Louis Ray Beam Jr.: Racist Leader Headed for Downfall?

On the Lam
Based on information from Order members, FBI officials believed that Beam had received $120,000 of the $4.1 million that The Order stole in several spectacular armored car robberies. Butler was also believed to have received money.

But unlike 24 members of The Order, neither man was among those indicted in 1985.

In April 1987, Beam and Butler finally were indicted, along with 12 other leading white supremacist activists, by a federal grand jury in Fort Smith, Ark.

They were accused of seditious conspiracy in connection with an alleged plot, hatched at the 1983 Aryan World Congress, to overthrow the government. Officials said that the 14 were godfathers in the plot, which was to be carried out by The Order.

When the FBI went to arrest Beam, he had vanished.

Just days earlier, he had married for a fourth time in a Christian Identity church in Pennsylvania. He told his latest bride, Sheila Toohey, that they'd have to spend their honeymoon on the run — he expected some kind of legal paperwork from the federal government.

First, they hid out with his old friend, Texas chiropractor Neill Payne. Then the couple fled to the area around Guadalajara, Mexico. In June, Beam's name was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, and his poster went up around the nation.

Finally, in November, the FBI learned that he was in Mexico after serving a search warrant and learning that Payne had secretly visited Beam in that country.

When plainclothes Mexican police arrested Beam outside a housing complex in the small town of Chapala on Nov. 6, 1987, his new bride grabbed a 9 mm pistol and began firing. She badly wounded a Mexican officer.

Beam was handed over to FBI agents in Mexico, and his wife was released — inexplicably, she was not charged — a few days later. She would later tell reporters in Houston that she had not known the Mexicans were police officers and had feared being raped.

Toohey, who grew up in a small Texas town, sounded incredibly naïve about her husband. "There is not a prejudiced bone in this man's body," she told a reporter. "People have to realize that he is a terrific man and not a white supremacist."

In Fort Smith, meanwhile, FBI agents who'd tracked Beam sought to introduce 38 items found in his possession when he was arrested in Mexico — computer disks, documents, books and photographs — that they believed showed clear links to The Order.

But Judge Morris Arnold suppressed most of this evidence. He did, however, allow in a card with the words "Bruders Schweigen" printed on front.

Changing Diapers in Idaho
Beam represented himself, although he was aided by Kirk Lyons, whom he'd known in Texas and who was Neill Payne's partner.

(Beam would be Lyons' best man at a bizarre 1992 double wedding held at the Aryan Nations compound. Lyons and Payne married two sisters whose brother, David Tate, was a member of The Order imprisoned for murdering a state trooper.)

Beam denied that any conspiracy was hatched at the 1983 Aryan Congress, saying all he remembered was drinking coffee and changing his baby daughter's diapers. But his third wife, Kara, testified that Beam had not been involved in any diaper-changing, and she recounted how he talked about bombings and assassinations in service of the revolution.

The jury was also told about Beam's links to a heavily armed, white supremacist compound in Arkansas — The Covenant, The Sword, and The Arm of The Lord (CSA).

Prosecutors alleged that members of The Order and a fugitive murderer of two U.S. marshals had been hidden at the CSA compound.

"Beam came to CSA to get us hooked up to his bulletin board," recalled Kerry Noble, the second-in-command at CSA who later renounced the racist movement.

"I thought he was just a really arrogant, angry person, a lot of show. In those days, everybody said he was going to take Butler's place as leader of Aryan Nations. But me personally, I wouldn't have followed him across the street."

When all was said and done, the all-white jury didn't buy it.

In a disaster for the government, all the defendants were acquitted on all charges. To add insult to injury, one of the female jurors married a defendant.

Leaving the courthouse after the April 7, 1988, acquittals, Beam saluted a Confederate war hero's statue. He had tangled with the state and won. Henceforth, he announced, the struggle would move underground.

In the months that followed, Beam would start a racist newspaper called The Seditionist — a mocking jab at his prosecutors.

'To the Federal Dogs'
Beam had won a round with the federal government, but it only increased his fury.

The following January, he gave a fiery speech in Pulaski, Tenn., at the annual Klan rally held in the hooded order's 1865 birthplace. He told the audience that he had a message for fellow patriots — and for "yellow dog feds from the FBI."

"First, to the federal dogs," he shouted, hurling a fistful of bloody hamburger meat from the podium to the floor.

"I spit on you! You're dogs! You're scum! We're gonna dance on your graves! I'm gonna dance on your tombstone! If you think we're gonna let you have this country, you're wrong. We're gonna take it back!

"If you want to give us terror, we'll give you terror back," he yelled. "If you think we're going to take this lying on our backs, you're wrong, federal dogs!"

It was quite a speech. A newspaper story once suggested that Beam "could bring a tear to Billy Graham's eye" with his speaking style.

Former colleagues say that the Pulaski speech was actually Beam's stump presentation — he almost always used the hamburger prop. His anger, however, was very real.

That came out dramatically one night in 1992.

Floyd Cochran, the Aryan Nations spokesman who later became an anti-racist activist, remembers Beam and others drinking for many hours the night before the Payne/Lyons double wedding.

"The thing I won't forget," said Cochran, "is Louis, who could not hold his liquor, trying to climb a ladder that was lying flat on the ground. As he 'climbs,' he's pulling up wads of grass between the rungs, acting very mean, and shouting, 'I hate gooks! I want to kill them all!' That's when Sheila asked some of us to pick him up, get him in the house and shut his mouth."

Some time that year, Beam returned to Texas. "He said he was going back to Texas to raise blond-haired children and black-eyed peas," Cochran said. "We didn't hear much from him after that, though he moved back to Idaho in the late '90s."

Also in 1992, in the pages of The Seditionist, Beam published the second version of an essay, "Leaderless Resistance," that he first printed in 1983.

Learning from The Order's demise, Beam warned that hierarchical organizations presented a very high risk for the radical right — if one person were arrested, it was quite likely that the whole structure would be destroyed.

Beam proposed that radicals adopt a "lone wolf" or "leaderless resistance" strategy — that they act in small, independent cells that take orders from no one and keep their plans entirely to themselves.

"No one need issue an order to anyone," Beam wrote. "Those idealists truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them."

Beam credited the original concept to one Col. Ulius Louis Amoss, a right-wing anti-communist who wrote his 1962 essay in the context of resisting a much-feared Communist invasion of the United States.

Although many scholars believe that the idea was picked up by Beam directly from Amoss, in fact it was bandied about by other ideologues of the radical right in the 1960s and 1970s.

Later in 1992, a standoff between an Idaho white supremacist named Randy Weaver and federal officials developed on a mountaintop known as Ruby Ridge.

Before it was over, a federal marshal and Weaver's wife and son were killed by gunfire. Weaver had attended an Aryan Nations gathering in 1986 when Beam was a speaker who wielded a sword and threatened to kill federal informants.