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Larry Flynt’s St. Louis connection goes beyond a strip club, to include a serial killer

The man who put the late pornography giant in a wheelchair had a history of crimes in the St. Louis area
Credit: AP
FILE - "Hustler" magazine publisher Larry Flynt leave the Supreme Court building in Washington on Dec. 3, 1987, after a case was heard. Flynt, who turned "Hustler" magazine into an adult entertainment empire while championing First Amendment rights, has died at age 78. His nephew, Jimmy Flynt Jr., told The Associated Press that Flynt died Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, of heart failure at his Hollywood Hills home in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi, File

ST. LOUIS — As news of the death of famous pornography giant Larry Flynt spread, a fellow crime aficionado asked if I knew about Flynt’s connection to St. Louis.

The only connection I could think of is Larry Flynt's Hustler Club in Washington Park, Illinois, where giant LED billboards nearly blind drivers along Interstate 64 with Flynt’s name.

But that’s too obvious.

The more fascinating connection has to do with crime.

Specifically, the man who put Flynt in his trademark golden wheelchair.

His name was James Clayton Vaughn Jr., but he went by Joseph Paul Franklin.

He was a white supremacist and serial killer who went on a killing spree during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

On Oct. 8, 1977, he hid in the bushes near the Brith Sholom Kneseth Israel synagogue in Richmond Heights and opened fire on a group of people attending services there. He killed 42-year-old Gerald Gordon and wounded two other men.

Credit: AP
A man identified by the FBI as Joseph Paul Franklin, 30, was arrested for questioning in the shooting of Urban League President Vernon Jordan Jr., Oct. 28, 1980. Also known as James Clayton Vaughn, he was arrested in a Lakeland, Fla., blood bank, the FBI said. (AP Photo)

He laid low for about five months before surfacing again, this time in Lawrenceville, Georgia. On March 6, 1978, Franklin ambushed Flynt and his lawyer Gene Reeves. Flynt and Reeves were there for a legal battle related to censorship.

They were on their way back into the courthouse when Franklin shot them with a rifle from an alley across the street. Flynt was left partially paralyzed, needing a wheelchair, and he later struggled with addictions to painkillers because of nerve pain. He underwent multiple surgeries to lessen the pain and suffered a stroke during one of several drug overdoses.

In a confession, Franklin said he shot Flynt after he saw an interracial photo shoot in Flynt’s Hustler magazine.

But Franklin was never charged in Flynt’s shooting.

He claimed he was good for 22 murders.

He was charged with Gordon’s death at the Richmond Heights synagogue.

It was that shooting that got him the death penalty.

In a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article published Nov. 19, 2013, Franklin said, “To say I have remorse for it would be an understatement. … I don’t think there are words strong enough to put it in. That was not my true self. I was out of control, out of my mind. It just is not something that I would do or even think about now.”

He was executed the day after the story ran at the prison in Bonne Terre.

He was 63.

Before Franklin’s execution, Flynt voiced his opposition to the death penalty and said he did not want Franklin to be executed.

Flynt didn’t forgive Franklin, saying, he wanted to have “an hour in a room with him and a pair of wire-cutters and pliers, so I could inflict the same damage on him that he inflicted on me,” according to the Daily Mail.

But Flynt doesn’t think “the government should be in the business of killing people,” and thinks life in prison is a worse punishment than execution, according to the Daily Mail.

“I don’t think in terms of forgiveness. I think he’s an animal,” Flynt told NPR.

Wonder if Flynt is getting his hour in a room with his shooter now.

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