LA KKK LeaderBy Zach Carline
Pimping out prostitutes, lacking diplomacy, swindling, from colleagues and having the mental capacity of a 10 year old may not seem like traits of a successful leader in modern times, but for Robert Fuller, KKK leader in northeastern Louisiana during the 1960s and 1970s, that wasn’t the case.
Besides his illegal escapades, he spent a legal life driving a taxi, owning a sanitation company and running his own farm. The FBI investigated Fuller heavily during the height of Klan activity in the 60s for his likely involvement in numerous murders, bombings and cross-burnings.
The Unsolved Civil Rights-Era Murders Project at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication, through the Freedom of Information Act, obtained 50-year-old FBI investigative reports on Fuller, now deceased, from the period. He was investigated and cleared in the July 13, 1960, shooting deaths of farm hands, but in 2007 the killings made it on to the Department of Justice’s Cold Case Initiative list of 112 homicide cases from that time period Congress ordered reopened.
Fuller shot and killed the three dismissed black employees who had confronted him on his property, critically wounding two others. Ostensibly, the FBI said, the men were there to collect pay, although accounts differed with other witnesses stating the men were there to hurt Fuller. (The Department of Justice reclosed the cases of the three dead men, Ernest McPharland, Albert Pitts and Marshall Johns, on April 22, 2012.)
While under investigation, Fuller was accused by FBI Special Agent William Dent of making threatening phone calls to his home. Described as a “hot head” by FBI sources, Fuller rarely used words to resolve issues, preferring a more physical means of problem solving.
Fuller’s violence and mental instability started before his leadership in the KKK. During the end of WWII, Fuller enlisted in the Army, serving from October 1944 to January 1945 when he was discharged for mental and emotional instability and suicidal tendencies. The Army’s investigation determined Fuller had the mental capacity of a person aged 10 years and seven months, according to the FBI file.
Between his military discharge and his death in the late 1970s, Fuller was arrested by law enforcement officers a number of times for solicitation for prostitution. His frequent arrests eventually led him to start a sanitation company instead of relying on illicit activities for money, according to FBI files.
In 1964 Fuller was accused by members of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (OKKKK) of swindling money from them. It was during this fallout that Fuller left the OKKKK and formed the Original Ku Klux Klan of America (OKA).
Fuller’s formed the new group with friend Houston Morris, who was named the grand dragon. Morris carried a high profile in the Monroe area at the time with his segregationist stands. In 1967, Morris was subpoenaed by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating Klan activities in the South, to testify about his involvement with the Original Ku Klux Klan of America. He invoked his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer and nothing came of it.
This OKA had the same intentions as the previous KKK organization, that is, “the promotion of Americanism (anti-communism and anti-immigration), white supremacy and the maintaining of segregation.”
In 1965 Morris left the organization and Fuller became the OKA’s grand dragon.
The OKA, however, likely had a much lower turnout than the two expected, says Stanley Nelson, editor of the Concordia Parish Sentinel, who has written extensively on Klan activity in Civil Rights-era Louisiana and Mississippi.
“The thing about Fuller was one of the first to join the Klan during its resurgence in Louisiana in the early 1960s.” noted Nelson. “His violent background and the fact that he had killed three black men — and had gotten away with it — made him someone who was feared yet respected by hardcore Klansmen who wanted to fight the Civil Rights movement with fists and gunfire.”
Unfortunately for Fuller, the majority of people in the South slowly began to accept the reality of integration and by the mid-70s KKK membership began to rapidly decline.
In 1975, only nine years after its inception, Fuller, who had been diagnosed with cancer, declared the OKA defunct because of lack of member interest and his ailing health.
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