Violent Klansman hated blacks, Jews, and communists, found God in prison

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By Mark Ellis —

Thomas Tarrants

He grew up in a dysfunctional family in the Deep South. When his high school was desegregated during the 1960s, he began to absorb hate-filled literature that radicalized him and set him on a destructive and violent path.

“Though I was not raised as a racist, I soon became one, initially through reading racist, anti-Semitic literature,” says Thomas Tarrants, author of Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love.

Tarrant’s father worked long hours and drank to excess, which left little time for parenting and created an emotional distance with the children.

After Tarrant’s high school was desegregated in 1963, tensions in Mobile, Alabama, mounted. “I heard responsible people charging that states’ rights were being violated, the Constitution was being undermined, one-world government was on the horizon, communists controlled the civil rights movement, desegregation would result in interracial marriage, and all of this would lead of the fall of ‘white Christian civilization’” Tarrants recounts in his book.

While his parents had not raised him to be a racist, the inflamed rhetoric and writings drew him in until he fully embraced the hate.

“This led to my involvement with extremist organizations,” he says. “It was all downhill from there.” One of those who influenced the impressionable young man was an anti-Semitic and racist Methodist minister from California, Dr. Wesley Swift.

Rev. Wesley Swift

Rev. Swift maintained that he taught the true Christian religion, which Tarrants bought. “Swift preached that those who are now called Jews are not true Israelites but are descended from the ungodly line of Cain.”

The true Israelites (in Seth’s line) were deported to Assyria and migrated to northern Europe, where they morphed into the Anglo-Saxons, according to Swift. “The pseudo-Jews of today are an evil, anti-Christian race, and key leaders among them have been secretly conspiring to gain control of the world through communism and race-mixing,” the reverend warned.

Swift also taught that blacks were sub-human, had no souls, and were being used by the Jews to intermarry with whites, to create an easily controllable “mongrel” race.

“Not knowing the Bible very well, I overlaid the little understanding I did have with this dangerous religious ideology, not realizing the errors I was embracing,” Tarrants admits in the book.

Barely 18-years-old, Tarrants also fell under the influence of Rear Admiral John G.

John G. Crommelin

Crommelin, a decorated hero from World War II, who also happened to be a notorious anti-Semite and white supremacist. Tarrants stayed at the admiral’s home for several days, where they talked at length about the “communist-Jewish conspiracy.”

At 21, Tarrants got involved with Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers of the KKK in a plot to machine-gun the home of a black man who had fired at a police officer. Before they could complete their mission on a cold night in December, 1967, they were pulled over by police, who found a loaded .45-caliber submachine gun under a sweater on the front seat of the car.

Surprisingly, the two men were released on bond and Tarrants went underground, leaving the state as a fugitive from justice.

Bomb plot

A few months later, however, Tarrants was lured back to Meridian, Mississippi to participate in a plot to bomb the home of Meyer Davidson, a wealthy Jewish businessman who had spoken out against the KKK and the bombing of a synagogue.

Kathy Ainsworth

Tarrants and his accomplice, a female elementary school teacher named Kathy Ainsworth, planned to place 29 sticks of dynamite at Davidson’s home with a timing device that would detonate at 2 a.m.

As Tarrants walked up the driveway of Davidson’s house carrying the bomb, shots rang out from every direction – aimed at Tarrants. The authorities had been tipped off by informants and now Tarrants was ambushed by 10 FBI agents and 12 local police.

He ran back to the car and climbed in as buckshot ripped through his upper right leg. As he sped away he heard Ainsworth say, “I’ve been hit.” He looked over and was horrified to see a bullet hole in the base of her neck.

Police came after them and after a brief chase, a police cruiser rammed into the back of Tarrants’ Buick. Tarrants jumped out and began spraying the police with machine gun fire. “Three rounds struck the first cop in the chest and he went down,” he recounts. Another officer fired at Tarrants, striking him in the upper left leg and stomach. He staggered to a neighbor’s house and collapsed in some shrubbery.

When police found him lying motionless, they fired four more kill shots to make sure he was dead. Remarkably, he didn’t die, but his female accomplice succumbed to the gunshot wound in the neck.

Tarrants went to the hospital and slowly recovered from his wounds, while Kathy Ainsworth was buried. At her memorial service, the KKK turned out in large numbers wearing white robes to honor her as a martyr to their cause.

Prison life

Convicted and sent to prison, authorities isolated Tarrants, which caused a serious depression and attempt at suicide. He saved up pain medication prescribed by his doctors as he healed from his battle wounds.

“I decided to save up the pills and take them all at once,” he writes in the book. “I reasoned that death would end my misery and open the way to heaven. In my youth I had prayed to receive Christ as my Savior and had been assured that I would go to heaven when I died.”

He took a handful of the pain meds, but woke up in a daze, feeling sick to his stomach. The depression continued. He picked up a King James Bible his grandmother had given him and began to read it. “Halfway through the Old Testament, I became bored and laid it aside,” he recounts.

An FBI agent, Frank Watts, came to his cell with another agent and they interviewed Tarrants. Watts was a nominal Christian at the time. But his wife’s prayer group began to pray earnestly for Tarrants to be saved.

Despondent over life in prison, Tarrants plotted his escape. “I recruited two other inmates, and we overpowered the guards on the night shift in the small prison hospital,” he says. “Friends were waiting to pick us up and take us to a hideout far away. But two days later, the FBI found us, and one of the other inmates was killed in the gun battle that followed.”

After he was caught, Tarrants was placed in a maximum-security unit. “I was in a 6’x9’ cell alone 24 hours a day with meals passed through an opening in the bars. There was nothing to do except read, and that was what I did, constantly. It was the only way to stay sane.”

Books on political philosophy and history began to challenge his conspiratorial worldview. He realized that wars and revolutions were not “Jewish conspiracies,” nor was communism a “Jewish plot.” The cause to which he had committed his young life began to crumble.

The power of the Word

In a sudden hunger to find truth, he began to read the Gospels in the New Testament. “When I turned the pages, it was like the lights in a darkened theater being slowly turned up,” he recounts. “The words on the page seemed to be speaking directly to me.”

“I realized on a deeply personal level that I had sinned against God and needed his forgiveness.” He confessed his anger, hatred, violence, and using people for selfish ends, lying, stealing, sexual immorality, and more.

He realized his version of Christianity had been an empty sham. “As I saw what I was really like, I wept and wept and wept.”

In repentance, he dropped to his knees on the concrete floor of his cell and prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, I have ruined my life and the lives of others and committed many sins. Please forgive me, take over my life, and do whatever you want with me.”

Suddenly, he felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off his shoulders. “Something deep within me had changed – new life had invaded my heart!”

After he was born again, he began to read the Bible daily and pray. God gave him a huge appetite for Scripture, which he read for hours at a time.

“The more I read the Bible, the more my eyes were opened, and the more I changed,” he says. “God gave me love for blacks, Jews, and others who I had previously hated. He’s been changing me ever since, helping me become more like Jesus. It hasn’t been quick and hasn’t always been easy, but he has not given up, and I have been greatly blessed.”

After his release from prison, Tom attended the University of Mississippi and also seminary. He served as a campus minister at George Mason University and later became co-pastor at a church in Washington, D.C. He has also served as president of the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Thomas Tarrants in recent years

“God is not a demanding taskmaster;” he notes. “He is a loving and gracious Father, who forgives and restores those who repent and return to him. And he gives us new chances to embrace his purposes and plans for our lives.

“He’s the God of the second chance, the third chance, and many more!”

 

If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here

For more about his book, click here