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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Former KKK Leader Has Dedicated Life To Now Helping Others Move on from Life of Hate

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There are many factors we cannot control that shape us into the people we are and influences we might not even recognize until we have distance and perspective.

When we are able to recognize those factors and the unhealthy traits we have developed, we’re faced with a choice to change or slip back into our old ways.

Chris Buckley had a difficult childhood. Raised in Cleveland, his father was bigoted and an alcoholic, and would whip Buckley for anything bad he might have done while his dad was gone.

When he was old enough, he joined the Army. For 13 years he served, going overseas and training to fight a very specific people group.

“Every paper target I ever shot was a Muslim,” he told The Washington Post in 2018. “Every bit of bayonet training or hand-to-hand combat, it was other soldiers dressed up like Muslims.”

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His hatred grew, and he hand-tattooed the Arabic word “Infidel” on the back of his arm.

“I wanted them to know I was the one the imam warned them about,” he said.

After over a dozen years serving his country, he was in an accident that resulted in him suffering a broken back.

His time in the military was over, and soon, he was addicted to painkillers, then cocaine and then meth.

“He wasn’t the man I married,” his wife Melissa said.

But it got worse. His hatred snowballed and he joined the Georgia White Knights as an imperial nighthawk, even involving his young son.

Home life wasn’t going so well, either.

As his children participated with him and absorbed their father’s rhetoric, they began to use racist terms and their mother soon feared for their safety.

She went online and found a former KKK member, Arno Michaelis, who became the family’s saving grace.


“Melissa was done with the Klan and worried about Chris’ safety,” Michaelis said. “I told her I thought we could help.”

In 2016, Michaelis first met Buckley and as the months passed, Buckley started to question his place in the KKK.

When he tried to leave, he was tricked by a Klansman and former friend who took him to a place where he was ambushed by four robed Klansmen, who beat him. He had personally trained three of them.

Buckley had a long way to go to becoming a productive member of society, but over time he managed to get clean.

He also got involved in the community, met a lot of homeless people, and felt his hatred disappearing, despite the rough upbringing and life circumstances he’d experienced.

One of the biggest tests of his growth was when he met — and eventually became good friends with — the exact type of person that triggered him most: Syrian Muslim refugee (and doctor) Heval Mohamed Kelli.

“People like Dr. Kelli came into my life, and he was the exact description of what I hated: he was a Syrian Muslim refugee coming here,” Buckley told WTVC-TV this month. “If they’d have known me five years ago and know me now …”

But now that he has seen the transformation in his own life, and how he was able to release his hatred and embrace love instead, he’s hoping his story will prompt others to make a similar change.

“People change,” he said. “You just have to give them the opportunity.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking