Guess Who? November 3, 2008

I’ve taken an excerpt from a certain person’s Wikipedia article and removed his name.

Can you guess who it is? (Answer below)

_____ earned a law degree from Washburn University in 1962, and founded the _____ Chartered law firm in 1964. The first notable cases were of a civil rights nature. “I systematically brought down the Jim Crow laws of this town,” he says. _____’s daughter was quoted as saying, “We took on the Jim Crow establishment, and Kansas did not take that sitting down. They used to shoot our car windows out, screaming we were nigger lovers,” and that the _____ law firm made up one-third of the state’s federal docket of civil-rights cases.

_____ took cases on behalf of African American clients alleging discrimination by school systems, and a predominately black American Legion post which had been raided by police, alleging racially-based police abuse. _____’s law firm obtained settlements for some clients. _____ also sued then-President Ronald Reagan over Reagan’s appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, alleging this violated separation of church and state. The case was dismissed by the U.S. district court. _____’s law firm, staffed by himself and family members also represented non-white Kansans in discrimination actions against Kansas Power and Light, Southwestern Bell, and the Topeka City Attorney, and represented two female professors alleging discrimination in Kansas universities.

In the 1980s _____ received awards from the Greater Kansas City Chapter of Blacks in Government and the Bonner Springs branch of the NAACP for his work on behalf of black clients.

Click here for the full article on Fred Phelps.

It’s amazing how a person can go from fighting for an admirable cause to… well… something far away from that.

His son, an atheist, has a lot to say about him as well in a really incredible interview. The writer, Trevor Melanson, met Nate Phelps coincidentally in Canada:

… It is little wonder that Louis Theroux’s BBC documentary on the Phelps’ was titled The Most Hated Family in America.

Incidentally, it was when I mentioned this documentary that Nate introduced himself to me.

It was a Monday in September and I was on my way to the Cranbrook Airport. Cranbrook, a modest city of about 25,000, hides in BC’s Kootenays. It rests behind a shroud of mountains, clean air, and restful silence.

I began a conversation with my cab driver, who looked to be in his late forties, with a trimmed beard and kind eyes. He told me that he once owned a chain of print shops with his brother, that he liked the BBC, and that Pastor Fred Phelps was his father — only after I had mentioned [Westboro Baptist Church], unaware. Following this coincidence, he agreed to an interview.

(via The Pitch)

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  • Holy Crap! Fred Phelps was a civil rights worker? Wow. Talk about falling hard. He went from fighting bigots for the rights of an underprivileged group to fighting as a bigot against the rights of an underprivileged group. In the name of supposed strict adherence to the Bible. Scary.

  • marty

    Well, going by the interview with his son, at the same time he was being oh so helpful as a civil rights worker he was popping pills and beating his children with a mattock handle.

  • “Well, going by the interview with his son, at the same time he was being oh so helpful as a civil rights worker he was popping pills and beating his children with a mattock handle.”

    Oh. Well, then, I guess he was the Phelpsey we know and love all along…

  • llewelly

    The book Addicted To Hate covers Fred Phelps ‘fighting’ the Jim Crow laws.
    From Chapter 6 :

    Sadly, close inspection of Phelps’ civil rights record shows he followed the same greedy star he did in the rest of his cases. Lawsuits were filed, but rarely went to trial-and even more rarely reached a decision. Instead, Phelps practiced what he always had: ‘take-the-money-and run’. A settlement out-of-court has zero impact on legal precedent. Both sides continue to maintain they were right, only one party pays the other a little money to shut up and go away. In what are probably Fred Phelps’ three most famous civil rights cases, he did exactly that each time. In the multi-million dollar Kansas Power and Light case, Phelps filed a class-action on behalf of 2,000 blacks who had accused the utility of discrimination in their hiring and promotion practices.

    Fred settled out of court for the following: *Two black employees received $12,000 each. *$100,000 was paid out to the other plaintiffs. If one counts the original 2,000, that made for 50 bucks each.

    *Phelps scooped $85,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses. *KP&L admitted no wrongdoing and suffered no coercion to alter its allegedly racist policies. KP&L officials claimed they’d settled to avoid an expensive legal battle. “It’s unprecedented what we just did,” the pastor crowed.

    Certainly it left no precedent.


    During their teenage years, both Mark and Nate worked as law clerks in their father’s office. “When a black client was in there,” recalls Nate, “my father would play the ‘DN’ game with us. It stands for ‘dumb nigger’. We would all try to use the acronym as often as possible in the presence of the person involved.” In the 1983 interview with the Wichita Eagle-Beacon, Phelps intoned, echoing Abraham Lincoln: “The air of the United States is too pure for racial prejudice to keep going, and the nation can’t long endure half-slave and half-free. There is not any doubt that the problems of this country derive, in my humble opinion, from the way this country continues to treat black people.” But according to his sons in California, part of the theology of the Old Calvinism Fred taught held that blacks were a subservient race because they were the sons of Ham, the son of Noah. Cursed for ridiculing Noah’s nakedness, Ham’s children were born black, according to the Bible. Some scholars attribute apartheid in South Africa to the fact that the white minority is predominantly Calvinist and takes the Ham story to heart.

    Mark definitely recalls that his father taught the Ham story and took it to its Calvinist conclusions: the black race was cursed and meant to be the “servants of servants” – i.e., subservient to whites. Nate agrees. “He taught that in Sunday sermon many times while we were growing up.” Both boys recall their father used to tell black jokes.

    “And he’d imitate them after they’d left our office,” remembers Mark. However, the piece-de-resistance in the ongoing saga of Phelps hypocrisy is the pastor’s relationship with the Reverend Pete Peters of La Porte, Colorado.

    Peters is the guru-philosopher of the Christian Identity Movement. Known simply as “Identity”, the movement believes the white race is God’s true Chosen People. They assert the Jews are animal souls that rewrote the Old Testament to give themselves the Chosen’s birthright. Blacks are “mud people” who also possess animal souls-meaning they are not immortal and cannot go to heaven. According to Identity, blacks and Jews want to eliminate the white race and rule the earth.

  • Dr. Dobson didn’t used to be as bad as he is now, either. He used to actually focus on the family, not politics. Though always conservative, his original material was not nearly as far right as it is now.

  • Erik

    So as a pill-popper, Phelps was semi-decent human being (minus the mattock beating). George W. Bush had to give up booze and find Jesus to turn into an international disgrace. Kids, do drugs and alcohol.

  • AxeGrrl

    So as a pill-popper, Phelps was semi-decent human being (minus the mattock beating). George W. Bush had to give up booze and find Jesus to turn into an international disgrace. Kids, do drugs and alcohol.


    not that I needed another reason, but wheeeeeeeee 🙂

  • TXatheist

    I heard that about Phelps months ago concerning him being a lawyer for civil rights and wondered what happened?

  • Polly

    Thanks for that llewelly. I think perhaps the fall was not from as far up high as we might be led to believe by Wikipedia.

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