Edwards man pens his incredible life story

Published 7:27 pm Thursday, June 28, 2018

A life journey that includes a stint in the Ku Klux Klan, a prison sentence for his role in a plot to overthrow the government of a Caribbean island and his key role in the cleanup of the BP oil spill, is the subject of a new book by Edwards resident George Malvaney.

Entitled “Cups Up: How I Organized a Klavern, Plotted a Coup, Survived Prison, Graduated College, Fought Polluters, and Started a Business.” The book was released in April. Thursday, Malvaney told his story to the weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of Vicksburg before attending a book signing at Lorelei Books. 

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A native of Jackson, Malvaney dropped out of high school before joining the Navy. It was while home on leave from his duty aboard the USS Concord that he joined the Klan after attending a rally in Tupelo.

“I met with the guy that was heading it up and actually joined the Klan that night. I made a very reckless and foolish decision I would later regret,” he said. “I went back to my ship the Concord and with the encouragement of the Klan leaders in Louisiana and Mississippi, I formed a Klan unit on board the ship. We rocked along for several months and were ultimately discovered and the Navy found out about it.”

After the Navy found out, Malvaney was reassigned to Brunswick, Maine where he decided to ask to be discharged, he said.

“I had a very good service record other than my Klan activity,” he said to a chorus of laughs at the Rotary meeting. “Hard worker, did a lot of things right, had a good name on the ship and then the Klan stuff came out and everything went downhill.”

He then came back to Mississippi and got involved with the Klan, where he said he realized it was a bad decision and quit a few months later after realizing it was a “bad organization.”

During his time in the Klan, Malvaney said he became affiliated with a group planning a takeover of the Caribbean island Dominica. His involvement with the plan eventually saw him sentenced to four years in federal prison, of which he served a year and a half.

He spent time in Florida, Georgia, Texas and Colorado while serving his sentence. It was during his time in Tallahassee where he said he realized he needed to make changes and “Cups Up,” which was the call of a prison orderly coming around to fill the prisoners’ coffee cups and the eventual title of his book became a rallying cry.

“Cups up was a transformation call for me,” Malvaney said. “It was when I first realized that I was 20 years old and I needed to do something different with my life. I didn’t know where I was going to go from prison. I didn’t know where it would lead me. I was young enough that four years felt like an eternity, but I knew at that moment and I made a commitment to myself that I was going to change my life and do things differently.”

The biggest change came during his stint in Atlanta, Malvaney said, where he was the eighth man in a six-man cell and the only white prisoner and non-murderer in the group.

“My second night there, one of them came to me. It was real quiet at night after lights out. He had a piece of paper and said, ‘can you write me a letter?’ I wrote a letter home to his mother,” Malvaney said. “The next night he comes back and I write a letter to his sister. The next night another convict comes to me and wants me to write a letter.

“That is where I first started really having thoughts about my Klan past and my racist views. I am sitting there writing letters for black convicts, murderers and I saw deep down inside there was good in them.”

After getting out of prison, he enrolled in college at Hinds Community College and eventually received his bachelor’s from Southern Mississippi, where he studied environmental studies. Six years after his release from prison his felony was removed from his record, and following his graduation he worked for the Department of Environmental Quality in Mississippi, which eventually led him into the private sector and a key role in the cleanup efforts following the BP oil spill.

“What I have done is try to say we are not all about our past. You can overcome some pretty terrible life experiences, some bad choices and some bad personal traits,” Malvaney said. “I made a commitment to myself in prison and I held through with that. It took a lot of hard work and self-examination. You have to really look deep in your self and sometimes that is painful, but it can be done.”