40 to Watch: Leaders of the Radical Right

What does the radical right look like after a year of reverses? The future may lie in the personalities still peopling the fringe
John Thomas Cripps, 46 | LUMBERTON, Miss.

 

A native Mississippian, ordained minister and accountant, John Cripps has become a major neo-Confederate activist, starting or working in an array of organizations with racist tinges. Even before he became a public figure, Cripps was pastor of the so-called Confederate Presbyterian Church in Lumberton. The church is not part of any recognized denomination and teaches antebellum Presbyterian doctrine, relying in part on racist sources like 19th-century theologian Robert Louis Dabney.

By 2000, Cripps had become the Mississippi state leader of the League of the South, a relatively intellectual neo-Confederate group. Later that year, he dropped his group's formal affiliation with the league, renaming it Free Mississippi. Also in 2000, he opened and operated the Confederate States Research Center, a bookstore operating out of a run-down storefront in Wiggins, Miss.

As head of Free Mississippi (and architect of its Web page), Cripps fought hard to retain the Mississippi state flag — which incorporates a small reproduction of the Confederate battle flag — that was then being considered for replacement by a less divisive symbol. Cripps collected signatures for a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would have made the flag permanent

The amendment never came to a vote, but Cripps also helped rally whites to vote in the 2001 referendum that finally decided the matter. (The voting broke down along racial lines, with whites overwhelmingly opting to keep the old flag.)

In a 2000 Web posting, Cripps referred to thousands of black spring breakers in Mississippi — a tiny minority of whom had committed some crimes — as "a group of animals." In an E-mail, he also called NAACP members "animal[s] of the weasel kind." Cripp's Free Mississippi disappeared in 2002, but was replaced this year by Free South, run out of Cripps' Wiggins research center.

The group also owns the Rebel Yell store in Florence, selling Confederate paraphernalia.


Ronald G. Doggett, 41 | RICHMOND, Va.

 

Ron Doggett joined the Klan at 17 and has been a key racist organizer in Virginia — even testifying to the state Senate and badly embarrassing one governor — ever since.

The lifelong Richmond resident signed up with the Klan after reading a newspaper published by former Klan leader David Duke, moving on to the White Patriot Party (a kind of paramilitary Klan group) in the 1980s and, in the early 1990s, the neo-Nazi National Alliance. For most of the latter decade, Doggett also hosted a public access cable television show called "Race and Reality," making himself infamous in the Richmond area.

In 1999, he invited Duke, who had by then left the Klan, to visit Richmond to support the return of a portrait of Confederate hero Robert E. Lee to a local history exhibit. More than 200 people attended a meeting hosted by Duke and Doggett.

The following year, Doggett signed on as Virginia chapter leader with a group, newly formed by Duke, which would ultimately come to be called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). Though EURO today seems to exist largely on paper, Doggett claimed in 2001 to have 150 members in Virginia — not inconceivable, given his organizing skills.

In February of 2001, Doggett testified to the Virginia Senate Rules Committee in favor of maintaining the state's unconstitutional law against interracial marriage. He pulled off an even more remarkable coup a month later, when he convinced then-Gov. Jim Gilmore, who was also then heading up the Republican National Committee, to declare May "European American Heritage and History Month" — an astounding feat given Doggett's local notoriety. Two months later, a red-faced Gilmore rescinded his proclamation.

Today, Ron Doggett remains an Alliance member and the Virginia state EURO leader. He insists that Duke is innocent of the mail fraud charges he recently pleaded guilty to.


Clayton R. Douglas, 57 | BINGHAM, N.M.

 

For nine years, Clay Douglas has been editing and publishing a militia-friendly magazine called Free American — a compendium of conspiracy theories about hot topics from the "New World Order" to the Oklahoma City bombing, weird notions about health and sickness, survivalist paranoia and, especially in recent years, wildly anti-Semitic rants and ideology.

Douglas, who is now also the mayor of the tiny hamlet of Bingham, N.M., didn't start out on the radical right. He was a biker with a pen, writing bad poetry and getting articles published in almost a dozen magazines with titles like Easyriders and Motorcycle News. He also published at least one biker magazine, ran a marine repair shop and a floating restaurant in South Florida in the late 1980s, and even wrote self-published "adventure novels" with titles like One Bloody Alabaster Eye.

Douglas, who today suggests that drugs are part of a government plot, also was sentenced in 1972 to seven years in a Texas prison after being arrested for possession of marijuana by a female undercover agent (the topic of a particularly awful poem).

In August 1994, Douglas began publishing the Free American and, the same year, became information officer for the New Mexico Militia. In the following years, he traveled the country, going to antigovernment militia and "Patriot" events and selling magazines and books; broadcast a daily shortwave radio program; put on survivalist expos, and made and sold videos about "top-secret phenomena" like those revealed in "Chemtrails: the Video."

Typical of many in the militias, Douglas worried that the United Nations was involved in a world takeover — and, as mayor, got an ordinance passed that made Bingham a "U.N.-free zone."

Although Douglas says that he first endorsed the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the early 1990s, it is in recent years that he, like many in the Patriot movement, has adopted wholesale hatred of Jews.

Since helping in 2001 to set up the radical-right American Media Association, which includes several anti-Semitic publications, Douglas' Free American has run stories like "Are the Jews Behind the Destruction of America?" (his answer, needless to say, is yes) and he has reproduced the Protocols on his Web page.

He sold tracts of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology at his November 2002 expo in Georgia and, this May, blamed Jews for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks while attending a conference put on by Media Bypass, another anti-Semitic magazine.

In addition, Douglas spends a great deal of energy attacking former allies in the Patriot movement like James "Bo" Gritz, and selling the always lucrative Miracle II soap.


Ronald W. Edwards, 43 | DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky.

 

Ron Edwards, who today improbably claims to lead the largest Klan faction in the United States, got his start in the Klan in the early 1990s, when he was the head of a Kentucky klavern (or local unit) in the Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

That group, originally started by David Duke but since led by Thom Robb, tried to portray itself as a kinder, gentler Klan, seeking to adopt highways and follow other strategies meant to improve its image. But the group split in July 1994, when nine chapters departed to form the Federation of Klans over an accusation that Robb had absconded with funds raised through a telephone hotline and also a $20,000 gift that was allegedly meant for the group.

Edwards was briefly with the federation, led by former Robb follower Ed Novak, but the group collapsed around 1995.

By 1998, Edwards had created his own group, the Imperial Klans of America, which he says is the largest of some 30 competing Klan groups — a claim weakened when Edwards told a reporter in 1999 that he had only 50 followers.

In April of that year, federal agents raided Edwards' home as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to blow up a federal building. Investigators eventually dropped Edwards as a target, but an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology, Kale Kelly, was sent to prison on weapons charges.

Edwards' Imperial Klans avoids public rallies, instead holding private "cross-lightings" and other events at Edwards' former compound in Powderly, Ky.

Starting in 2000, Edwards used his land to host NordicFest, an annual Memorial Day two-day concert featuring racist "hatecore" bands — a strategy that helped connect Edwards to younger, more vital parts of the American revolutionary right. In 2001, more than 300 people attended the event. But the next year, Edwards had a falling out with the two major backers of the concert, racist music distributors Panzerfaust and Resistance Records.

Resistance manager Erich Gliebe (see Führer of the Titanic) spoke for both distributors when he attacked Edwards' "personal conduct," the "treatment of our bands," and "threats" and violence at the previous year's event.

The pullout hit Edwards hard, and by 2003, with NordicFest now held at Edwards' new and smaller property in Dawson Springs, just 60 people came. (Many complaints about the cost of the event and charges for setting up sales tables were heard from those who went.) Today, it is unclear if Edwards will be able to resuscitate the annual event.


Samuel T. Francis, 56 | LANHAM, Md.

 

An intellectual and key white nationalist thinker, Sam Francis has been referred to by analyst Leonard Zeskind as the "philosopher king" of the radical right — a title that seems well justified by the ubiquitous presence of his columns in racist forums and his influence over the general direction of right-wing extremism.

A prize-winning writer, Francis served in the late 1980s and early 1990s as an editor and columnist at the right-wing Washington Times, where he was well known as a leading paleoconservative (the term refers to an anti-federal, isolationist sector of the American right that typically opposes non-white immigration vigorously)

The 1990s saw Francis radicalized to the point where he is today the chief editor for a leading white supremacist hate group, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC). That tie was initiated in 1993, when Francis published his first column in the CCC's tabloid, Citizens Informer, complaining that the media ignored whites murdered by blacks while police brutality victim Rodney King, characterized as a black criminal, was celebrated.

The next year, Francis made his first appearance at a conference of American Renaissance, a magazine devoted to eugenics (the "science" of breeding better human beings) and allegedly race-based characteristics (such as IQ levels, sexual aggressiveness and propensity to criminality). In June 1994, Francis praised the CCC in a Times column for "planting seeds that may eventually bear greater fruit" than the Republican Party (the "Stupid Party," in Francis' phrase).

Ultimately, Francis was fired from the Times in 1995 after conservative author Dinesh D'Souza quoted Francis' 1994 speech at the American Renaissance conference and described him as embodying the "new spirit of white bigotry." Since then, Francis has appeared at every biannual American Renaissance conference and written for the magazine.

In 1999, Francis joined the CCC's Citizens Informer as co-editor with Chris Temple, an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology who has since left the job. In that post, he has stacked the publication with immigrant-bashers and refocused the increasingly strident CCC on opposition to non-white immigration.

In 2000, Francis helped his good friend Patrick Buchanan, the nation's best-known paleoconservative and white nationalist, run for president on the Reform Party ticket and also helped to edit his recent book, Death of the West.

Today, Francis, who markets his columns through the Creators Syndicate, also helps edit The Occidental Quarterly, a journal similar to American Renaissance that is bankrolled by William H. Regnery II, the reclusive far-right Chicago millionaire who is an heir to a publishing fortune.