On this day, Feb. 20, 1974, Atlanta Constitution Editor Reg Murphy was kidnapped by a man claiming to be a member of the American Revolutionary Army.
William Williams told Murphy that he had 300,000 gallons of heating oil that he wanted to donate to charity. Murphy agreed to be picked up by Williams. Murphy climbed into the car and was greeted with a gun. Murphy was bound, blindfolded and forced into the trunk. He was taken to Williams’ house and forced to tape ransom messages, then driven around the city for nearly two days.
Williams, who called himself Colonel One, called the newspaper from a pay phone, claiming to represent a right-wing militia group and demanding $700,000. The paper delivered the money, and Murphy was released.
Murphy, with wrists still deadened from the bindings, banged out a 4,000-word first-person story. Williams and his wife, Betty, were swiftly caught at home with the ransom money. Williams spent nine years in prison.
Murphy is the former president of the National Geographic Society, publisher of the Baltimore Sun, and editor and publisher of The San Francisco Examiner.