Frazier Glenn Cross, pictured in 1984, was once grand dragon of the Carolina… (Associated Press )
AURORA, Mo. — The elderly man was well known in this slightly faded farm town for his failed attempts at elective office, his libertarian leanings, his Southern charm.
But Frazier Glenn Cross, 73, who also went by the name of Frazier Glenn Miller Jr., was known even more for his white supremacist beliefs that led him to try to incite a race war, pepper local papers with anti-immigrant letters and get into a shouting match with a Jewish student at Missouri State University.
Police arrested Cross on Sunday on suspicion of shooting and killing a 14-year-old Boy Scout and his grandfather at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City in Overland Park, Kan., and a woman at a nearby Jewish assisted living center.
As authorities announced Monday that they planned to treat the slayings as hate crimes, a fuller picture began to emerge of the former U.S. Senate candidate who kept a Confederate flag in his garage and derided what he called the "Zionist occupation government" that runs the U.S.
"He sounded like someone you could drink a beer with — except for the fact that he believes people should be exterminated," said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who developed a telephone relationship with Cross last fall.
Early in a four-decade career during which Cross was involved in some of the most notorious racist crimes and movements in modern U.S. history, the former grand dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had threatened to assassinate the founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, whom he considered a "racial enemy."
Beirich first got in touch with Cross in 2013 when she was trying to reach one of his friends, a notorious white supremacist named Joseph Paul Franklin, who shot Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan Jr. Franklin, also convicted of killing eight people in a cross-country racist rampage that lasted from 1977 to 1980, was executed in Missouri in November.
Sunday would have been Franklin's 64th birthday. And Monday was Passover, one of the best known Jewish holidays.
Little is known about Cross' alleged motives, but Beirich posited that the avowed racist and author of a memoir called "A White Man Speaks Out" "has got emphysema, and this is a twisted, white supremacist bucket list."
Judy Dingman has worked at the local newspaper, the Aurora Advertiser, for 18 years, and said she got to know Cross after he started submitting letters to the editor.
Dingman, now the general manager, described him as by turns "controversial" and "pleasant." But she said his writings and letters indicated that "he had definite hatred for the Jews and the Jewish media and blacks as well."
Locals in this southwestern Missouri town of about 7,500 people tolerated Cross and "allowed him to go about his business" because they respect each other's privacy, she said.
"People are allowed to follow their beliefs and not be bothered" here, Dingman said, adding, "I would hope you would not judge our community by his actions."
Still, Aurora-area resident Gary McGlothlin, 61, said the KKK had a long history here and in surrounding counties just north of the Arkansas border.
"A lot of those you see running the rebel flag are KKK," he said — including Cross, who stuck a Confederate flag bumper sticker on his truck.
McGlothlin and his longtime partner, Charlee Heitz, 33, said some KKK members passed down the tradition to successive generations "like a disease." Others are more subtle, perhaps because they belong to churches and run businesses. For them, Cross' failed campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2010 — when he attracted just seven votes out of nearly 2 million cast — became a litmus test for local opinion.
"There was a lot of people believed in what he stood for," said McGlothlin, who met Cross at a swap meet and found he shared some of his views — but not about race.
Cross was libertarian, in favor of smaller government, McGlothlin said — a popular view here. He was also virulently anti-immigrant at a time when locals have grown alarmed about an influx of immigrants and illegal drugs.
"He spoke intelligently, and when you're in a community that's being overrun by Mexicans and dope dealing, you ignore the racial comments and look at the intelligence in it," Heitz said.
But Cross also had his share of critics. Heitz figures he attacked strangers in a bigger city because "he was getting old and he wanted to make himself known" to show "he wasn't all mouth."
Cross was a prolific poster on the Vanguard News Network, a supremacist website, writing more than 12,000 posts over a decade.
A January 2012 post recounted his visit, at a professor's invitation, to a Missouri State University class studying white supremacists in the Ozarks.