This is "Actual Factual Gwinnett," a regular column in which I, Tyler Estep, answer reader questions about Gwinnett happenings and history. Read previous editions by clicking the hyperlinks at the bottom of this column, where you'll also find information for submitting your own questions. Enjoy!
Reader Kyle Mooney recently asked:
"Remember when that pornographer got shot and paralyzed in downtown Lawrenceville and they made a Woody Harrelson movie about it?"
Why yes, yes I do, Kyle. Well, I’m a little young, so I don’t technically remember, per se. But I’m familiar!
For the unfamiliar: Kyle here is talking about Larry Flynt, the publisher of Hustler, which is a magazine with naked women. In 1978, he was standing trial in obscenity charges in little ol’ Gwinnett when, while walking to his car outside the courthouse, he and lawyer Gene Reeves were shot by a sniper.
A sniper who was a white supremacist. And a serial killer.
Wait, what? Yup. No one was ever tried in connection with the shooting – which left Flynt paralyzed and sent Reeves to the hospital for nearly a month – but a man named Joseph Paul Franklin would later confess.
An FBI write-up on Franklin – who changed his name to reflect his affection for Nazi propaganda master Joseph Paul Goebbels – sums him up well: “He went on a horrific killing spree beginning in 1977 at the age of 27. Before his reign of murder ended in 1980, he took the lives of at least 15 men, women, and children in some 11 states.” Other estimates place his death toll at 21.
Franklin grew frustrated with the not-radical-enough radical hate group scene, according to authorities, and maced an interracial couple in Atlanta in 1976 before getting progressively more violent. He bombed a synagogue in Tennessee, killed two men in Wisconsin and continued his racially-motivated crime spree before being captured in Lakeland, Florida in 1980.
Franklin would later admit he shot Flynt because of interracial content in his magazines.
In 2013, he was executed in Missouri for a 1977 murder in front of a St. Louis synagogue.
Oh, and that Woody Harrelson movie? “The People vs. Larry Flynt.” 1996. Pretty good film.
I, Tyler Estep, am a staff writer with the AJC and a Gwinnett County native. To submit “Actual Factual Gwinnett” questions, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, @ByTylerEstep on Twitter or via the form below.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.