Days after the July 23 death of William Luther Pierce, officials at the rural West Virginia compound of the National Alliance announced the formation of a "board of directors," but refused to say who was on it. Nevertheless, it seems clear that the board is simply another name for the inner circle of people who worked with Pierce on the compound.
While there were 12 full-time, paid staffers who worked there at the time that Pierce died (another five worked off-site), fewer than half a dozen were considered close to Pierce, and none were seen as his equal.
Now, with the accession of Erich Gliebe as chairman, the Alliance is likely to spread the work previously done by Pierce among several key staff members, although it's anybody's guess how long this arrangement will last in the face of personality conflicts and rivalries within the organization.
Here are profiles of five prominent staffers.
ERICH GLIEBE, 39
A former tool-and-die maker and boxer who fought under the moniker of "The Aryan Barbarian," Erich Gliebe was described by Pierce in 1999 as "the most effective activist in the Alliance."
Unmarried, unrelenting and unusually motivated, Gliebe is the kind of man who boasts of never missing a monthly meeting of the Cleveland unit that he has led for 11 of his 12 years in the Alliance. At the same time, he has proved a capable organizer, bringing 500 people to one racist music concert.
Gliebe has said that he is inspired by his father, who fought in the World War II German army and was wounded on the Eastern Front in 1945.
With a lengthy background in white power music, Gliebe was selected to head Resistance Records and to edit Resistance magazine after they were acquired in 1999. He also devised a particularly nefarious recruiting scheme, creating the European-American Cultural Society in Cleveland to bring in ethnic European recruits during annual "festivals" that feature dance troupes and similar events.
Unlike Pierce, Gliebe is no intellectual, despite writing a column in Resistance magazine. Still, he presided over the return to profitability of Resistance Records, even if Resistance magazine is chronically late.
Gliebe's main weakness seems to be his personality, which is abrasive, often cruel and without charisma. In many ways, Gliebe has been the Alliance's remorseless and humorless bureaucrat, Heinrich Himmler to Pierce's Adolf Hitler.
KEVIN ALFRED STROM, 45
Kevin Strom, a former radio broadcast engineer who joined the National Alliance in 1991, is the only person in the group who is considered close to Pierce in intellectual ability.
Shortly after joining, Strom created the "American Dissident Voices" radio program that featured Pierce and others and still is broadcast around the world on shortwave and via the Internet. The show has proved to be one of the Alliance's most effective propaganda efforts, bringing in money, members and ideological support.
Strom left the Alliance staff in 1996 as his marriage fell apart and he battled unsuccessfully for custody of his four children in Minnesota. Since 1999, he has been the archivist for the estate of Revilo Oliver, a long-time white supremacist and anti-Semite, helping to solidify Strom's reputation for scholarly work.
Strom recently remarried and lives with his second wife, Elisha, in Charlottesville, Va. Shortly after meeting Elisha, Strom removed the gallery of pictures of very young white girls that he had carried for years on his own Web site (a young Brooke Shields atop a horse was a Strom favorite).
This spring, Pierce named Strom as editor of the Alliance's National Vanguard magazine and other publications; in July, he was named to carry on Pierce's radio program. Strom's shortcomings are a reclusive personality and, in his writings, a pretentious style quite unlike Pierce's clearly written essays.
ROBERT DeMARAIS, 55
Bob DeMarais, a former business professor at Arkansas Technical University and the holder of a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, joined the Alliance in the mid-1990s after hearing Pierce's radio program and going on to read several books sold by the Alliance's National Vanguard Books division.
A lifelong bachelor who has lived on the compound since about 1996, DeMarais was the Alliance business manager under Pierce — an "invaluable" staffer in charge of payroll and checking accounts — and seems likely to continue in that role.
Retiring, suspicious of outsiders and solitary, DeMarais recently came to regret having no wife or children, according The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds, a fawning Pierce biography (see review). The 2001 book puts DeMarais in an almost pathetic light as
a quiet man sitting alone at his kitchen table early in the morning, an open book and his yellow marking pen next to him, eating his Sugar Frosted Flakes. And then very late at night, after a long day at the headquarters building, again alone, the same book, the same marking pen, eating his TV dinner.
DeMarais, who has said that he joined the Alliance because he was "sick of what's being done to our schools," appears capable of ensuring that the Alliance continues to function as a successful business. However, DeMarais is no ideologue, and so is expected to remain focused on administrative matters.
FRED STREED, 50
A former firefighting crew leader for the U.S. Forest Service in Doris, Calif., Fred Streed has said he joined the Alliance "because I want to be a hammer instead of an anvil. I got tired of just watching what was being done to our people."
For years, Streed has functioned as the Alliance's fix-it man — Pierce recently described him as the head of the group's "physical infrastructure department" — and, in effect, part of the compound's security apparatus.
As the Alliance has acquired more and more equipment and other assets, Streed's role has become increasingly important, though he is no charismatic leader.
He is a physically imposing man, described by Pierce's biographer as a "mountain man," and came to be very close to the late leader. That is reflected in the fact that Streed is listed as president of two Alliance corporations — the National Alliance itself and its publishing arm, National Vanguard Books Inc.
In 1996, he married Marta Streed, a Hungarian who came to the compound in the early 1990s and remains committed to Alliance ideology. Marta Streed and another staff member, 30-year-old Jeff Cotton, process orders for Resistance Records and other Alliance operations.
Fred Streed's loyalty to Pierce, along with his skills at keeping up equipment and leading building operations, suggest that he will remain a critical player at the Alliance even if he is unlikely to assume a more political role.
BILLY ROPER II, 30
Bombastic, talkative and gregarious, Billy Roper is an unusual character in the National Alliance, one who was willing to essentially defy Pierce by trying to forge alliances with Skinheads and others Pierce saw as "defective" human material.
His knack for building coalitions is reflected in the relatively large turnouts last year at several Washington, D.C., rallies, and in his chummy relations with many members in units outside the group's West Virginia compound. At the same time, some staff members on the compound distrust him and feel he was never fully supported by Pierce.
A former high school teacher in Russellville, Ark., Roper joined the national staff in early 2000 as "deputy membership coordinator" — a telling title, given that he never was promoted to the empty slot of membership coordinator.
Roper is a former Skinhead, and he still is admired by many on the Skinhead scene. That admiration was beefed up last November, when "anti-racist" demonstrators bloodied Roper's face during a rally he was leading in front of the Israeli embassy.
In the days after Pierce's death, Roper seemed to be making a bid for the Alliance's leadership, but after Gliebe was named he swore undying fealty to the new leader while praising Pierce in extremely lavish terms. Although Roper has been an important player at the Alliance, the accession of Gliebe, who is not close to Roper, may signal a decreasing future role.