Samuel Holloway Bowers, Jr. (August 25, 1924 – November 5, 2006) was a convicted murderer and leading white supremacist activist in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement.
In response to this movement, he co-founded the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and became a Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard. Bowers committed two murders of civil rights activists in southern Mississippi: The 1964 murders of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner near Philadelphia, for which he served six years in federal prison; and the 1966 murder of Vernon Dahmer in Hattiesburg, for which he was sentenced to life in prison 32 years after the crime. He also was accused of bombings of Jewish targets in the cities of Jackson and Meridian in 1967 and 1968 (according to the man who was convicted of some of the bombings, Thomas A. Tarrants III). He died in prison at the age of 82.
Bowers was born on August 25, 1924, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Samuel Bowers, Sr., a salesman, and his wife Evangeline Bowers (née Peyton), daughter of a well-to-do planter. He had deep roots in the southern Mississippi—New Orleans area on both sides of his family. His maternal grandfather had a plantation while his father's father, Eaton J. Bowers, was a four-term Congressman from Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Representative Bowers was an explicitly virulent opponent of equality for African Americans.
Sam Bowers, Jr. attended high school in Jackson, Mississippi. While a high school student, Bowers worked part-time at the newly established Mississippi School Book Depository in Jackson. He was among the first group of staff members hired after the state legislature approved of and passed a free textbook program championed by Governor Paul B. Johnson, Sr. During World War II, he served in the United States Navy. Eventually, he settled in Laurel, Mississippi and started his own small business, Sambo Amusement Company, variously reported to be a pinball machine business and a vending machine business.
Bowers, along with many other southern whites, was antagonistic towards the civil rights movement, believing it to be a movement led by the far left and organized by the Communist Party.
Bowers perceived the original Ku Klux Klan as being too passive. On February 15, 1964, at a meeting in Brookhaven, Mississippi, he convinced about 200 members of the original Knights to defect and join his Klan, to be called the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He became the group's fraternal "Imperial Wizard." Bowers adopted a code of secrecy and adopted the tenets of Christian Identity for his Klan.
Bowers served a life sentence for the 1966 bombing death of civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer. According to the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), only one person visited Bowers during his incarceration. The visitor claimed to be Bowers' brother, who listed a false address and fictitious Mississippi town as his residence. Bowers died in the Mississippi State Penitentiary (Parchman) Hospital of cardio-pulmonary arrest on Sunday, November 5, 2006, aged 82.
After Bowers died, an out-of-state relative came forward to claim his body. He never married.