Frank Meeink, former neo-nazi “Skinhead,” spoke to an audience of 70 plus people at Tarleton State University Tuesday night, using language that would make a sailor blush but nobody seemed to mind.
He opened stating that he would use the (expletive deleted) word a lot, the word God a lot and he did. He apologized for it up front so everyone would know what was coming.
Then he began to tell his life story, not as if he were on stage, but as if he were sitting at your kitchen table speaking directly to you.
Meeink said his mom raised him. He said his dad was a drug addict and has been sitting on the same bar stool for the last 20 years.
He was abused by one of mom’s live-in boyfriends and used to wish a car would run over him just so he wouldn’t have to go home.
“One time he broke his hand on my head because I wasn’t holding my six-month-old baby sister right,” Meeink said, referring to the man that beat him and punished him by making him stay in his room for three months at a time.
After being suspended from school, Meeink was sent to live with his dad and eventually ended up at a cousin’s home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
It was this cousin who introduced him to the ways of the “Skinhead” organization at about the age of 13, he said.
When he became involved in some fighting with the group, he said, “ It felt good to be on the bigger side-not getting beat up for a change. I loved it.” It seemed Meeink was an easy target to recruit, just looking for a place to belong, and a place where he was protected and not degraded.
He moved back to his mom’s house in Philadelphia and became the Philly chapter leader of the “Strikeforce Skinheads” - at age 14.
Meeink said he studied the Bible with the older members, “but their stories didn’t add up with what I had learned previously being raised Irish Catholic.”
Meeink said they would sit around drinking and talking and eventually someone would say, “Let’s go on a mission.” He said “mission” meant, “Let’s go make the news-let’s go terrorize somebody.”
Eventually Meeink said after a suicide attempt and a break out of a mental institution he wound up in a maximum security prison after plea bargaining for three to five years on an assault and kidnapping charge.
Prison is where he met the men who would change his message from one of hate to one of love.
“I just became cool with everybody in there,” Meeink said. A black guy invited him to a Bible study group after he saw Meeink reading the Bible. Meeink said they all prayed together and supported each other on court days.
When he was released from prison, he rejoined his “Skinhead” group. And while he still felt he was a “Skinhead,” when someone would make a racist remark about not being able to trust any black people in the back of his mind he would think of the men he met in prison. He would think how what his “Skinhead” brothers were saying wasn’t really true. He said it kept cropping up in his mind that there were some blacks that could be trusted.
Later he needed a job. He ended up working for a Jewish furniture storeowner, even though he hated Jews at the time. The man named, Keith, befriended him and treated him well and soon Meeink said he found he didn’t hate Jews anymore either.
“God consistently put people in my life to prove my beliefs were wrong,” he said.
After the Oklahoma City bombing Meeink said the picture of the fireman carrying a dead little girl really got to him. He went to the FBI and told them, “This is what I have been through. This is how we recruit but I didn’t rat on anyone,” he said.
Meeink told the audience to “ take care of your kids and be good to them.” He said the kids that had parents that spent time with them and talked to them were the hardest to recruit to the “Skinhead” organization.
“If a kid told us, ‘I’ve got to go home and eat dinner with my parents,’ I knew that was kid that we probably weren’t going to get,” Meeink said.
August 7 is the release date for a new book on Meeink’s life, “Just Another Problem.”
ANGELIA JOINER is a staff writer for the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 965-3124, ext. 229.