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The Bravest Oklahoman You’ll Never Meet

If ever a girl had all the world to live for, it seemed to be Carol Howe. Stunningly beautiful debutante, heiress to a Tulsa business fortune, champion horsewoman, Miss Teenage America semi-finalist, winsome, articulate, and a razor sharp intellect. Student at an esteemed private Christian high school in Tulsa.

As so often seems the case with America’s fortunate sons and daughters, though, she went astray. She left the Christian high school and she struggled at a series of colleges. After suffering an attack by three African American men, she responded by joining the white supremacist colony of Elohim City in the woods of remote eastern Oklahoma.

Her gradually increasing disenchantment with that anti-government community—and their murderous intentions—culminated with her violent sexual assault by one of them, a high-ranking Ku Klux Klansman. The crime apparently caused Howe to assess herself and her life. It led her to volunteer to go back into Elohim City and serve the ATF as a confidential undercover informant. It was a life-threatening mission and the ATF agents handling her recognized they had someone special on their hands. She did it for the handsome sum of $25 per day.

Howe’s wholehearted commitment to her undertaking produced explosive intelligence for the government. This included her declaration that Elohim City residents were “preparing for a war against the U.S. government” and planning “assassinations, bombings, and mass shootings.” Also, that they had surveyed various Oklahoma federal buildings as potential bombing targets.

Lack of interagency cooperation between the ATF and FBI prevented wide enough dissemination of Howe’s reports to possibly prevent the bombing. As word began to circulate after the attack of her warnings, she knew she faced her greatest peril yet, and that any day might be her last. Even so, she accepted the ATF’s urgings to go back into Elohim City yet again.

Nearly a year later, with Howe still serving, the FBI, apparently accidentally, blew her ATF cover. Then, several months later the government stunningly charged her with a variety of conspiracy and bombing-related charges. Her defenders lashed out, claiming the feds did so to intimidate her into staying silent in case McVeigh’s legal defense team attempted to reel in other suspects through her testimony and lighten the criminal burden on their own client.

“Sitting in the court room, I began to feel sorry for the two assistant U.S. Attorneys, decent men following orders to pursue a case they must have known to be an abomination,” wrote English journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard during Howe’s 1997 trial. “Everybody in the room suspected that it was a retaliatory, manufactured case. On the higher plane of history, it was most certainly the Clinton Justice Department that was on trial, not Carol Howe.”

After reading the nearly 1,000-page trial transcript, a merciful description might be that Howe and her brilliant Tulsa attorney Clark Brewster ran circles around the federal prosecutors. The jury found her innocent of all charges the same day the trial ended. Suspicions persist that the government show-trialed her. Why? Either to taint her potential Nichols trial testimony (McVeigh had just been convicted) regarding “others unknown” at Elohim City aiding the bombers, and thus diluting Nichols’ perceived role in the crime, or to intimidate her into backing off testifying altogether.

Imperfect Heroine

She was, to the end, an imperfect heroine. When the pressure on her from both the criminals she had infiltrated and the government agents who had sent her there, and who denied her witness protection, grew unbearable, she slashed herself. She also continued to struggle with unwise romantic relationships, even with some of her Elohim City targets.

Indeed, there would be no victory circles nor homecoming celebrations for Carol Howe. Ridiculed by McVeigh’s prosecutors and defense team alike, as well as all the concerned government agencies, and most especially by the bitter racists of Elohim City, she reined her earthly destiny in one final unanticipated direction. It was an especially surprising tack for a young woman accused of desiring more attention and limelight.

She disappeared totally and permanently from sight, including changing her name, though with no help from the government. Her last known whereabouts were at her grandfather’s Texas ranch, many years ago.

With the passage of time, however, support has emerged for the maverick young Tulsan from surprising quarters. Former Secret Service Director John Magaw, ATF Director at the time of the attack, lamented his agency’s temporary removal of Howe from Elohim City a few weeks before April 19th. Whatever Howe was working on—all buried by Federal prosecutors during every trial of McVeigh and Nichols—Magaw indicated that it possessed such importance that “if she had stayed put, the bomb plot might well have been discovered and thwarted.”

When asked why no federal agent ever questioned Klan leader and Elohim City fellow traveler Dennis Mahon, whom Howe reported threatened to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma, Bob Ricks, FBI spokesman at Waco and Special Agent in Charge of the OKC Field Office when Murrah was attacked, responded: “I don’t know.”

FBI Special Agent Danny Coulson personally guarded Timothy McVeigh as he was helicoptered to the El Reno Federal Penitentiary following his arrest. Coulson seethed that prosecutors dropping their Elohim City investigation, when other Bureau agents had evidence of McVeigh’s involvement there, was either bureaucratic cowardice or incompetence.

“I Hope…”

The final witness of Howe’s trial was her white-haired father, Robert Howe. Choking back tears, he read aloud a heretofore-sealed letter, printed below, written years before by his daughter and never seen by anyone but her. The ATF asked her to write it to her family, should she die or have to go into the witness protection program.

“Well, I guess by now you may have figured out what happened. Maybe someone’s come to see you to explain, maybe you’ve seen it on the news or in the paper. Carol Elizabeth Howe no longer exists.

“I don’t like America as she is today, but I don’t think she is past saving. And if there is something I can do to help this country realize a glimmer of her potential greatness, then I must do it. These people intend to start a war here within the next few years. They have the power, means, and support to do it. This war would especially devastate America. These organizations must be (disassembled) one by one….

“Mom, you asked me what I’ve done to help anyone else. I guess you were right. I’ve never done anything for anyone else. Now with my actions and with my testimony I am helping every American man, woman, and child. I am helping to avert a war.

“You see, I’ve always been an idealist, never a realist. I’ve seen now that I can make a small contribution to my fellow man in the great scheme of things….I…will live a sacrifice every day for the rest of my life. But I have chosen this path with my eyes wide open and know it is the right one.

“Family, you have done a great job of educating me and preparing me for life. The ATF will now finish where we left off; they will teach me to be responsible, to make good decisions and to take care of myself….I hope you continue to love me and perhaps respect me and be proud of me.”


The above article is a bonus to the fascinating historical content found within our book

Oklahomans Vol 2 :

Statehood - 2020s

which can be purchased HERE.

View the inspiring 2-minute preview video HERE.

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