Wife: "Killen Never Committed to Fair Appearance"

By  | 

A reputed Ku Klux Klansman under investigation for the 1964 slayings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi has no intention of joining a white supremacist group at next week's state fair, his wife told the Associated Press in a telephone interview Friday.

Betty Jo Killen said from her home in Union that her 79-year-old husband never told Nationalist Movement leader Richard Barrett that he would attend the fair.

"He has nothing to do with the booth. That is Richard Barrett's doing," said Mrs. Killen. "Richard Barrett wanted publicity and he got plenty.''

Mrs. Killen said Barrett did tell her husband about the Nationalist Movement's plans at the fair, which opens a 12-day run next week, but Betty Jo Killen said, "My husband made no commitment to go.''

Barrett's successful push for a Nationalist Movement booth and his promotion of Killen as the booth's featured attraction triggered protests earlier this week by the NAACP, area leaders and other groups, and some calls to boycott the fair.

Barrett said he had talked to Killen about a week earlier and was told the preacher did plan to show up at the booth at some point.

Barrett plans to use the booth to collect signatures on a petition in support of Killen. Killen was tried in 1967 on federal conspiracy charges related to the killings of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County. He was freed after a hung jury verdict, but officials say he remains under investigation in the case.

Mrs. Killen said her husband, who no longer has a church but serves as a fill-in pastor, "has gotten a raw deal in all this. Edgar is an innocent man, a good man. You won't find a better man no where.''