Blessed be the bomb makers
After Ku Klux Klan leader Bill Aitcheson was convicted on hate crime and bomb making charges in 1977, he vanished for 40 years.
But Aitcheson had disappeared in plain sight, ushered into the priesthood in the Catholic church.
This August, he reluctantly re-emerged as Fr. William Aitcheson when his Ku Klux Klan past and his Catholic priest present was abruptly revealed to the harsh glare of public scrutiny.
How had he become a priest in the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia a few miles from where he had terrorized as a Klansman? And how had that secret kept for so long?
Court documents thought to have been destroyed for decades and more than 100 interviews with KKK leaders, Catholic church officials, law enforcement and others show that immediately after his criminal convictions, Aitcheson was ushered through a series of church institutions on the path towards priesthood with many of his church benefactors aware of his résumé as a violent leader of a notorious racist hate group.
Aitcheson told the judge that as of June 1979 “I had completed my obligations to society for my offenses” and complained that his criminal convictions were hindering him finding work. “After graduation, I tried to start my working life by applying as a religious volunteer. My qualifications and personal recommendations were satisfactory but my conviction prevented me from being hired. For a while I worked as a shoe salesman.”
“I have been tried and convicted and punished for my crimes,” Aitcheson wrote judge Kaufman. “I am now trying to establish myself as a productive member of society … and earn a living for myself.”
“I own nothing … no real estate, no automobile, just a few dollars of savings to see me through my volunteer work hoping that my performance will earn me a job on the regular payroll.”
Aitcheson’s ‘volunteer work’ was teaching in a diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph run school and the ‘job on the regular payroll’ he sought was a priest for the Catholic Church.