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Murdered Racist Leader May Have Propositioned Killer

Richard Barrett, a longtime white supremacist who denigrated blacks and gays, was murdered in April at his home in Pearl, Miss.

Richard Barrett, a longtime white supremacist who denigrated blacks and gays, was murdered in April at his home in Pearl, Miss.

In a strange twist, the accused killer is a 22-year-old black man who told police that Barrett propositioned him. A Rankin County (Miss.) undersheriff testified at Vincent McGee's arraignment that McGee said he beat and stabbed Barrett after the 67-year-old lawyer made sexual advances toward him, according to The Associated Press. 

McGee, who was Barrett's neighbor, had done yard work for Barrett, but told the AP that he did not know about Barrett's racist activism as head of the Nationalist Movement. McGee could face the death penalty if convicted of the capital murder charge. Three others have been charged as accessories after the fact.

Barrett's alleged homosexuality, while ironic given his many anti-gay rants, is not that unusual. Others in the movement have shown similar hypocrisy. They include avowed "Aryan" revolutionary Leo Felton, who actually had a black parent, and anti-Semite William Potter Gale, who was secretly descended from a long line of devout Jews.

Though Barrett, a lawyer, never became a major leader in white supremacist circles, he drew substantial press attention by organizing rallies and filing free-speech lawsuits. "He was known not only for being one of the hardest of the hard-core haters, but a gadfly as well because of his legal knowledge," said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. "And he was notorious for claiming legal victories, some of which he never actually won."

Born in New York City, the Vietnam War veteran launched his efforts on behalf of white Christians when he moved to Mississippi in 1966, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). In his 1982 autobiography, The Commission, he called for resettling minority groups to "Puerto Rico, Mexico, Israel, the Orient and Africa." He also argued that "the Negro race … possess[es] no creativity of its own [and] pulls the vitality away from civilization." And he favored sterilizations and abortions of those deemed "unfit."

In 1988, he headed a protest against integration in predominantly white Forsyth County, Ga. Sixty-five mostly out-of-town activists took part, including 40 robed Klansmen. Barrett was among the protesters who signed "The Forsyth County Covenant," which argued for the advancement of "America's heritage as a free, white, Christian, English-speaking democracy" and asserted that "all efforts to make us a bilingual, bisexual or biracial society must be defeated."