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White Supremacist Executed for Synagogue Murder

Joseph Paul Franklin shot Gerald Gordon outside St. Louis temple in 1977

Stephanie Butnick
November 20, 2013

This morning the state of Missouri carried out its first execution in nearly three years, the New York Times reports, putting 63-year-old white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin to death for the 1977 murder of Gerald Gordon outside a St. Louis synagogue.

Franklin had been on a several-year killing spree in the 1970s, targeting blacks and Jews across the country, and was ultimately convicted of seven other murders as well (he claimed credit for nearly 20 murders in total), though only the Gordon murder carried a death sentence.

In addition to the murders, Mr. Franklin admitted to shooting and wounding the civil rights leader Vernon Jordan and the publisher of Hustler magazine, Larry Flynt, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since he was attacked in 1978.

In October 1977, Mr. Franklin arrived in the St. Louis area and picked out the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue from the yellow pages. He fired five shots at the parking lot in Richmond Heights after a bar mitzvah. One struck and killed Mr. Gordon, a 42-year-old father of three.

Franklin was also responsible for a 1977 synagogue bombing in Chattanooga, Tenn., JTA reports.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.