GOP Arkansas state senate candidate wore KKK costume as teen

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Republican candidate running for Arkansas State Senate said he made “mistakes” as a teenager after repeatedly denying his dismissal from a Mississippi high school for wearing a racist Ku Klux Klan costume for Halloween.

Charles Edward Beckham III initially denied reports from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Arkansas Times that he was suspended and dismissed from Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science for wearing a racist Ku Klux Klan costume at a school-sponsored Halloween event. The Arkansas Times first reported Beckham’s dismissal on Tuesday.

Beckham also told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in a email Tuesday that people fabricated the allegations and blamed it on a ploy by the Democrats.

“First of all, I unequivocally denounce the KKK and any like minded hate group,” Beckham said in the email. “It is sad that the Democrats will do anything and say anything to try to win. The accusations that have been made about me are not only baseless and false, but disgusting.”

But the Democrat-Gazette obtained court records from a lawsuit Beckham’s family filed in Hinds County Circuit Court in Jackson, Mississippi, that challenged his dismissal from the school.

In October 2000, Beckham and two other classmates wore KKK outfits and were caught by school staff members and immediately given three days of in-school suspension, according to the court records. Later, the school’s director dismissed Beckham during his senior year, a decision upheld by the Mississippi Board of Education.

Alana Nichols, who’s Black, was a junior at the school when she saw her classmates in the racist costumes and said she was “petrified.”

“When I think about memories of high school, this is at the forefront, and that’s unfortunate,” Nichols said. “My initial thought was, ‘What’s going to happen? Am I going to die? Is there going to be a rally?’”

Beckham, now 37, on Thursday said he made “mistakes” as a teenager.

“I do sincerely apologize for any angst or grievances that I have caused anyone as a minor, as that is not the man that I am today,” Beckham said. “I continue to unequivocally denounce the KKK and any like minded hate groups and the rumors that I am or have ever been part of the KKK are absolutely ridiculous.”