Former KKK Imperial Wizard Dies in Parchman

WLBT News, Missisippi/November 5, 2006
By Roslyn Anderson

Sam Bowers, a former Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan has died.

He was serving a life sentence at Parchman.

Mississippi Department of Corrections officials say he died sunday morning of a heart attack.

Behind the walls of Parchman, Sam Bowers was inmate R5597.

The 82 year old Forrest county native was listed as being housed in the hospital unit of the penitentiary when he died Sunday.

Eight years ago Bowers was convicted of ordering the klan firebombing that killed 58 year old Vernon Dahmer, a business owner who allowed blacks to register to vote at his store.

On January 10th of 1966 Dahmer's Hattiesburg area home and store were burned.

He died from injuries sustained while trying to save his family.

In August of 1998 Bowers, identified by state investigators as the former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, was tried a 5th time when new evidence was developed and witnesses testified against him.

Prior to his trial former Attorney General Mike Moore said, "Mr. Sam Bowers, the mastermind of what we think are many many murders in this state and much much violence that should have been ended a long time ago."

At age 73 he was sentenced to life in prison.

In February of 2005 Bowers resurfaced as a witness in the Edgar Ray killen murder trial of three civil rights workers in 1964.

In an earlier interview Bowers said, "I was quite delighted to be convicted and have the main instigator of the entire affair walk out of the courtroom a free man."

In December of last year he was listed as being treated in the hospital unit at Parchman.

The former coin operated business owner maintained his innocence.

Corrections officials say Bowers died of cardiac pulmonary arrest at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.

Bowers isn't the first man convicted of civil rights murders to have died in prison.

Earnest Avants was convicted in 2003 of the 1966 murder of black sharecropper Ben Chester White in a possible attempt to assassinate the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.

Avants died in federal prison at the age of 72.

And in 1994, Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the 1963 murder of Medgar Evers.

He died in prison at the age of 80.

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