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J.B. Stoner, 81; White Supremacist Bombed Black Church

April 28, 2005|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

J.B. Stoner, 81, an unrepentant white supremacist and anti-Semite convicted in the civil rights-era bombing of a black church, died Saturday at a nursing home in La Fayette, Ga., of complications from pneumonia.

A Georgia native, Stoner was 18 when he revived a dormant chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Chattanooga, Tenn. He headed the Christian Anti-Jewish Party a few years later.

Stoner was a suspect in the 1958 bombing of the Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., but wasn't indicted until 1977. The church was empty at the time of the blast. A mostly white jury found him guilty and, after several appeals, he served 3 1/2 years in prison before he was paroled in 1986.

Stoner also served as the appeals attorney for James Earl Ray, the convicted killer of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and tried to get Ray's guilty verdict reversed.

Stoner also ran for political office several times in Georgia. In 1970, he ran unsuccessfully for governor in a race eventually won by Jimmy Carter. In 1974, he drew 73,000 votes, almost 10% of the ballots, in an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor. In 1972, he also ran for the U.S. Senate.

He never married and once told an interviewer that any woman "would be too dumb for him."

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