Johnny Lee Clary
|Johnny Lee Clary|
June 18, 1959|
Martinez, California, U.S.
|Died||October 21, 2014
Baton Rouge, Louisiana, U.S.
|Occupation||Preacher, former professional wrestler, Ex KKK Leader|
|Johnny Lee Clary homepage|
Johnny Lee Clary (June 18, 1959 – October 21, 2014) was a former Ku Klux Klan leader who became a Pentecostal Christian and traveled around the globe preaching the gospel and teaching against racism and hate groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo Nazis, and the Aryan Nations. Clary was known also as the wrestler Johnny Angel who had success in the 1980s in the National Wrestling Federation (NWF).
Family, childhood and youth
Johnny Lee Clary was born on June 18, 1959 in Del City, Oklahoma and reportedly raised in a racist home, where his father encouraged racist language and abusive treatment of blacks, and saw to it that Clary attended an all-white church. Although Clary's father, a Catholic, was not a Klansman, Clary claimed that his paternal uncle, Harold, was a member and that Harold boasted to Clary's father of shooting an African-American man. Johnny's father sent his son on the Sunday school bus every week to the First Baptist Church.
According to interviews Clary had given, his youth was marred by a violent and tragic family life and also by a lack of stability. At the age of 11 he watched his father kill himself and was subsequently shunted from one family member's home to another's. Eventually he found himself alone in East L.A. where he became involved in gangs, and joined the Ku Klux Klan by the time he was 14.
In 1983, Johnny became a professional wrestler and was trained (along with his brother Terry Clary) by former NWA World Junior Heavyweight Champion, Danny Hodge. Terry began his career under the name Sugar Boy, with Johnny as his manager under the name Der Kommisar after a 1980s new wave song of that name. Terry is best known for almost holding the NWA World Jr. Heavyweight Title for a very brief period. The storyline had Terry defeat then-champion Danny Hodge after Johnny (portraying a heel managerial character) reached under the ropes during the match and tripped Hodge with a cane, and then had the decision reversed due to Johnny's "interference".
Terry continued to wrestle, changing his name to Buddy "Bad Man" Savage. Johnny left wrestling management and began wrestling by himself, using the name Johnny Angel. He was given the NWF/NWA Arkansas Heavyweight Title in 1986 and appeared on shows for Kansas City All Star Wrestling with the National Wrestling Association. Later he joined the National Wrestling Federation and competed against some notable wrestlers such as DC Drake, Wendi Richter, and Sgt. Slaughter.
Johnny Angel, was DC Drake's last manager in the NWF. Clary represented Drake just prior to Drake's retirement. The most memorable event between the two occurred in Kalispell, Montana when Drake was set to meet Sgt. Slaughter to defend his title. Clary arrived in the Kalispell area about a week before the match and created an uproar on local radio and television programs. The night of the match, over 5000 fans wanted Clary's head on a platter. Clary's interference cost Slaughter the belt, a near riot ensued and both Drake and Clary needed a police escort back to the dressing area. Clary also represented the Spanish Angel that night in a match against NWF Ladies Champion Wendi Richter. Clary interfered continuously in this match as well and barely made it back to the locker area. After the match, the Montana State Police suggested that Clary not return to their state. Drake and Clary remain friends to this day.
"When I met Johnny, I had no idea of his background or what he was involved in (the KKK). It was many years later, after reading his book, that I realized the extent and depth of his involvement in the Klan. The fact that he made a break from his past and has become a successful evangelist is a credit to him and shows the strength of his current convictions. Johnny's wrestling career could have been so much more successful if he had not been burdened with the hatred he carried with him from his childhood. But his story is one of redemption. No experience is a waste if lessons are learned. And in Johnny's case, he took these lessons and has made a choice to share these experiences with others. His life is an inspiration for all and almost runs parallel with the underlying storyline that has made professional wrestling so successful—good can and will overcome evil. He lives that philosophy daily and continues to spread that message." -- DC Drake
Johnny held the Arkansas Heavyweight title successfully several times between 1986 and 1988, even winning matches against his brother Terry (under the Buddy Savage moniker). Johnny retired from wrestling on July 30, 1988 in Grove, Oklahoma after winning a 10-Man Battle Royal. At the time of his retirement, he was still the Arkansas Heavyweight Champion. In 2002 he made a one-time return to professional wrestling, competing against "Nature Boy" Buddy Landel at a show in North Carolina in 2002.
Racism and conversion to an anti-racism preacher
While wrestling, Clary continued his involvement in the KKK. According to his interviews with several media outlets, Clary became the Grand Dragon of the Oklahoma arm of the White Knights Of The Ku Klux Klan. Clary claims to have become increasingly disillusioned with the KKK even as he rose through its ranks. He mentions a first brush with evangelical Christianity in the mid-to-late 1980s but, he claims, he was scared into returning to the KKK and went on to become the Imperial Wizard of the whole White Knights organization in 1989. During his leadership the White Knights did not garner much media attention for their activities, but Clary was an active spokesperson for the Klan, defending racism and violence against non-whites. In this role he appeared on syndicated talk shows including those hosted by Oprah Winfrey and Morton Downey, Jr.
In interviews Clary asserts that he left the KKK for good in 1990 and joined an evangelical church. This time he stayed with the church and in 1991 he began preaching. He teamed up with Wade Watts, a preacher and former leader of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) with whom he had previously sparred on numerous occasions during his time in the KKK.
The story of Clary's conversion from a Klansman to an anti-racism preacher has drawn the attention of numerous Christian media outlets and several national Australian talk shows. He appeared on talk shows such as "Donahue", and "Geraldo", discussing racial issues in the USA.
Johnny Lee Clary was an ordained minister under World Evangelism Fellowship and Church Of God In Christ and lived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In 2009, he joined Jimmy Swaggart Ministries' Family Worship Center, where his wife is employed and began to preach and teach part-time there. He had been an active member there appearing on their Christian Network Sonlife Broadcasting Network on occasion.
- Former KKK Grand Wizard finds new path by Frank Wallis
- Apostle of Healing, melaniehemry.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- "Enough Rope with Andrew Denton" (Official show transcript). abc.net.au. 2005-09-05. Retrieved 2006-09-02.
- Former Klansman addresses his past, lincolntimesnews.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- "Not a chance encounter, but a divine appointment" by Dana Williamson, johnnyleeclary.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- "Former KKK Leader Works With Black Pentecostal Denomination", charismamag.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- "Johnny Lee Clary's Ordination Into Black Denomination", YouTube channel; accessed October 28, 2014.
- "Former KKK Grand Wizard finds new path", ReligionNewsBlog.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- Johnny Angel hated — and was hated — before he preached love, slam.canoe.ca; October 21, 2014; accessed October 28, 2014.
- YouTube segment of Billy Joe Daugherty's "Power of Forgiveness" video with Johnny Lee Clary
- Australian ABC TV radio interview on "The Conversation Hour", abc.net.au; accessed October 28, 2014.
- Profile for "Johnny Angel", onlineworldofwrestling.com; accessed October 28, 2014.
- Johnny Lee Clary interview on Australian ABC TV's Enough Rope, abc.net.au; accessed October 28, 2014.
- Johnny Lee Clary interview Pat Robertson's 700 Club (on YouTube); accessed October 28, 2014.
- Bishop George D. McKinney of Church Of God In Christ Ordains Clary, YouTube; accessed October 28, 2014.