From a very old version of a website I haven’t had in years.
On September 1st, 1993, Bill Simpson, 36, was murdered 11 hours after leaving the housing complex in the notoriously all white and allegedly racist town of Vidor, Texas. Simpson was the last African-American to leave Vidor after a failed government experiment in forced integration.
Because the blacks in the Vidor Housing Complex received so many death threats, Simpson’s death is shrouded in mystery and conspiracy. After a wave of criminal trials and investigations by the Beaumont Police, The FBI, The Texas Commission on Human Rights, and The Texas NAACP and The Vidor Police, most of the story’s participants were under court gag order or went into hiding.
A five year investigation by filmmaker Matt Kordelski,
“What Really Happened?”
|An exhaustive search has resulted in exclusive interviews with many eyewitnesses and participants, most of whom refused to speak up at the time of the murder.
The list includes Vidor residents, friends of Simpson, local and state government officials. Even representatives of the “Invisible Empire,” (Ku Klux Klan) and the right-wing Nationalist movement all agreed to speak their minds on this story.
|Featured interviews include:
William Hale, Director of the The Texas Commission on Human Rights.
Richard Stewart, the Houston Chronicle reporter who covered this story from beginning to end and whose family befriended Bill.
Ross Dennis, the president of the Vidor Housing Complex Tenants’ Association.
Gerald Guilbeaux, Vidor resident who was featured on the Montel Williams Show exposé on this story.
Doris and “Skeeter” Haire, members of a Vidor Christian group that saved Simpson from a Beaumont Crack House.
Tom Oxford, attorney for East Texas Legal Services.
Mike Daniels, the lawyer who initiated the “Young vs Kemp” suit that led to the forced desegregation of 36 counties in East Texas.
Klan Grand Dragon Charles Lee and some local and regional Klansmen.
Lydia Faye Washington, the woman who saw Simpson’s murder and could identify the shooters. She gave her only interview ever for this documentary.
For many people, Bill Simpsons death has been given an all too easy answer. Police say the death was simply a random drive-by shooting by a local Black street gang. Stories swirl around the area that the shooters knew who they were shooting, and some even say a secret witness saw a white man pull the trigger.
|Simpson had received countless death threats from white supremacists in Vidor, and some of his fellow Vidor complex residents say they heard of a specific plot to kill him, which a local Klansman even boasted of participating in.|
There were 5 known Ku Klux Klan factions operating in Vidor. The two most important were the White Camelia Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from nearby Cleveland, Texas, led by Grand Dragon Charles Lee. Lee is the Klansman whose face adorns the famous Texas Monthly cover “Vidor: Inside Texas’s most hate filled town.” Michael Lowe comes from Waco, Texas, and represents the Texas faction of the national Knights of the Ku Klux Klan operating out of Harrison, Arkansas.
Another group is located right in Vidor, The Knights of the White Kamellia. Note the different spellings of “Camellia,” a southern flower. The Vidor group uses a “K” and the Cleveland group uses a “C,” although of similar ideology, these groups are not officially aligned.
In the Summer of 1993, after the announcement that Vidor’s housing complex would be desegregated, local Klansmen and Klan supporters called in “reinforcements” from other Klan groups in Texas and the surrounding region. They organized several large rallies in Vidor and at the county courthouse in Orange, City, to generate opposition to the integration of an infamously all-white town. They were also accused of conducting and/or arranging acts of intimidation in and around Vidor to let both blacks and whites know the Klan wasn’t going to take this sitting down.
Criminal charges were filed against Klansmen from the various factions, but most were unprovable. The Camellia Klan allegedly drove their bus through the housing complex brandishing weapons. Someone hung a “White Power” sheet on a highway overpass. Threats were made to the city leaders who publicly supported integration and various anonymous threats to blow up or burn down the complex were made.
Klan leader Michael Lowe participated in a publicity stunt arranged by an Australian version of “A Current Affair” wherein Lowe showed up at Bill Simpson’s door to “talk.” Klan leaders Charles Lee and Michael Lowe were both sent to prison for short jail terms, not for any particular criminal activity but for refusing to surrender their secret membership lists.