Profile of Serial Killer Joseph Paul Franklin

Serial Extremist Killer

Joseph Paul Franklin
Joseph Paul Franklin - 2001. Mugshot

Joseph Paul Franklin is a serial extremist killer whose crimes were motivated by a pathological hatred of African Americans and Jews. Fueled by the words of his hero, Adolf Hitler, Franklin went on a killing rampage between 1977 and 1980, targeting interracial couples and setting off bombs in synagogues.

Childhood Years

Franklin (named James Clayton Vaughan Jr. at birth) was born in Mobile, Alabama on April 13, 1950, and was the second of four children in a volatile impoverished home. As a child Franklin, who felt different from other children, turned to reading books, mostly fairy tales, as an escape from the domestic violence in the home. His sister has described the home as abusive, saying Franklin was the target of much of the abuse.

Teen Years

During his teen years, he was introduced to the American Nazi Party through pamphlets and he adopted the belief that the world needed to be "cleansed" of what he considered inferior races - mainly African Americans and Jews. He was in full agreement with the Nazi teachings and he became a member of the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the National States Rights Party.

Name Change

In 1976, he wanted to join the Rhodesian Army, but because of his criminal background he needed to change his name to be accepted. He changed his name to Joseph Paul Franklin - Joseph Paul after Adolph Hitler's minister of propaganda, Joseph Paul Goebbels, and Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin never did join the army, but instead launched his own war of the races.

Obsessed With Hate

Obsessed with hatred for interracial marriages, many of his killings were against Black and white couples he encountered. He has also admitted to blowing up synagogues and takes responsibility for the 1978 shooting of Hustler Magazine publisher, Larry Flynt and the 1980 shooting on civil rights activist and Urban League president Vernon Jordan, Jr.

Over the years Franklin has been linked to or confessed to numerous bank robberies, bombings, and murders. However, not all of his confessions are viewed as truthful and many of the crimes were never brought to trial.


  • Alphonse Manning and Toni Schwenn
    Madison, Wisconsin
    In 1985 Franklin was found guilty of killing interracial couple Alphonse Manning and Toni Schwenn, both 23 years old. The couple was pulling out of a shopping mall when Franklin rammed their car from behind, then got out and shot Manning twice and Schwenn four times, killing both. He was sentenced to two life terms.
  • Bryant Tatum and Nancy Hilton
    Chattanooga, Tennessee
    In 1977 he pleaded guilty to the July 29, 1978 sniper murder of Bryant Tatum (Black) and for attempting to murder his white girlfriend Nancy Hilton. The couple was at a Pizza Hut restaurant in Chattanooga when Franklin, hiding in tall grass near the restaurant, gunned them down. Franklin was found guilty and given a life sentence.
  • Donte Brown and Darrel Lane
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Cousins Dante Brown, 13, and Darrel Lane, 14, were headed to a local convenience store on June 6, 1980, when Franklin, standing on an overpass, shot two bullets into each child. Lane died at the scene and Brown died a few hours later at the hospital. Franklin was found guilty and sentenced to two life terms.
  • Ted Fields and David Martin
    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Ted Fields, 20, and David Martin, 18, were friends who shared the reputation for being hardworking, responsible and with bright futures. On August, 20, they went jogging with two women at Liberty Park. Franklin hit the group with a barrage of bullets, striking Fields three times and Martin five, killing both. One of the women was injured. He was found guilty and received two life sentences.
  • Gerald Gordon
    Potosi, Missouri
    On October 8, 1977, Gerald Gordon, Steven Goldman and William Ash had no idea a Remington 700 hunting rifle was aimed at them while they walked through the synagogue parking lot. Franklin, who had carefully planned his assault the day before, fired five shots at the men, killing Gordon and injuring Goldman and Ash. In February 1997, a jury found him guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Any Regrets?

Eight life sentences and a death sentence has done little to change Franklin's radical racist views. He has told authorities that his only regret is that killing Jews isn't legal.

During a 1995 article published by Deseret News, Franklin seemed to boast about his killing sprees and the only regret that he seems to have is that there were victims that managed to survive his murderous rage.

On November 20, 2013, Franklin was executed by lethal injection in Missouri. He offered no final statement.

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Your Citation
Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Serial Killer Joseph Paul Franklin." ThoughtCo, Dec. 31, 2020, Montaldo, Charles. (2020, December 31). Profile of Serial Killer Joseph Paul Franklin. Retrieved from Montaldo, Charles. "Profile of Serial Killer Joseph Paul Franklin." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 18, 2021).