Klan leader reported to be FBI informant

Aug. 29, 1981
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Bill Wilkinson has furnished the FBI information on Klan activities for seven years under the assurance that the contact would not be revealed, it was reported Saturday.

The Tennessean said in a copyright story in its Sunday editions that Wilkinson acted as a federal informant both when he was a member of David Duke's Knights of the KKK and after establishing his own rival Klan faction, the Invisible Empire.

Wilkinson admitted to the newspaper that he provided information to the bureau but said it was to demonstrate that the Klan had no intentions of violating the law.

Quoting from internal FBI documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, The Tennessean said Wilkinson made it clear to the FBI he would furnish the bureau with information on Klan activities as long as the government protected his anonymity.

'This informant is not willing to testify in open court or before administrative hearing boards,' says an 'urgent' FBI memorandum originating in the New Orleans field office. Wilkinson's faction is headquartered in Denham Springs, La.

'This source will not take any action to embarrass the bureau,' continues the 'confidential' memorandum to the FBI director in Washington, 'as he has always indicated a strong desire that his contact with the bureau not come to the attention of his colleagues or anyone else and has sought assurances that this contact not be revealed in any way.'

Wilkinson, in Nashville Saturday for a Klan rally in nearby Robertson County, acknowledged he has provided information to the FBI for the past seven years.

'They were trying to groom me as an informant ... but all I ever told them was my policy and my policy is that I would only tell them what I would tell the news media,' Wilkinson told The Tennessean.

'The reason I always have and still do give the FBI what information I can is that I am convinced that the Justice Department and the FBI is necessary. I think they perform a very vital function and I think by and large they are honest, patriotic men.

'I want to demonstrate to them that I am not out violating the law and we have no intentions of it. And I have felt that by giving what cooperation I could that I could demonstrate our good faith.'

Wilkinson said he supplied the information to the FBI despite Klan bylaws that provided 'An absolute rule for all Klansmen is: never talk with the FBI or any 'plainclothes' police officer, agent or detective.'

The internal FBI documents say Wilkinson was interviewed by agents on Dec. 19, 1974 about an 'extortion matter.'

Wilkinson told The Tennessean this was the first dialogue he had with government agents and said he initiated it because 'some niggers were threatening me.'

'I wouldn't even try to guess how many times I met with them,' Wilkinson said, adding that he never received any money or other favors from the Justice Department in return for his cooperation.

'There is a page in my file where they authorized them to pay somebody, presumably me, money to be an extremist informant. They didn't say how much, but they didn't pay me nothing,' he said. 'I wouldn't take a nickel from them.'

Wilkinson said most of his meetings with FBI agents were in secluded areas.

'They didn't want to come to my house or the Klan office. They didn't want me to come to the FBI office. They wanted to meet me down in a dark alley,' he said.

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