An American man has undergone extensive surgery on his face to remove racist gang tattoos after changing his ways.

Bryon Widner was given a second chance by a generous benefactor who paid more than £20,000 for the complicated and painful procedure to rid him of his offensive emblems, which included Nazi lightning bolts.

An ‘enforcer’ member of the Vinlanders skinhead gang in Ohio since the age of 14, Widner met his wife Julia who was a member of white supremacist gang National Alliance, and after settling down to raise children decided to reform his ways and renounce his past.

Widner found himself struggling to find work and facing threats and intimidation from his former gang mates and was even considering using acid on his face to destroy the tattoos. He turned to the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) who monitor race hate groups and give assistance to those wanted to leave the gangs. An anonymous sponsor was found that would help by paying for the expensive surgery.

After going through 25 separate surgeries over the course of 16 months and having to go under anaesthetic to deal with the extreme pain under the care of Nashville doctor Bruce Shack, Widner emerged with a new face. The entire process was filmed by the US TV channel MSNBC.

Widner and his family have since moved away to the suburbs and into anonymity, joined a church and started anew. He is in the process of inking over the remaining tattoos on his body.  “I wasn’t on any great mission for the white race.” he told Associated Press, “I was just a thug.”