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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Racists with Badges: The Good Ol' Boys Roundup

By: Donald V. Watkins

© Copyrighted and Published on January 29, 2020

Most people of interracial goodwill have never heard of Gene Rightmyer, the former Knoxville, Tennessee-based ATF agent who organized and led the Good Ol' Boys Roundup (Roundup) from 1980 through 1995. During this sixteen-year period, more than 1,000 people participated in the Roundup, including an estimated 500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and Department of Justice (DOJ) officials. At least 10 percent of the attendees had federal law enforcement affiliations.

During this 16-year period, only 4 black law enforcement agents ever attempted to attend the Roundup. As discussed below, two of them who were accompanied by a white ATF agent got into a confrontation when the white ATF agent was accused of "bringing niggers to the Roundup" by the event staff members who were operating the "Nigger checkpoint."

For the most part, the Roundup attendees, who gathered each year in May at a campground near Ocoee, Tennessee, came from law enforcement agencies in the Southeast part of the United States. The Roundup was also attended by white supremacists like Richard Hayward and Jeffrey Randall, who were members of a militia group based in Alabama. They were welcomed at the Roundup in multiple years.

Hayward videotaped the 1990 Roundup. In 1992 and 1993, Hayward openly distributed former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's presidential campaign literature and souvenirs, as well as materials publicizing the National Association for the Advancement of White People. Racist signs, bumper stickers, hats, banners, and other display items littered the campground site when Hayward and Randall attended the Roundups.

The Roundups started in a rural part of Tennessee approximately four years after the April 29, 1976 Report on COINTELPRO, which was authored by Senators Frank Church (D-Idaho) and John Tower (R-Texas), was issued and published in the Congressional Record. The Report documented widespread federal, state, and local law enforcement abuse of black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other civil rights activists who protested in the 1950s, 60s and 70s for equal rights, fair justice, and voting rights in America.

On July 11, 1995, the Washington Times blew the whistle on this annual racist Roundup of law enforcement agents and their invited guests. An investigation by the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) ensued. Over 900 people were interviewed and statementized in connection with the OIG investigation.

The March 1996 OIG Report

The OIG acknowledged in a March 1996 Report that "the persons who attended the Roundup may have had a motive to conceal or minimize the instances of racial or other kinds of misconduct in order to make their attendance at a Roundup appear more benign than it might have been." In other words, many of the law enforcement-affiliated Roundup participants who were interviewed provided investigators with less than full, candid, and truthful information.

In its Report, the OIG made many findings, including the following:

1.[O]ur investigation revealed ample evidence of shocking racist, licentious, and puerile behavior by attendees occurring in various years. We also found that an atmosphere hostile to minorities -- and to women -- developed over time because inadequate action was taken by the Roundup organizers to appropriately deal with instances of racial or other kinds of misconduct."

2. Racist signs were posted in at least two years: 1990 and 1992. These signs included, "Nigger checkpoint," "Any niggers in that car?," "no niggers," and "17 cents lb." There was a drawing depicting an African-American's face with a circle around it and a red slash across the circle.

3. Racist skits were performed in 1990 and 1992. In the Redneck of the Year skit, "a dog was traded for a man in blackface who then pretended to perform oral sex on a person in mock Ku Klux Klan garments." Also, "a Fort Lauderdale, Florida police officer competing in the Redneck of the Year contest performed a skit where he claimed to have found a watermelon which had fallen off the back of a passing truck, struck it until it broke open, and then pulled out a doll he had painted black. He described the doll as a seed and told the audience that one must 'kill the seed when it is young," and proceeded to beat the doll."

4. In 1990 and 1992, "persons whom [OIG] could not identify were checking to determine if any blacks were in any of the cars driving through the campground. The phrase used by the persons engaged in the activity was 'checking cars for niggers'."

5. In 1995, a white ATF agent who came to the Roundup with two black officers was taunted about the presence of the black agents. He was told by a Fort Lauderdale officer that "ATF fucks up everything they touch ... Now you are bringing niggers to the Roundup." After the confrontation, "unidentified persons painted the words 'niggers go home' and 'whites only' on toilets in the campground."

6. T-shirts were sold at the Roundup that were found to be racially insensitive. For example, one T-shirt for sale depicted three police officers around a police car and two black persons being held face down on the hood of the car. The caption of the photo on the T-shirt read, "Boyz on the Hood." Another T-shirt had a crude drawing of the figure used in the children's game, "Hangman," and the initials "O" and "J" beneath the figure.

7. In numerous years, Confederate flags were displayed in various locations in and around the Roundup campground. In one photo, a group surrounding the flag are shown making obscene gestures and raising their fists in a Nazi salute. A future Roundup president and Richard Hayward can be readily identified in the photo.

8. [W]e found evidence that cassette tapes of music by a performer named David Allen Coe were played during various years, including the song, "My Wife Ran Off With a Nigger."

9. [P]ublic nudity was commonplace at various Roundups [with] women dancers, women baring their chests, [and] a retired officer exposing himself with his badge displayed on his penis. The women dancers were strippers. The other women who were baring their breasts were consensual sex partners for single and married agents.

During the 16-year run of the Roundups, no FBI, DEA, or ATF agent, or other DOJ official reported this ingrained, flagrant, and sustained display of racism and sexism to the OIG or the U.S. Attorney General. Likewise, no federal, state, or local law enforcement agent was fired because of his participation in the Roundups.

Roundup's Racism in the Law enforcement Community Never Died

The racist attitudes and conduct that permeated the Roundups from 1980 to 1995 are fairly prevalent inside the FBI, DEA, ATF, and DOJ, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies today. This is particularly true in Southern states.

For example, in Birmingham, Alabama, two closeted individuals closely associated with the Skinhead movement are firmly entrenched in the U.S. Attorney's Office. They are not operating in any undercover capacity to infiltrate this racist organization. Instead, they share the group's racial beliefs system.

Both of these individuals are affectionately coddled and protected by at least one magistrate and two sitting U.S. District Court judges on the federal bench for the Northern District of Alabama. These individuals no longer use the term "nigger" in racially mixed company, but they freely use this derogatory term while relaxing and socializing in intimate settings with all-white friends and family members.

More information about these Birmingham-area law enforcement Skinheads will be detailed in my upcoming book, "Inmate 36223-001: The Story of a Political Prisoner."

PHOTO: An example of the racist paraphernalia sold at this event.

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