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Subject: Mitchell Burns, 75, Klansman Who Aided F.B.I. After Bombing

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Date Posted: November 23, 2002 11:46:47 EDT

Mitchell Burns, a Ku Klux Klansman who gathered information for the F.B.I. and helped to convict two Klansmen in a 1963 church bombing here that killed four black girls, died on Tuesday at his home here. He was 75.

The cause was apparently a heart attack, Doug Jones, a former United States attorney who prosecuted the two Klansmen, said today.

While a Klansman in the mid-1960's, Mr. Burns secretly recorded dozens of conversations with a fellow Klansman, Thomas Blanton Jr., whom the authorities suspected of involvement in the bombing, after an agent for the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed him pictures of the dead girls, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley. Mr. Burns testified at the murder trials of Mr. Blanton, 64, last year and Bobby Frank Cherry, 72, earlier this year. Both were convicted.

A lawyer appointed to assist Mr. Burns through the trials described him as a "great man."

"It took some guts to do what he did," the lawyer, John Waddell, said. "He could have gotten killed."

Mr. Burns was a member of the Klan in Birmingham in the early 60's. After the agent showed him morgue photos of the dead girls, he said last year: "I told them I'd help them all I could. It was all because of those pictures."

Mr. Burns let agents put a tape recorder in the trunk of his 1956 Chevrolet, and he went out night after night with Mr. Blanton. In tapes played at the trial, Mr. Blanton repeatedly discussed dynamite and his hatred of blacks.

He once boasted, "They ain't going to catch me when I bomb my next church," Mr. Burns testified.

In an interview, Mr. Burns said he was proud of what he had done as an informer.

"I've got to live with myself after this is over," he said. "I've got to go home and look at myself in the mirror and I've got to go sleep. I can't lie and do that."

He is survived by a daughter.

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