Dear “Dr.” Fields
How to respond to a white supremacist
In 1970, shortly after being elected Attorney General of Alabama, 29-year-old Bill Baxley reopened the case of the 16th Street Church bombing, a racially motivated act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four African-American girlsin 1963 and a fruitless investigation, which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Baxley’s unwavering commitment to the case attracted much hostility, particularly from local Klansmen, and in 1976 he received a threatening letter of protest from white supremacist Edward R. Fields—founder of the National States’ Rights Party and “Grand Dragon” of the New Order Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—in which he was accused of reopening the case for tactical reasons. Baxley’s magnificent letter of reply, seen below, was both succinct and unambiguous.
The next year, a member of the United Klans of America named Robert Chambliss was found guilty of the 16th Street Church murders. He remained in prison until his death in 1985. Two decades later, the two remaining culprits in the case (one of the Klansmen had since died) were also prosecuted.
February 28, 1976
“Dr.” Edward R. Fields
National States Rights Party
P. O. Box 1211
Marietta, Georgia 30061
Dear “Dr.” Fields:
My response to your letter of February 19, 1976, is – kiss my ass.
I got in touch with Bill Baxley some years ago and asked if I could put his letter in the Letters of Note book. He swiftly said yes, kindly sent me a copy, and then agreed to discuss the letter with NPR. You can hear the conversation here.