BY RON JACKSON Published: December 27, 2009
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MIAMI, OK — On Nov. 29, Oklahoman Johnny Lee Clary knelt before the Church of God in Christ’s elders, who ordained him as a minister in what is one of the nation’s largest black churches. The fact that Clary is white made the moment historic.

The fact that he is also a former Ku Klux Klan leader made it — at least in Clary’s view — something divine.

"We’re making history,” said Clary, 50, of Miami. "We’re building a bridge of racial reconciliation, and what better way to do that than with a former KKK leader ministering in a black church that boasts over 6 million members? I hope I can have a great impact.”

Clary made a different kind of contribution to humanity as an angry teenager. He joined the Klan.

Ironically, his ordainment ceremony last month in San Diego shared some of the ritualistic acts of a long-ago Klan ceremony. Yet the two events now stand as the darkest and greatest moments of his life.

"The worst thing I ever did was swear an allegiance to the KKK, vowing to hate all Jews and blacks and people of other races,” Clary recalled. "I knelt before the Klan leaders as they sprinkled me with water. I then swore an oath to the KKK and the god of the KKK. But they can call their god anything they want — Jesus Christ or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Because their god is not the God of the Bible.

"Their god is Satan.”

Clary rose through the ranks of the White Knights of the KKK, eventually attaining the status of an imperial wizard. He later quit the hate group after a falling out with another Klan leader.

Disillusioned, Clary reached for the Bible. The Word set him free, he said.

Clary soon began preaching to anyone who would listen. Television shows picked up his story, prompting him to appear on talk shows such as "The Phil Donahue Show,” "Geraldo,” "The 700 Club,” and "Sally Jesse Raphael.” In recent years, he has traveled the nation evangelizing and has made annual trips to Australia.