Kathy Ainsworth, An American Terrorist
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Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 05:38:19 PM EST
Photos of Kathy Ainsworth reveal a charming girl-next- door figure.  Her good looks and winning personality were on display as she taught fifth grade students at a private school in Mississippi.  Her story is a fascinating account that links historical events in the late sixties.  Her legacy identifies religious connections with the hard right in the nation.  Her fame is still the topic of books and inter net  web sites.   She was a real American terrorist motivated by convictions with roots in religion   Kathy's life ended when she was slain with an accomplice seeking to bomb a Jewish home in Meridan, Mississippi.
     I became intrigued with Kathy while browsing through the Intelligence Report put out by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I came upon Kathy's photo and wanted to trace the story. Ainsworth grew up in Coral Gables, Florida and was a high school honors graduate.  She left the sunshine state to attend school at Mississippi College.  The college is a Baptist school funded by Southern Baptist money.  It made recent history when it was on the receiving end of millions of dollars my one time acquaintance, Bernie Ebbers , helped raise for the school.  Bernie, who rivaled Ken Lay for money scams, was also connected to the school as a graduate.  He was probably in school there around the time Kathy was.  She used to teach Sunday school classes in Florida.
     While in Clinton at the college, she was influenced by professor Dr.W. M. Caskey.  He schooled Kathy on racism.  He worked closely with governor Ross Barnett teaching the governor the finer points of Biblical segregation.  In the Ole Miss archives there are records of Caskey introducing Dr. A.E. Kitchens to a white supremacy organization who delivered a message on "The Bible and Segregation."  
     Kathy took seriously her professor's theories about Jews, segregation and civil Rights.  It was believed in the South that Jews were behind Communism and they were using integration to bring about a Communist America.  One site claims she honey mooned at the famous Christ of the Ozarks theme park according to metapedia.com  This was the park set up by Gerald Smith who was a strong anti-Semite and segregationist.  Smith ran for President under the platform of,  we need to do something about the Jews. Kathy lived a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde life.  During the day she would teach affluent, segregated,  fifth grade, white students, at night she was known to engage in Klan activities.  It was significant that she was active in the Klan which was known as a man's club.  She was married to a husband who knew of these actions but tended to believe it was not as serious as it became.  
     Records reveal Kathy participated in a bombing of a synagogue in Jackson, Mississippi.  The Klan next ordered a bomb to be placed at a prominent Jewish citizen's home, Meyer Davidson, in Meridian, Mississippi.  A sting was set up with money funded by Jews  to pay off informants.  Informants were found who were interesting figures.  Both informants were in the Klan and had participated in the slaying of Schwerner, Chacey, and Goodman, the three civil rights workers found buried in a Mississippi dam.  It turns out the movie Mississippi Burning's character, played by Gene Hackman, had some historical backing.  Money and intimidation were used during these times to entrap suspects.  The FBI was to be embarrassed by the findings in this case.  Snipers were told to shot to kill.
     Kathy and her male companion were headed into a trap when Kathy drove the car with Klan activist Thomas Tarrrant III. Thomas had the bomb and Kathy sat in the car.  Snipers opened fire on the pair.  Different versions exist on what happened.  Law enforcement types claim Cathy was going for a gun.  Other records say Thomas was armed.  Most accounts I read said the sting had one motive,  that was to kill whoever showed up at the home.  Several police officers were present.    Kathy was three months pregnant at the time.  
     Critics and some journalists claim the two were a couple and had an affair.  There is no evidence to back that up.   Regional newspapers had her wearing hot pants. She was slain on June 30, 1968.  This was the same year that M.L King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated.  Her death is the topic of some books which connected the three deaths and their significance in the period.  Conspiracy theorist with little backing claim Kathy schooled Bobby's killer and is in some photos just before the slaying.  Some claimed she was in Memphis jamming the police radios after King was shot.  Such stories are more folklore and not related to historical backing.  Some reports claim the child she was carrying was Tarrant's.  There was no evidence of such.
     There are as many stories about Kathy as there are political viewpoints.  Sites like the right wing, Stormfront, consider her a heroine and martyr slain by Jewish money.  Some groups in the far right honor her death and repeat her  legacy.  Web sites abound with her story.  The drama of a beautiful, young, white school teacher being slain by the FBI makes for interesting inquiry.  Some suggested there needs to be a movie made about her life. She certainly represents the turbulent sixties and particularly 68.  
     Her connection to Meridian is interesting and few know her story outside of a few historians.  Kathy's husband was quoted as saying she "was just an angel."  He never believed it would get this far in her late night ventures.  Mississippi College taught the young lady from Florida and should bear some responsibility for the influence they had on her.  
     The late New York Times award winning author Jack Nelson spoke of her.  He broke the story about the entrapment used to get Kathy. Nelson wrote he had some meetings with her and thought he could sway her away from her extremism.  He said he had mixed feelings about her death.  On the one hand there was a death of a young mother, on the other hand she was there as an accomplice.  It was never mentioned that Kathy ever desired to harm anyone with the bombings, she just wanted to send  a message. The L.A. Times wrote that the sting was not legal and an example of Hoover's FBI.  The newspaper noted this action was typical of the law enforcement organization.
     One note of interest is the story of Thomas Tarrant III. He was almost killed with Kathy and sustained many gunshot wounds. He is taken to prison in Mississippi and escapes. Again he is in a gunfight with authorities.  Some of his accomplishes are killed but he is only wounded.  He later noted that the bomb should have exploded in Meridian when he dropped it.  Thus, he escaped death three times.  He is sent to solitary confinement.  While in isolation he read the Bible and came to a new understanding of the Christian faith.  He was paroled, attended Ole Miss and eventually worked on a doctorate at Fuller Seminary.  He is a minister today and is president of the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington D.C.  He was a troubled youth who was vulnerable. He read the Protocols and listened to Wesley Swift, the avid Christian Identity leader.   While in prison he found  their version of the Christian faith was lacking in truth.  He would have a dramatic conversion experience and  eventually write a book about his life.  For Kathy, she never got that chance.    

Ainsworth's life intersected with some dangerous people.  The young, niave, lady was like many during these times who were gullible and easily swayed, yet intelligent.

by wilkyjr on Sun Mar 31, 2013 at 05:43:46 PM EST

A tragic tale. I've never heard of Ms. Ainsworth, but then I'm very ignorant of the people involved in the terror attacks during the civil rights movement. How sad that she was so determined to do acts of violence at such a young age, and with the potential intelligence that would help her see how she was manipulated.

I can't even imagine the fear and distress of the Jewish families who were or could have been targeted. This article presents tragedy and horror in every direction, and a glimpse into the depths of hatred and loathing marinating the entire culture.

by trog69 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 03:07:21 AM EST

I have no sympathy for Kathy Ainsworth at all. As far as I'm concerned, she got just what she deserved. She was going to bomb a home with a family inside. What did she think that bomb was, a firecracker?

by Harold F on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 05:17:28 AM EST

Thank you for that interesting story. I live in Mississippi and my opinion is that for the most part the institutions of this state have not changed very much since the sixties. There is a veneer of openness and lip service is paid to racial change and justice, but under the surface of many 'christians' is the same old racism.

That is one reason (among many) that many people encourage their children to leave the state (me included)... so many of the best and brightest leave that we have a 'brain drain' problem.
And when the best and brightest leave, that leaves us with more conservative christians who 'don't care how they do things up north'.
And somehow they feel it is God's will that they end up in state and local government.

There have been some positive changes, in spite of our elected leaders. We have had some shining examples of good, decent public servants but they are the exception and not the rule.

Mississippi College churns out ideologues for the Religious Right, and as long as Southern Baptists are in control of the state we will stay at the bottom.

by COinMS on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 01:25:24 PM EST

I was not aware of Kathy Ainsworth and her history as a violent segregationist.

by khughes1963 on Mon Apr 01, 2013 at 09:14:27 PM EST

Mississippi College is and was a good school.  My wife and several friends graudated from the place.  There were those like this professor who as Foy Valentine used to say, were more Southern than Baptist. Like the saga "Ghost over Mississippi", these are stores many want to pretend never happened.

by wilkyjr on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 09:28:04 AM EST
I mean no disrespect to any individual who graduated from MC. I'm sure that most are reasonable and tolerant people, but many of these choose to leave Mississippi. I myself planned on taking my wife and three kids and leaving as well this summer... But after much soul searching have decided to stay and try to help make it a better place. We are struggling with a highly ideological and reactionary right wing and they seem to be gaining more, not less power. Many outsiders have a romantic, idealized view of Mississippi... A nostalgia which is only imagination. Perhaps if more moderates would return the fringe of the far right would not have such influence.

by COinMS on Sun Apr 07, 2013 at 09:37:41 AM EST

This is the first I've heard about Kathy Ainsworth, and the information in this article makes an excellent starting point for further research.  Although it does sound like she was duped and manipulated early on by her racist mentors, I'm with Harry F.--I can't bring myself to feel sorry about her death.  Because the same can be said about any terrorist--they are all duped and brainwashed!  But she was still responsible for her actions just like the rest of us.  She was killed while aiding and abetting a terrorist act.  Those who paid for the sting operation were acting in defense of their people, and only a diehard anti-Semite could fault them for that.

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