Urban Report

From Klan to God's Plan

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Yvonne Lewis (Host), Rick Blythe


Series Code: UBR

Program Code: UBR000156A

00:01 Stay tuned to meet a man whose father
00:03 was the Alabama Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.
00:06 My name is Yvonne Lewis
00:08 and you're watching Urban Report.
00:34 Hello and welcome to Urban Report.
00:36 My guest today is Rick Blythe,
00:39 Pastor and man with a compelling story.
00:42 Welcome to Urban Report.
00:43 So good to be here.
00:45 Thank you, thank you.
00:46 So I had the opportunity to meet you
00:48 at the General Conference
00:50 and I got just a little taste of your story
00:53 and I thought, you must be on Dare to Dream
00:56 on the Dare to Dream Network and on Urban Report
00:59 because your story is just so intriguing,
01:02 tell us about your journey, your childhood,
01:06 where were you born and raised?
01:08 I was born at home, delivered by a doctor
01:11 in Piedmont, Alabama, little, small Alabama town,
01:14 and I grew up in segregated South,
01:19 and that has a lot to do with my story today.
01:23 Hmmm... hmmm... and that was back in the '60s?
01:28 Well, I was born in 1951, and it was really a quiet time
01:35 so... so, so, you know, during the '50s
01:38 but then in the '60s it began to broil
01:41 and I grew up in that environment.
01:44 And was it an integrated town,
01:48 was it a very segregated town in Piedmont?
01:51 Like most of the South, it was very segregated.
01:54 Hmmm... hmmm... I can remember, you know,
01:59 even working at my Uncle's Dairy Queens,
02:03 it was a Mom- and Pop-type thing but I remember one time...
02:08 a Black man who had come by and he was from up North
02:13 and he went into the restaurant and I visualized in my own eye
02:18 my uncle jumping over the counter with an axe handle
02:23 and repelling him out of the store.
02:26 Because he wasn't supposed to be in the store?
02:29 No, he was not supposed to be in the restaurant.
02:32 Oh, in the restaurant. In the restaurant.
02:34 Hmmm... hmmm... hmmm... hmmm...
02:35 I remember,
02:37 I used to live in Alabama too
02:39 when I was... and that was in the '60s
02:41 oooh, I'm telling my age now,
02:43 and at the time,
02:48 it was very segregated,
02:50 I lived in Huntsville and I remember
02:52 my mom was very fair
02:54 and so she could go into the front of the restaurant
02:58 she would go in and get the food
03:00 and bring it out to us in the car
03:02 because Blacks could not, at the time
03:05 go into the front part of the restaurant
03:08 they have to go around the back,
03:10 and my mother was very fair
03:12 so she was able to go into the front
03:14 and she just brought the food out to us
03:15 but it was a very dark time for the South,
03:21 your family, was your family an intact family
03:26 you had a mom and dad in the home,
03:28 what was your family like... life like?
03:31 Well, we were an intact family
03:33 it was my mother and my dad
03:36 and I was the oldest of six siblings,
03:38 and it was intact
03:40 but my dad was in control,
03:44 it was one of those typical, you know, you've heard,
03:47 the wife is pregnant, barefoot, and behind the man,
03:50 Hmmm... hmmm...
03:51 my dad did not even let my mother have money,
03:56 she couldn't buy the groceries,
03:58 she basically just did whatever he said
04:03 and she had to ask him for money,
04:06 so we were intact but it was like
04:09 typical male chauvinist kind of thing
04:13 and he spent most of his time in Birmingham
04:18 where we learned later... that he had another family
04:21 but he lived in Birmingham
04:22 and he worked in the steel mills there
04:25 as a carpenter but then on weekends
04:27 he would come home but so many times
04:30 we dreaded for him to come home.
04:32 We have a picture of your family
04:35 of your mom and your siblings,
04:37 I don't think your dad is in that particular picture
04:41 but it's your mother, so which one are you now?
04:44 I'm the one...
04:46 In the striped shirt or...
04:48 The striped shirt.
04:50 Okay, all right.
04:51 Yes, that's me, I was red-headed, freckles...
04:56 Awww... and so your dad
04:58 was absent, even in this picture.
05:00 Oh yes, he wasn't there much of our lives,
05:04 just came home on the weekends... mostly...
05:07 And we have a picture of your father too,
05:11 we should put that picture up so that people can see
05:13 what your dad looked like.
05:15 Yeah, he was a handsome man and my mother fell for him but
05:22 you know, she just...
05:27 she was a good, Godly Christian woman
05:29 she just married the wrong man, Hmmm...
05:32 but she did say
05:34 the good thing that came out of it was her kids.
05:37 Yes, yes, so, your dad was in Birmingham,
05:42 you and your mom and your siblings
05:44 were in Piedmont
05:46 and what kind of life did you live in Piedmont,
05:50 were you affluent, were you... how did you live?
05:54 He was Middle class, he had a good Union job
05:57 and we could have lived comfortably
06:00 but he lived in... somewhat comfort...
06:02 while we lived in poverty,
06:05 I remember living in the houses up on the stilts
06:08 where the dogs run though the house
06:10 and I could see cracks through the walls and
06:13 we lived in poverty.
06:18 So, how did your dad get involved with the Ku Klux Klan,
06:23 do you know how he started with all that?
06:27 You know... I really don't know.
06:29 I don't know how he started but, you know,
06:34 people say that when you're isolated, alone,
06:38 you're bitter and you're angry, you're looking for belonging,
06:41 you're looking for a family, and I think that that's...
06:45 see, my dad had a bad childhood so I think that's partly why
06:52 but I began to listen to conversations
06:57 and I could hear and the things that he would say
06:59 and this is how I learned but when he actually became...
07:02 I remember he was involved, all my life
07:06 since I was a young thing.
07:08 So you don't really remember a time when he wasn't involved.
07:12 No, I do not... no...
07:14 And so, would he come... this is...
07:16 I'm asking these questions both from an interviewing standpoint
07:21 and also from a Black mentality
07:24 because I tried to wrap my mind around that kind of hatred
07:29 and bigotry... how did he... what was his perception
07:35 of Blacks at that time,
07:37 what did he think about Black people?
07:40 Well, you know, a lot of people don't understand
07:42 but he really thought... he really believed in his heart
07:47 that the Blacks were trying to destroy his way of life,
07:52 Okay. he really believed that,
07:55 now, but, you know, somehow
07:57 he never instilled that hatred in me
07:59 in fact the more hatred he showed,
08:02 the more secretly I felt the other way
08:04 and my mother felt that way, and his own mother felt that way
08:07 in fact the secret is...
08:09 I believe that most people I knew
08:12 did not feel that way,
08:13 they were just afraid to speak it up
08:16 Hmmm...
08:17 because they were as afraid of Klan as the Blacks were,
08:20 and so... in fact
08:24 my favorite President, was Abraham Lincoln,
08:28 and my hero,
08:30 my childhood hero was George Washington Carver,
08:32 and I love peanut butter to this day,
08:36 and... but I couldn't verbalize that,
08:39 I couldn't tell it, you know,
08:43 so we would always hear things,
08:46 you know... that the Blacks,
08:48 the Jews and the Catholics
08:51 were going to try to destroy this Country,
08:53 and so... that's kind of...
08:56 but he really believed this, you know,
09:01 he really believed this, it doesn't excuse it
09:03 but he really believed it
09:06 and I believed to a large extent... he was brainwashed.
09:10 By his circle?
09:13 Well, you know, sometimes I think that
09:17 when you grow up with something missing in your life,
09:22 you fill it with something, and unfortunately,
09:26 in his case, he didn't fill it with God.
09:28 In fact, he viewed himself as a hell-bent, backslidden Baptist
09:34 Okay...
09:35 and so I just know that
09:39 he was a bitter, angry person, and I believe
09:43 that that kind of person looks for a scapegoat
09:46 to blame their problems on.
09:48 Absolutely, and also... a person
09:52 who has low self-esteem looks to make someone seem lower
09:57 and so, that, I think, is an interesting factor too
10:03 but what's also interesting to me
10:06 is that you distanced yourself
10:09 from that,
10:11 you didn't want to be like your dad,
10:12 you didn't want to hold his attitudes,
10:15 you didn't want to have anything to do
10:18 with that kind of mind-set, and it's a blessing
10:22 that you didn't live with him, I think,
10:24 because you didn't have that day-to-day...
10:27 every day exposure to a hatred.
10:31 Well, one time when he came home,
10:34 we had gone to town,
10:36 and I was thirsty and so I just automatically bent down
10:41 and started taking a drink of water,
10:44 and I felt a slap up against my face,
10:47 and my ears were just ringing, and I was in pain
10:51 and I heard my dad say,
10:54 "Boy, don't you ever drink from that colored fountain,"
10:57 except he used the "N" word,
10:59 and "don't you... you don't know how,
11:01 you could get sick, you could die from that,
11:05 and so, I was just a young kid and I'm like,
11:08 you know, my head is just spinning
11:11 so... but one thing I noticed that I wasn't hurt at all,
11:19 so I'm thinking... You didn't die after drinking.
11:23 so, I'm beginning to think, "Whoa... " you know,
11:26 I began to have doubts because
11:29 these things just didn't seem to be right,
11:34 Hmmm... hmmm... hmmm... I can remember
11:36 living in Alabama too
11:39 and I was from New York originally
11:42 and I'd moved to Huntsville
11:44 because my dad went back to college
11:45 and he was about 30,
11:47 and I remember that there was a white fountain
11:50 and a colored fountain, the white fountain was up here,
11:54 and the "colored" fountain was down here
11:56 and I... being from New York, I don't know where my...
12:00 my mother must have been in some part of store or something
12:03 but I called myself rebellious and nobody was going to tell me
12:06 where to drink, and I drank out of the white one
12:08 I had no idea that I could have been in danger
12:11 I had no idea that something could have happened to me,
12:14 I'm just thinking, "Huh, nobody is going to tell me
12:17 what to do, I'm from New York"
12:19 and I... I don't know what I was thinking but...
12:21 but it could have been a dangerous situation.
12:24 Absolutely, but to help in that thinking...
12:26 there were times that I went along
12:32 because somethings...
12:34 I had no other understanding
12:36 except what my mother gave me and so
12:38 there were a lot of things that I grew up
12:41 and my girls help me now by saying,
12:43 "Papa, you can't say that" and I was like,
12:46 "Why?" and they educate me
12:48 because see... I didn't mean anything pejorative
12:52 by some of the things but it's things that were just
12:55 engrained in me as I grew up but I didn't mean them in a bad way
12:59 but it was just... I didn't know any better
13:01 it was ignorance.
13:03 Right, and you know and I think that
13:04 that is a point that we really should unpack a little bit
13:09 because so many times we think that people
13:12 really mean something insulting when actually it's ignorance,
13:17 they really don't know better,
13:19 because that's all they've heard,
13:20 if that's all you've heard then that's all you know
13:24 unless you're horizons are broadened
13:26 and so at that time and maybe into adulthood,
13:33 there were still some things that you really didn't know
13:36 because of your upbringing.
13:38 Exactly. So I think it's important
13:41 to understand that and I think that's why
13:43 it's important for people of different cultures
13:47 to come together and to talk
13:49 because that's how you get to know
13:51 other people... as people.
13:53 And I think my dad didn't want me talking
13:56 because I might find out
14:00 things that he didn't want me to know.
14:04 Yes, yes, so now, let's go back to your dad
14:08 was in the Klan and people actually...
14:11 White people in the town were also afraid of the Klan?
14:16 Oh! That's was...
14:17 that's eye-opening to me.
14:18 Oh! absolutely they were.
14:20 So they were terrorized by the Klan
14:22 as well as... like Black people were?
14:25 My wife's parents
14:29 were Christians and no prejudice in the whole family
14:34 and they had a Black lady that would come in
14:36 once a week for housework and so forth
14:39 and they would invite her to sit down and eat with them
14:43 and she would never do it because she was like...
14:46 "No Mrs. Fitzpatrick,
14:48 I don't want to get you in trouble,
14:50 I don't want to get you in trouble,"
14:52 so they had no problem with her sitting down and eating
14:57 but she wouldn't do it because she respected them so much,
15:01 so, yes, even they...
15:05 many of the Blacks in the South understood this
15:08 and so, yes, there were many that
15:13 just were afraid to speak up.
15:15 Hmmm... how did your dad treat your mom?
15:18 Well, I remember one time he was coming home from work
15:24 on the weekend, he was coming home,
15:26 and many times he'd stop off at the bar,
15:30 and be drinking heavily,
15:31 and so she would never know when he was coming home,
15:34 so she would try to re-heat the food and so forth
15:37 well, this one time, she wanted to surprise him
15:40 so she made pizza, which we'd never had before
15:43 and it was Chef Boyardee in a box,
15:46 and it had this parmesan cheese she made this
15:51 and when he came home
15:52 immediately he was wanting to know what that stink was
15:56 in the house from the parmesan cheese
15:58 and it was cold and he hit my mother so hard
16:04 that she had Bell's Palsy on one side of her face
16:08 until the day she died, and he said,
16:13 "Woman, I don't you ever to have wop food in this house again"
16:17 and at another time,
16:22 I've seen my father actually
16:24 stick a fork in my mother's leg up to her bone.
16:27 Oh my!
16:30 When I was a child, we would go to bed,
16:34 we'd hear gun shots... we would get up, we would run,
16:37 we would scream and go and see if my mother was all right,
16:40 and it was my dad... drunk... shooting at the ceiling,
16:43 mother would settle us all down and get us in bed
16:46 and then, as soon as we'd go to sleep,
16:49 he would do it again,
16:50 and so, we'd jump up screaming again
16:53 and this is the very emotional part
16:56 but this is how I grew up and this violence eventually
17:01 escalated until I was older, around 17-years old
17:07 and my father was drunk and he wanted my younger sister
17:15 who was unlicensed to take him to get more booze,
17:20 and, of course, the family objected to that
17:24 and he began punching and kicking my sisters
17:29 and then eventually he got a pistol which was a 25 magnum
17:36 and my mother had my baby sister in her arms
17:40 and my dad put the pistol down to her head
17:43 and pulled the hammer back and my house was full of guns
17:47 I mean... it was just full of guns
17:50 and so I had asked my... I knew things were escalating
17:55 so I asked one of my sisters to get me a gun
17:58 and I put it up on the Chifforobe
18:01 and so when my dad put the gun down to her head
18:05 and pulled the hammer back, I ran for my... the gun
18:10 and I came in to stop him and when my mother saw me,
18:15 she jumped in front of us and I went around like this
18:19 and I shot and it hit my father
18:22 and he passed... he went unconscious
18:26 and he hit the chair, and he was there unconscious
18:31 at that time my sister comes in
18:35 out of her bedroom and she's holding herself
18:38 and she says, "Momma, I have been shot,"
18:40 she said, "No, honey, it was your daddy"
18:42 and she put out her hands and blood was running out of her
18:47 and what we learned later was
18:50 that the bullet had passed through him
18:52 and hit her, and it lodged in her spleen,
18:55 near her spleen, and...
18:57 How old was she at the time?
18:58 Like 15... no maybe... 14 or 15, I don't remember
19:04 but it was 13- to 15-years old.
19:07 And we have a picture of her on the screen.
19:09 That's a picture of her... yeah... she did survive
19:14 she does have a fragment of bullet still in her
19:18 and she actually was paralyzed for a period of time,
19:22 but she survived and we have a good,
19:25 strong relationship today.
19:26 Oh, praise the Lord for that so, you shot your dad,
19:33 that is a very... that has so many ramifications
19:39 first of all, how old were you when you...
19:40 Seventeen.
19:42 Seventeen, and how did your dad, when he came to...
19:45 did he die from this?
19:46 No, he did not.
19:47 So how did he respond to you when he came to?
19:51 Well, see... we went to the...
19:54 part of the other story is...
19:57 is that I had panicked when I saw my sister shot,
20:03 so I ran outside
20:04 and when I did, I hit my head on the low porch
20:07 and I fell backwards on the concrete and I passed out,
20:12 so... but I came to... and when I did,
20:15 my dad had revived and he was driving the car
20:18 my mother was in the passenger seat
20:21 and my "shot" sister was in the middle
20:23 and I was in the back seat, he had dragged me to the car,
20:26 and he had a rifle in my throat
20:29 and we were headed to the hospital
20:31 and he says, "If this girl dies," he says,
20:34 "I'll shoot you and then I'll kill the rest of us"
20:38 well, my one brother had... he had left the house
20:41 and he found the local Law and they stopped him
20:45 and when they did, he pulled the rifle toward them
20:49 and he said, "This is a family matter,"
20:52 he said, "you better get out of here. "
20:54 And did they know, as policemen,
20:56 did they know your dad was from the local KKK?
20:59 Oh, absolutely, they knew him and so they let him go.
21:01 So they actually took orders from your dad,
21:05 you're dad said... Yes, they let him go.
21:07 Oh my!
21:09 And so we were going into the next county though
21:13 and when we got there the County Sheriff met us
21:16 and they pulled us out of the car,
21:18 they arrested... the threw my hands behind my back,
21:22 they arrested my father, and I basically said,
21:25 you know, "You can put me in jail
21:27 but please don't put me in the cell with him. "
21:29 Well, eventually, it's a long story
21:34 but eventually they let me out and they put him back in jail
21:40 and basically... all they did was
21:42 put a restraining order on him,
21:44 he moved to Birmingham with his other family
21:48 and there was some relative peace
21:51 but even during that time, he would still torment us,
21:55 he would come back to our house
21:57 and shoot at... toward the house
21:58 and I remember spending nights in a barn,
22:05 in the middle of January
22:07 and even my wife... after I was in the ministry,
22:12 after many years,
22:16 he would call my wife up at 3 o'clock in the morning
22:19 and threaten our children... his grandchildren...
22:22 It still evokes a lot of emotion in you now, doesn't it,
22:28 after all these years...
22:29 After all these years,
22:30 one thing my dad taught me though
22:32 and that was... what not to be.
22:34 Hmmm... hmmm... yes...
22:37 But, you know, the thing that kept me going was my...
22:43 this calling of God on my life, Jeremiah one talks about,
22:49 "I called thee before you were formed in the belly"
22:53 and my great-grandmother, when she first saw me
22:56 told my mother that this man is going to be a preacher
23:00 Hmmm... and so that calling was in me
23:03 and I just had that feeling and...
23:06 you know I never had hate or animosity toward anyone
23:12 Yes.
23:14 and I just felt the calling of God
23:16 and it was that...
23:18 that combined with a sense of humor
23:21 that's just kind of helped me cope through these years.
23:24 Yes, yes, and look at the contrast between you...
23:27 and we have a picture of your dad in his Ku Klux Klan gear,
23:32 look at the difference between you
23:36 and the way God has led you and where your dad was
23:41 I mean, he was full of rage and anger and hatred
23:46 and God has given you a spirit of love and of peace and of joy
23:50 that's what God does, how did you find the Lord
23:53 we just... I can't believe our time is gone
23:55 how did you find the Lord in the midst of all this,
24:00 I know your mom was a Christian
24:01 but how did you find Jesus really... for you?
24:05 Well, you see, my... I grew up early as a Baptist
24:09 Baptist-Methodist background
24:11 so I've learned about the beautiful grace of God
24:13 and then my mother had been studying
24:15 Garner Ted Armstrong and the Worldwide church of God
24:19 and she learned about the Sabbath
24:20 so I embraced the Sabbath,
24:22 so then I learned about the law of the justice of God
24:26 but when I became a Seventh-day Adventist,
24:29 I married the "grace" and the "law" together
24:32 Oh, come on...
24:33 yes, yes... Come on now...
24:35 but what was happening after all this happened,
24:40 I joined the Navy and I think there's a picture of that
24:43 but... kind of escape all this...
24:46 what I grew up with, everything was turmoil,
24:49 and I was escaping God, I was escaping the trouble
24:52 but what happened was... is that...
24:55 I ended up in the Navy
24:56 and my new boss was a Seventh-day Adventist
25:00 and so I ran from God right into God.
25:04 Look at God... look how He operates.
25:08 Amen and so he invited us to a series of meetings,
25:12 we went to two-and-a-half series,
25:15 and at the end of that, my wife and I accepted Christ,
25:21 we accepted this great message
25:23 and somehow after learning this message, you just...
25:26 everything just began to come together and I understood
25:30 because I understood good and evil
25:33 but I never understood the great controversy
25:35 and it just put the picture together
25:37 you just put it together you know.
25:40 Yes.
25:41 And I had lived in the great controversy
25:44 in my life. Yes, yes.
25:46 People say... you know... I hear people say
25:47 "Get ready for the time of trouble,"
25:49 and I said, "Time of trouble doesn't worry me,
25:51 I have already lived through it. "
25:53 What would you say, Pastor Rick, to that person
25:57 in about one minute, that person who is bound
26:01 by hatred and bigotry and anger,
26:04 what would you say to them right now?
26:07 I would say that really, "God is inside of you,
26:11 if you would grab hold of His hand,
26:13 He'll lead you to victory and no matter how many doubts,
26:17 it doesn't matter where you're born,
26:18 what your station in life is, I was just an old cotton picker,
26:22 common Southern fellow
26:24 with no hope of ever reaching anything
26:28 and I have been a missionary, I have been a pastor
26:31 and I have traveled this world,
26:32 and I have seen God perform miracle after miracle
26:36 in my life, and you know,
26:38 I don't say that God will perform a miracle
26:41 just like He did for me,
26:43 but God has a miracle for each one of us,
26:46 if we just trust Him. "
26:47 Yes, yes, yes, thank you so much,
26:50 you know, your story is just...
26:53 it's so intriguing and so compelling
26:56 because people can be wrapped up in hate and bigotry
26:59 no matter what their race or nationality,
27:02 or ethnicity, you can be Black and bigoted,
27:05 White and bigoted, it's the character,
27:08 so we thank you so much for being so transparent
27:12 and for sharing your story and for being with us.
27:15 Thank you for asking me.
27:16 Absolutely, and I hope you'll come back some time
27:18 and tell us some more,
27:20 I have a feeling there's more to this story,
27:22 we didn't get all of it, so...
27:24 And I want to write a book about this and I wonder
27:28 if this will be of interest to others too.
27:31 Absolutely, I think you should absolutely write a book
27:34 and you know what, when you do,
27:35 we'll bring you back on to Dare to Dream
27:39 on to Urban Report and have you talk about it.
27:42 That's an incentive isn't it?
27:44 It is, it is, it is...
27:45 well thank you so much for joining us
27:48 you know, Pastor Rick showed us today
27:50 that you don't have to be caught up
27:53 into hatred and bigotry, just reach out to Jesus
27:58 and He will be there for you.
28:00 Thanks for joining us, join us next time,
28:02 because it just wouldn't be the same... without you.


Revised 2016-04-12