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Joseph Paul Franklin: A racist who admits it

Joseph Paul Franklin is a white man who hates blacks, but dropped out of the Ku Klux Klan and American Nazi Party because he liked their ideas but not their tactics.

State and federal prosecutors across the nation say he used the shooting talent he boasted to kill 11 blacks or racially mixed couples in a cross-country murder spree in 1980.

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Federal prosecutors tried to convince a South Bend, Ind., jury that Franklin shot civil rights leader Vernon Jordon in the back and nearly killed him May 29, 1980, in Fort Wayne, Ind. Three former fellow inmates said he told them about shooting a black leader.

Franklin, acquitted by the jury Tuesday night, insisted it was all a lie, despite his conviction for the murders of two black men jogging with white women in a Salt Lake City park.

He says police agencies across the nation framed him because they were desperate to solve racial killings before black groups decided to take matters into their own hands.

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Franklin, 32, is a lanky 6-footer whose hair presently is brown-blond. He admits he has dyed it or worn a wig in the past.

A one-eyed drifter from Mobile, Ala., he often supported himself in tight spots by selling plasma to blood banks.

He was coming out of such an establishment in Lakeland, Fla., in October 1980 when the FBI arrested him on charges of violating the civil rights of the Utah joggers.

That was four days after former president Jimmy Carter addressed a political rally in Lakeland. Franklin is reported to have written a threatening letter to Carter in 1976 when Carter still was a candidate for president.

Franklin was born James Clayton Vaughn Jr. His father called him 'a good boy ... a moral soul ... the religious type' ... an intelligent youth who would leave the house to go to the library to read.

Six years ago, he changed his name in a Maryland court. FBI agents said he told them he changed his name because he was thinking of emigrating to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to fight for the white minority troops. He denied it during the Jordan trial.

His father said Franklin, who loves cars, had an eye knocked out as a small boy.

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As a young man, Franklin was arrested in Mobile and New Orleans for weapons offenses, disorderly conduct and a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

His sister, Marilyn Garzan, 24, of Montgomery, Ala., said he quit the Nazi Party and KKK because he liked some of their ideas but didn't like their tactics.

'He just hated blacks and there are a lot of people who feel that way, but who won't step forward and admit it,' she said.

Mrs. Garzan said she doesn't believe her brother murdered anyone because he always told her everything, good or bad, 'and if he did something like that, he wouldn't be ashamed to tell me.'

His ex-wife, Anita Cooper, testified in the Utah trial that Franklin told her he fired the shots that killed joggers Ted Fields, 20, and David Martin, 18.

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