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Collie Leroy Wilkins Jr.; Klansman Convicted in Civil Rights Slaying

December 31, 1994

Collie Leroy Wilkins Jr., 51, a Ku Klux Klansman convicted in one of the most infamous slayings of the civil rights era. Wilkins was the last survivor of three Klansmen accused in the 1965 shooting death of Viola Liuzzo, a white Detroit housewife and mother who went to the South and volunteered to help register blacks to vote. Liuzzo was shot from a passing car on a highway as she drove a black marcher home after the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march. An FBI informant claimed that Wilkins was the triggerman. An all-white state jury acquitted Wilkins of murder. Later that year, Wilkins was convicted in federal court along with William Orville Eaton and Eugene Thomas of violating Liuzzo's civil rights. Wilkins served about seven years of a 10-year sentence. In his later years, he distanced himself from the Klan and worked as a mechanic. In Birmingham, Ala., on Dec. 23 of undisclosed causes.

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