Soldier for the Lord
by Gene Stansel
In the August 17, 2019, edition of World Magazine there is a very timely article entitled “Leaving Hate Behind”. The article cites several former white supremacists who abandoned their earlier youthful views and determined to live a Christ-like life. Among the “formers” is one Tom Tarrants whom I have known and considered a friend for over 45 years.
I first met Tommy (as he was known then) in the pre-release unit of the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. The church Jere and I attended in Cleveland often sent volunteers to witness to the inmates there, and I was among those who went frequently to lead Bible studies and visit with the prisoners who were interested in learning about Christ. When it comes to religion, prisoners often talk a good game. But Tommy was different. He was truly born again by the Spirit of God. We swapped tapes and books and generally developed a friendship.
Many people already knew the history of this skinny young man before I met him and became aware of his story. Tommy had been a KKK bomber, thoroughly indoctrinated into the Klan’s campaign of hatred as a high-school student in Mobile, Alabama. Law enforcement knew him only as “the bomber,” especially of black churches and institutions. However, Tommy’s hatred extended to Jews as well as blacks. He considered Jews to be the force behind the civil rights movement. He became a soldier for the Klan.
During the period of his indoctrination, Tommy remained carefully “underground”. His cover was blown, however, when the Klan sent him to bomb the home of a Jewish rabbi in Meridian, Mississippi. Apparently someone inside the organization squealed on him. He was ambushed by the FBI at the home of Rabbi Meyer Davidson in Meridian and was severely wounded. He miraculously survived and was sent to Parchman on a 35-year sentence. After several years in prison, Tommy escaped with the help of the Klan. Shortly thereafter He was recaptured and returned to prison. Now in solitary confinement, Tommy read everything he could get his hands on from the classics to history and finally to the Bible. Tommy had considered himself a Christian conducting the Lord’s business as a radical white supremacist. Reading the Scripture anew, however, he felt the presence of God telling him to love all sorts of people. He became radically changed in a totally different direction.
After reading the article in World, I opened my mail that same day only to discover that Tommy had sent me his most recent book, Consumed By Hate – Redeemed by Love. Tommy had written two books preciously, Conversion of a Klansman, and He’s My Brother (co-authored with John Perkins). But, this most recent book is warmer and filled with the love of Christ, not just simply recounting a fantastic story. Earlier, Tommy had sent Jere and me the manuscript for our comments and corrections. We made none, except to suggest that he explain in depth how he was drawn into the radical thinking of the Klan, and that he retain a precise editor to proof the manuscript. He must have done both, because Consumed By Hate – Redeemed By Love is a wonderfully engaging book that focuses on the heart of a once violent man.
Through a series of bizarre events, Tommy received an early release from Parchman, attended Ole Miss for a short period of time and then moved to Washington and was taken under the wings of many Christians from Chuck Colson to Billy Graham and Dr. Richard Halverson. His Christian connections are too numerous to name. Many are mentioned in the book. Because of his humble personality, Tommy has refused speaking engagements and other efforts that would promote his name; he simply wants to give glory to his Savior, and that he has done in this new book. Tommy earned two seminary degrees, pastored a church in Washington DC, and was chosen to head the C.S. Lewis Institute for the past 21 years where, as the cover on the book states, he has “…devoted himself to helping others become whole-hearted followers of Jesus.”
Over the years Jere and I have kept in contact with Tommy. He and his wife (now divorced) and two girls visited out home in Ruleville, and we have visited him in the offices of the C.S. Lewis Institute in Washington. Tommy retired this year from the Institute, but at age 71 it is highly unlikely that he has retired from the Lord’s work.
Tom Tarrants was once a soldier in the KKK, and by the grace of God, became a soldier in a much grander army. Consumed by Hate – Redeemed by Love is a timely book considering our nation’s present political and racial turmoil. You need to know this Christian brother, and what better way to do that than to read his book!