Serial Killers: The Case Of White Supremacist Joseph Franklin

To say that the far-right is only now spawning violence is to effectively ignore the vast majority of southern history. The far-left never lynched people. In any case, white supremacy has resulted in a massive following — even by people who don’t realize they’re advocating for it — a defeat in the “War of Northern Aggression” (LOL), and a massive number of psychotic killers who were just angry they couldn’t get their way in normal society.

Joseph Paul Franklin was one such man. That’s not to say he was totally at fault. The vast majority of common killers owe their aggressive instincts to a number of contributing factors. They include biology, environment, and personal choice. We’ll skip the biology of killing for the moment, and focus instead on Franklin’s environment. He grew up in an abusive home in Mobile, Alabama, where he was born on April 13, 1960 to James Clayton Vaughn Sr. and Helen Rau Vaughn. 

Franklin’s father was a WWII vet who had clearly been left damaged by everything he had seen. Franklin’s sister said, “Whenever [Vaughn Sr.] came to visit he’d beat us.” But his mother might not have been any better. A family friend described her as “a full-blooded German, a real strict, perfectionist lady. I never saw her beat any of [her children] but they told me stories.”

Franklin painted a less-than-rosy picture of his childhood as well. He said the children suffered from consistent hunger and abuse, and argued that his mother never cared about any of them. This factored into defenses of his later actions, to which he said occurred because his own emotional growth was stunted because of the treatment. 

Civil rights lawyer Hale said that Franklin grew to become increasingly aggressive toward minority figures after essentially turning into his own father when he married to become an abusive husband. He was arrested several times, but only due to minor infractions. The first known assault occurred in 1976, when Franklin stalked and maced an interracial couple. Only one year later, he bombed a synagogue in Tennessee before killing one black man and one white man in Wisconsin.

The violent, hate-filled spree continued to escalate. He traveled across the United States robbing banks and killing an unknown number of people — but at least more than 20. 

He was known to be skilled at the craft he had picked up. Authorities explained that he’d become adept at robbing banks, and others described the killings for their lack of evidence. He was also good at leaving little trace as he drifted from one place to the next. He was caught in September 1980, only to escape immediately.

Eventually, he was caught for two reasons: one, his tattoos made him easily identifiable by witnesses and, two, he made the mistake of donating to a blood bank for extra cash.

He became notorious for attempting to kill pornographer Larry Flint and civil rights activist Vernon Jordan. Both attempts failed. Flint was left paralyzed by his injuries. Although he was convicted for earlier killings, he didn’t actually confess to these two attempted murders until years later.