Incident Summary:

07/28/1983: The Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, United States was set ablaze by unknown arsonist(s) in the early morning hours, causing damage to walls, doors, carpets, equipment, case files and books in the library. The arson was set by using a petroleum-based liquid mixed with motor oil or diesel fuel, and though the perpetrators are unknown, the Ku Klux Klan is suspected to be responsible for the attack as the Center had several legal cases pending against the KK and the organization is home to Klanwatch, a group that monitors activities of the KKK, educates the public and leads litigation. Additionally, the arson was set specifically to the office of the director of Klanwatch, Randall Williams. There were no injuries in the incident.



United States

North America

region/u.s. state:



Attack Information
Type of Attack (more) Facility/Infrastructure Attack
Successful Attack? (more) Yes
Target Information (more)
Target Type: NGO
Name of Entity Southern Poverty Law Center
Specific Description Southern Poverty Law Center
Nationality of Target United States
Additional Information
Hostages No
Ransom No
Property Damage Yes
Extent of Property Damage Minor (likely < $1 million)
Value of Property Damage Unknown
Weapon Information
Type Sub-type
Incendiary Arson/Fire
Weapon Details
petroleum-based liquid (possibly gasoline) was used with motor oil or diesel fuel to set fire in four corners of the building
Additional Information
Suicide Attack?No
Part of Multiple Incident?No
Criterion 1 (more) Yes
Criterion 2 (more) Yes
Criterion 3 (more) Yes
Additional Information This could have been a purely criminal act if it was merely out of revenge, or some other personal reason. It was never made conclusive that the KKK committed the arson.
Perpetrator Group Information
Group Name Claimed Responsibility
Ku Klux Klan (suspected) No
Perpetrator Statistics
Number of Perpetrators Unknown
Number of Captured Perpetrators Unknown
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
Diana Smith, "Arson Damages Southern Poverty Law Center," The Associated Press, July 28, 1983.
"Fire Damages Alabama Center That Battles Klan," New York Times, July 31, 1983.
Christopher Hewitt, "Political Violence and Terrorism in Modern America: A Chronology," Praeger Security International, 2005.