MAY 29, 1980

Vernon Jordan, who once worked alongside Medgar Evers as a field secretary for the NAACP and later advised Bill Clinton, survived an assassination attempt in Fort Wayne, Indiana, by racist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin (and so did Hustler publisher Larry Flynt). 

Franklin was acquitted of the assault — only to confess his guilt years later. In an interview, Franklin said he considered Adolf Hitler his hero and “Mein Kampf” his Bible. “I read it hundreds of times.” 

Trying to start a “race war,” he said he bombed synagogues, shot interracial couples and killed “enemies of the white race.” By the time it ended, he had killed at least 22 people, including Jackson State University student Johnnie Noyes Jr., who had simply been washing his car. 

In 2013, Franklin was executed in Missouri for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon outside a synagogue in St. Louis.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.