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Former KKK leader Robert Miles dead at 67

HOWELL, Mich. -- Former Ku Klux Klan leader Robert Miles, once convicted of planning to bomb school buses to be used in school desegregation and of tarring and feathering a school principal, is dead at 67.

Miles, 67, former grand dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan, died Sunday at McPherson Hospital in Howell. Hospital officials declined to give the cause of death, but friends said he had a history of heart problems and recently suffered a stroke.

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A former insurance executive, Miles preached white supremacy and racial separatism around the nation.

In 1970, he founded the Mountain Church of Jesus Christ the Savior on his 70-acre farm in Cohoctah Township, northwest of Howell. Over the years, his farm was the scene of numerous cross-burnings.

Miles and his followers were featured in the recent film 'Blood in the Face,' a documentary on the white supremacist movement in the United States. The title refers to their belief that only 'Aryans' are capable of blushing.

In 1971, Miles and four associates were convicted of planning the bombing of school buses to be used for court-ordered desegregation in Pontiac. Two years later, he was convicted on a conspiracy charge related to the tarring and feathering of a Willow Run high school principal who supported desegregation.

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Miles spent six years in federal prison for the two crimes. In 1987, Miles and several other white supremacists were charged with conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government, but acquitted after a controversial trial in Fort Smith, Ark.

Miles, who moved to Michigan in 1953 and headed George Wallace's Michigan presidential campaign in 1968, was described even by his detractors as a highly intelligent man with a disarming, avuncular manner.

'Miles was bright, charming, charismatic and consistent throughout his career as a leader in the hate movement. In his heyday, he was considered one of the top three white supremacists in the country,' said Joe Roy, a senior investigator with Klanwatch, a Montgomery, Ala., group that monitors the KKK and other hate groups.

Miles' wife, Dorothy, died in June. He is survived by a daughter, Marian Elise Harrelson of Okemos. His body was cremated. Funeral arrangements are being handled by the MacDonald Funeral Home in Howell.

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