Former TN KKK Leader Partners with African-American in Film 'Accidental Courtesy'
A former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Nashville is back in music city with a different mission. He's trying to change hearts and minds to steer people away from racism.
Scott Shepard appears in the documentary Accidental Courtesy that some got to see this week at the Nashville Film Festival.
The film stars Daryl Davis, who has an unusual hobby collecting KKK memorabilia.
"People say 'Daryl, how can you have this stuff? Why don't you burn it?', "says Davis in the film. "As shameful as it is, you don't burn; the good, the bad, or the ugly."
The African-American musician likes to meet face-to face with white racists.
"We go on a road trip with him through the film, including Tennessee," said Matt Ornstein, the director of Accidental Courtesy.
Ornstein captured Davis' quest on camera.
"How can you hate me when you don't even know me?" asks Davis. "Look at me and tell me to my face why you would lynch me."
"I was doing the same thing," said Scott Shepherd, now a reformed racist. "I was hating people and I didn't even know them."
Shepherd also makes his mark in the film.
"Scott has a level of awareness about his life and the choices he's made that almost nobody else in the film does," said Ornstein.
"I called people the 'n-word', intimidated people, did cross burnings and things like that and I regret it all. I regret everything I did."
In the late 80s, Shepard served as grand dragon of the KKK in Tennessee and led other racist groups.
"The National Association for the Advancement of White People," said Shepherd.
One night on White Bridge Road changed his life.
"I'd been to a restaurant and having dinner and drinking and had a pistol underneath the seat of my car," said Shepherd.
Police charged him with a DUI and having a concealed weapon. To avoid jail time, he agreed to go to rehab.
"Cumberland Heights here in Nashville," said Shepherd. "I went in one person and came out another."
It was his first time around people of other races. "I realized who they were. They were just like me."
Now, he's on a similar path as Davis.
"Give that person a platform, allow them to air their views and people will reciprocate," says Davis.
Davis is collecting hoods and robes and Shepherd says he is happy to give his away.
"I'm a new person," said Shepherd. "I feel like it anyway."
Ornstein says Shepherd appears with Davis at the very end of the film and it's often audiences' favorite part.