Southern nationalist organizations like the League of the South and the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) have long denied providing a home for racists and hard-right revolutionaries. Indeed, the leaders of both groups accuse those who dare make such suggestions of being "haters" themselves. Their groups, they insist, are composed of honorable people merely seeking to shore up Southern pride.
But that isn't always so. In recent years, official after official of both groups has been caught making racist statements and espousing racist ideology. Until recently, however, they generally seemed to avoid the violently inclined.
Meet Michael Tubbs. The former Green Beret demolitions expert, his hair grown long now, is vice chairman of the league's Northeast Florida chapter, and he's been photographed alongside league president Michael Hill. Tubbs is chaplain to the Florida SCV chapter and heads the SCV's "Flags Across Florida" campaign, which seeks to line the state's roadways with Confederate battle flags.
He also is a man with an unusual past.
In 1987, prosecutors say Sgt. First Class Michael R. Tubbs and another Army Green Beret, toting automatic weapons fitted with silencers and dressed completely in black, robbed two fellow soldiers of their M-16 rifles during a routine exercise at Fort Bragg, N.C. "This is for the KKK," the holdup men shouted as they fled.
The brazen armed robbery went unsolved for three years, during which time Tubbs, who was with the Special Forces for 12 years, became one of the first U.S. soldiers sent to the Middle East after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
While he was abroad, the wife of his partner in the 1987 holdup went to authorities. Ultimately, five caches of weapons were found, including machine guns, 25 pounds of TNT, land mines, an anti-aircraft machine gun, grenades, booby traps, 45 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and more. (Authorities believe that the arsenal was stolen from Fort Bragg and Fort Campbell, Ky.)
They also found notes written by Tubbs that showed that he and his brother, John Tubbs, were setting up a violently racist group called the Knights of the New Order. Officials said Michael Tubbs had drawn up lists of targets including newspapers, television stations and businesses owned by Jews and blacks.
There was even a group pledge authored by Tubbs: "I dedicate my heart to oppose the enemies of my race, my nation and the New Order. ... I dedicate my life from this moment forward to fostering the welfare of the white Aryan race."
The Tubbs brothers were named in a 16-count federal indictment. In the end, Michael Tubbs pleaded guilty to theft of government property and conspiracy to transport guns and explosives across state lines. (His brother also pleaded guilty to weapons charges.) Michael served about four years in prison, emerging in 1995.
Michael Tubbs immediately reentered the white supremacist movement, running a group called Kinsman's Comitatus meant to provide financial support to "political prisoners." Helping him was Vicki Gonce, ex-wife of Joel Hubbard, the North Carolina grand dragon of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tubbs recently described Gonce, now spelling her first name as Vicky, as his wife.
These days, Michael Tubbs spends his time in the neo-Confederate movement. In 2003, he participated as a League of the South leader at a "Christian Confederate Heritage Celebration" in Georgia. He attended the league's Florida convention in 2004. And he's been highly active in Florida SCV circles.
It's not known if neo-Confederate leaders are aware of Tubbs' past, which generated substantial publicity in the early 1990s. Officials of the League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group, and the SCV, many of whose leaders are racists, did not respond to requests for comment.