Roberts was a rough and rowdy twenty-six-year-old ex-marine in 1964. He was dishonorably discharged from the marines for finding, drunkenness, and being absent without leave. He was, by many accounts, "as mean as a junkyard dog.' He worked in Meridian as a window salesman.
Roberts began loudly calling for Schwerner's execution soon after joining the Lauderdale County Klan. Roberts was among the Klan members who participated in the beating of blacks at the Mount Zion Church on June 16. He seemed especially proud of his brutal deed, raising his bloody fist in the air as proof of his work.
Even after his arrest as one of nineteen conspirators in December, 1964, Roberts was a man to avoid. After a hearing in 1965, Roberts raced across a courthouse yard to kick a CBS camerman in the groin, then slug him in the head.