a housing discrimination complaint brought against him by a white woman and her biracial daughter. Bonnie Jouhari, who helped victims of discrimination file complaints as a housing specialist for a government-funded group in Berks County, contended in the 1998 complaint that Frankhouser loitered outside her office and photographed her, among other intimidating behavior.
Jouhari, who was represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, left Pennsylvania with her teenage daughter and moved to Seattle, where she says the harassment continued. The 2000 settlement required Frankhouser to attend sensitivity training, perform community service, broadcast fair housing public service announcements on his “White Forum” public access television show, and read an apology to Jouhari on his show. He was also supposed to pay 10% of his income to Jouhari and her daughter, though Jouhari said she has never received any money from Frankhouser.
Jouhari told Hatewatch that “he’s caused a lot of harm and a lot of pain to a lot of people,” but added that she hopes his death will lead the community to come together and learn to forgive. “This is an opportunity to close the book on a very bad part of Berks County’s history,” she said.
Part of that history occurred on Halloween, 1965, when Frankhouser, then the 25-year-old grand dragon (state leader) of the United Klans of America, hosted several Klansmen, including 28-year-old Daniel Burros. Upset about a front-page New York Times story that revealed his Jewish heritage, Burros shot himself in Frankhouser’s Reading home. As reported in Abe Rosenthal and Arthur Gelb’s One More Victim: The Life and Death of a Jewish Nazi, Frankhouser eulogized Burros at a Maryland Klan gathering, saying Burros had separated himself from the bad Jews. “To the good Jews, we offer our love and respect and understanding,” he said.
Frankhouser went on to accumulate quite a rap sheet. In 1995, for instance, he was convicted of obstruction of justice after he instructed a skinhead’s mother to destroy evidence pointing to her son’s involvement in the vandalism of Massachusetts synagogues and alleged assaults on blacks. Eight years earlier, Frankhouser had been convicted of conspiring to obstruct justice in connection with a federal fraud investigation into the 1984 presidential campaign of political extremist Lyndon LaRouche. Frankhouser was also acquitted in 1993 of stabbing a man who’d been hired to provide security during a Klan gathering at a hotel. Jurors decided that Frankhouser had acted in self-defense.
Despite his frequent run-ins with the law, Frankhouser claimed to be a minister; he ran the whites-only Mountain Church of Jesus Christ from his home in Reading, though the local NAACP chapter contended it was a front for the Klan. County officials twice denied him tax-exempt status for the so-called church.
Frankhouser had been living at Spruce Manor Nursing Home in West Reading for 2½ years before his death, according to the Reading Eagle. Jouhari said she’s working with clergy from various faiths to plan a memorial service for the Klansman, who has no known surviving relatives. “I think every human being deserves to have some kind of closure to their life,” she said, “no matter what they’ve done.”