Sam Bowers, former Imperial Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan, Student of Theology in Prison
Ken Christopherson: His graduation at the pen was a big occasion; it marked the first time inmates received a BA from Pacific Lutheran University. Even before however, caps and gowns were put on those who took only one course. There were four different arrangements of classes through this program; one could take one or two or a few classes; one could get an AA degree; one could a BA; or one could get an MA.
On the boat over to his graduation, I told one of the reporters from Takoma who was going to cover the graduation (first time degrees were conferred) that Sam Bowers was in this class. He asked me not to tell any other reporters, and he had then an exclusive on Sam Bowers receiving his degree. He had a page one story in the Takoma newspaper on Sam Bowers' graduation.
When Sam Bowers then came over to after his release, the press was there to meet him because of his notoriety. The press besieged him. As I was driving towards the campus, a press car followed us, and they continued hounding him when we got out of the car at the campus. Sam Bowers asked me if I would intervene on his behalf. "Please, Dr. C., tell them I am free now and would they please leave me alone." Dr. Christopherson intervened.
We exchanged a couple of letters.
I knew who Sam Bowers was before he took his classes; Sam Bowers has a good southern Baptist background which was obviously warped somewhere along the way.
Once the second brightest student in that year's class volunteered that he's asked Sam Bowers: "Don't you think that what you did was wrong?" Sam Bowers replied, "I should say not. It was the right thing to do. Does it not say in the Psalms that those who hate you also hate me [or that I should destroy those who hate you]?"
My colleagues and I all agreed that there were signs here and there that his education had been broadened. He came in the Ancient Church History class; Sam Bowers came to understand and respect those people who went off in other directions in all sincerity but were wrong--not standard orthodox--but they should not be construed as enemies.
Klan commitments never came through.
Charles Marsh: How do you, Ken Christopherson, reconcile the image of Sam Bowers the violent klansman with Sam Bowers the quiet scholarly theology student?
KC: His education and the time of quiet contemplation at the prison enabled him to see that he had gone wrong. He might remain a white supremacist but he must work within the system. I have prayed for him constantly through the years.
CM: [When I told that there was no evidence to suggest Sam Bowers returned to the Klan in Laurel, he replied that that "warms his heart."]