By MEGAN PILLOW     Mooresville Tribune USA  Friday, August 31, 2007

Johnny Lee Clary’s early life reads like a storyline from D.W. Griffith’s infamous 1915 film The Birth of a Nation. Raised in a family plagued by hatred and racism, Clary was recruited at age 14 by David Duke into the Ku Klux Klan and spent the next 16 years in the thrall of the organization.
In time, Clary rose to its pinnacle, becoming the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights of the KKK, the most militant and violent of all Klan groups.
But in 1990, at age 30 — and after arrests, infighting among Klan members, and the realization his girlfriend was an FBI  informant — Clary did something nearly unheard of. He broke from the Klan.
After spending several years in a purgatory of doubt, denial, and hardship, Clary says his life story was rewritten: not Birth, not death, but instead, deliverance.
Clary is now a preacher and motivational speaker who, since 1991, has toured the world, sharing his experiences and preaching love, acceptance, and “racial reconciliation.”  He will be speaking at Mooresville’s Lake Norman Christian Outreach (LNCO), a predominantly African-American, nondenominational church, on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 6 p.m.  The event is free and open to the public.
Pastor Lawrence Williams, minister of LNCO, said he is bringing Clary to town to help bridge the division that still exists here between the races.
“Mooresville is somewhat polarized,” he said.  “I just feel like it’s really important to address the racial divide.”
Clary, too, said he’s glad to be coming to North Carolina, because this state, in particular, has seen a resurgence of Klan activity in recent years.
“Racism is on the rise in North Carolina, and the KKK is in a revival of membership again,” said Clary.  “They’ve been growing all over the United States, but they’ve really been targeting North Carolina.”
And why North Carolina? Clary said it’s because the state, with its high number of illegal immigrants, is a proving ground for the immigration debate.
“Our government needs to do something about (illegal immigration) because it absolutely has been putting people out of work.  But the KKK doesn’t have the answers,” he said.
What is so dangerous about the organization, he said, is its members know how to appeal to people through their concern over the immigration issue.
“A lot of people who would no more hate a black person than a man in the moon begin to listen to them on this issue,” he said.  “The Klan knows this and they are jumping on it.  They talk people into supporting them.”
That support, he said, is put in exactly the wrong place. All the KKK can do is get people put in jail,” he said.  “Don’t buy into the nonsense.  Everything they promote is garbage.  We need to go to people who can do something about it like our senators and congressmen.”
But Clary said even those who don’t find anything appealing about the KKK itself can still find themselves poisoned by racism, and he hopes sharing his experience can help them overcome their feelings. 
“People don’t have to be card-carrying members of the KKK to have hate in their heart,” he said.  “I think people should confront racism.” 
Williams said he hopes a big crowd will be in attendance to hear Clary speak.
“I’m really hoping that the community comes out,” he said.
The lesson they’ll learn, said Clary, will be a simple one.
“Good friends come in all colors,” he said.
Lake Norman Christian Outreach, located at 635 West McLelland Avenue, celebrated its first anniversary in March 2007.
For more information, call 704-746-9947 or visit www.lnco.org
For more information on Johnny Lee Clary, call 918-488-9646 or visit www.johnnyleeclary.com


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