Incident Summary:

02/13/1981: Three members of the Ku Klux Klan, Timothy Wayne Snider and Richard Lee Roberts and one unidentified man, kidnapped a former KKK chaplain William Seward from his home and forced him into their van, hand cuffed him, and held Seward at gun point for a two hour ride to east Memphis in Tennessee, United States, before leaving him near a hotel after they poured yellow paint on him and feathered him. Seward stated that the men attempted to collect debts they believed he owed them after accusing Seward of being a government agent and traitor. The men cut Seward's hair, and threatened his life and the lives of his family members, and told him they knew where he "cashed his government paycheck," all of which was untrue. Timothy Wayne Snider and Richard Lee Roberts were arrested and charged with kidnapping. One day prior to the incident, a Klansman called the Commercial Appeal newspaper and stated that a traitor to the Klan would be disciplined the next day, and then after the incident, another call came through notifying that the deed was done and the man could be found near the east Memphis area, where Seward was released.



United States

North America

region/u.s. state:



Location Details:
The incident occurred in a vehicle outside an east Memphis hotel

Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Armed Assault
Type of Attack (more) Hostage Taking (Kidnapping)
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: Private Citizens & Property
Name of Entity
Specific Description former KKK chaplain, William Seward
Nationality of Target United States
Additional Information
Hostages Yes
Number of Hostages 1
US Hostages 1
Hours of Kidnapping 2
Outcome Hostage(s) released by perpetrators
Ransom No
Property Damage No
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Firearms Unknown Gun Type
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?No
Criterion 1 (more) No
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Additional Information This was a case of inner-party conflict where the goal was to intimidate a former KKK member, believed to be working with the government in some capacity, and send a larger message to anyone who betrays or goes against the Klan. The perpetrators called the victim a "traitor." The attack was claimed both the day before and after it occurred, through telephone calls to Commercial Appeal newspaper.
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
Ku Klux Klan Yes (Confirmed: Unknown; Mode: Other)
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators 3
Number of Captured Perpetrators 2
Casualty Information
Total Number of Casualties 0 Fatalities / 0 Injured
Total Number of Fatalities 0
Number of U.S. Fatalities 0
Number of Perpetrator Fatalities 0
Total Number of Injured 0
Number of U.S. Injured 0
Number of Perpetrators Injured 0
"Ex-Klansman abducted, painted and feathered," United Press International, February 15, 1981.
Christopher Hewitt, "Political Violence and Terrorism in Modern America: A Chronology," Praeger Security International, 2005.