Even Richard Barrett knew that non-U.S. government employees shouldn’t be trying to peddle their influence in foreign countries.

These private citizens — lawyers, lobbyists, entrepreneurs — break the law when they dabble in American foreign policy or attempt to usurp the dedicated professionals whose job is to protect and enhance this country’s security, reputation and benevolence abroad.

Barrett, the widely-known white supremacist of the Jackson area who died a decade ago, was quoted on this subject in an article I wrote for The Clarion-Ledger in April 1994 concerning a trip to South Africa by Hillman Frazier, an esteemed state senator from Jackson.

Frazier, a longtime fixture at the state Capitol, had gone to South Africa as a panelist to help establish a new legislative process there in the wake of the end of apartheid, or white-only rule.

I interviewed Frazier about his South African trip and then called a couple of sources for further comment. One was the legendary Jackson State University political scientist Leslie McLemore, who spoke highly of Frazier’s being chosen for the panel of lawmakers from several countries. “It recognizes his experience and expertise,” McLemore said.

More than one source was required for articles. Quoting someone with a different viewpoint would be extra sweetener for the story. Anonymous sources were no-nos.

I called Barrett, thinking he might have an opposing reaction to Frazier’s trip. “You reckon?” I can hear people aware of Barrett’s views thinking.

“We have laws against private citizens engaged in foreign policy activities,” Barrett said in the story, referencing the Logan Act, enacted in 1799, that prohibits such actions. It was a simple sentence that said a lot.

 It may sound like Barrett was denouncing Frazier for being so proud to think he could help South Africa — or for being a “private citizen” dispensing valuable information to another country.

I wouldn’t label Frazier as being “private” after his three decades of devoted public service to Mississippi and for bringing numerous foreign lawmakers to Mississippi to study our legislative system.

No, that was just Richard’s way of jawing at a black person — plain and simple. I covered him enough to know that.

For the unknowing, Barrett, a New Jersey native and Vietnam veteran who came to Mississippi in the mid-1970s after earning a law degree, spent the rest of his life promoting the white supremacy and skinhead movements, all from a base in rural Hinds County.

He founded the “Nationalist Movement” to try to strike down civil rights laws and to promote white power rallies, said the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group said Barrett was as interested in gaining publicity as he was in denigrating minorities, “particularly blacks, immigrants and gays.”

As a reporter and then a legislative staffer, I worried about the future of the young students he brought to the Capitol annually under his “Spirit of America” banner, which he touted as a way to honor high school athletes. It never seemed like that was the real motivation behind the program for mostly-white youngsters.

Barrett died at age 67 on April 22, 2010, in a fire at his home near Pearl. Vincent Justin McGee, a 23-year-old man who had worked in Barrett’s yard, was convicted of arson and manslaughter and sentenced to 65 years.

I have always agreed with what celebrated Jackson-based civil rights investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell, often a target of Barrett’s barbs, said of the death of Barrett. Mitchell, who never once agreed with anything Barrett espoused, said nobody should suffer that kind of death.

Barrett was a human being who seemingly carried around many demons, but at least he knew the ramifications of the important Logan Act. Perhaps it is time for some high profile influence-peddlers with Washington connections to take a read.

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