Friday, April 18, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Local physician Marty Nathan watched with more than distant interest as the news unfolded that a white supremacist had been arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of three people Sunday in Overland Park, Kan.
That man, Frazier Glenn Cross, more than 30 years ago had been connected to a supremacist group charged in connection with the North Carolina shooting death of her husband, Michael Nathan.
“It wasn’t like this was anything new — this is a man who has always been a violent racist,” said Nathan, a Northampton resident.
Cross, 73, who has been charged with three counts of murder and could face the death penalty if convicted, is accused of shooting a 69-year-old grandfather and his 14-year-old grandson outside a Jewish community center and a 53-year-old woman outside a retirement community.
Nathan, 63, first encountered Cross in 1979 when he went by the name Glenn Miller and was involved with a North Carolina Nazi group that attacked and killed marchers at an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro on Nov. 3.
Five people were killed and 10 people were injured in that attack, Nathan said.
One of those killed was Michael Nathan, Marty Nathan’s first husband and father of the couple’s 6-month-old daughter, Leah.
“He was one of the worst of the worst,” Nathan said of Cross.
At the time of the shootings, Michael Nathan was the chief of pediatrics at a Durham, N.C., clinic that helped low-income families, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Cross wasn’t implicated in the actual killings, but Nathan felt conspiracy charges should have been pursued because the group he founded — and was a member of — was responsible. Those who were brought to trial for the shootings were acquitted by all-white juries.
Nathan said the activities Cross engaged in were well-known to the FBI. She contends that if he had been tried for his association with the National Socialist Party of America, “we wouldn’t be where we’re at” today.
Nathan said she heard about the shootings on the news, but wasn’t aware the man accused was formerly Frazier Glenn Miller until a fellow widow of the Greensboro killings called her to inform her.
“I felt myself re-transported to the place and time which was so scary and so full of anger and violence and deception,” she said.
Following the 1979 killings, Nathan stopped practicing medicine and helped found the Greensboro Justice Fund.
Nathan said Cross’ intimidation didn’t stop after the 1979 shootings — she said she and others were threatened with more violence for helping to organize a concert by the late Pete Seeger that was to be a benefit for victims of the attack.
“After having just lost Michael, this really got to me,” she said.
Despite the threats, the concert went ahead as planned without incident, she said.
According to a May 25, 1981 press release from the Greensboro Justice Fund, the group filed a civil suit against the Klan, the National Socialist Party as well as state, federal and local authorities. That suit was won in 1985 after a civil trial that awarded the plaintiffs $350,000, Nathan said, which went to the Greensboro Justice Fund.
Cross was also sued by the Southern Poverty Law Center for operating the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, considered an illegal paramilitary organization.
That suit was also successful, forcing the group to curtail its activities, but Cross formed a new group shortly after called the White Patriot Party.
His activities with that group — which included building a weapons cache — violated the court agreement, leading to a conviction on contempt charges.
While appealing that conviction, Cross disappeared, but maintained contact with supporters, including mailing out a “Declaration of War” that contained a point system for kills of people of particular ethnic groups, judges and others.
He eventually served three years of a five-year sentence that was part of a plea deal in exchange for testimony against 14 white supremacist leaders, according to the SPLC.
Nathan said the point system is particularly ironic in Cross’ case, because it offered 10 points to anyone who killed a “white race traitor,” which she said he became when he made his plea deal and entered witness protection.
After the Greensboro Justice Fund won its suit against Cross, Nathan returned to medicine in 1986 and eventually moved to Massachusetts in 1995 to continue her practice.
She is a family physician with Baystate Health in Springfield.
Nathan said there was a great deal of collusion between authorities and the “violent right wing” in the South in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which made prosecutions difficult. She said it took a nonprofit civil rights organization, the SPLC, not police, to investigate and eventually bring Cross to trial.
“He should have been prosecuted a long time ago for criminal acts and he wasn’t,” Nathan said. “We said at the time a lack of prosecution would lead to no good, and it very obviously has led to no good.”
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.