Extremist Joins S.C. Board of Education

Into the Mainstream

Ron Wilson, the extremist former commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) Southern heritage group, now has a say in the approval of textbooks, curriculum, and school policy for hundreds of thousands of public school students in South Carolina.

Wilson's new authority comes thanks to a 4-3 vote by the state's Anderson County delegation, which elected him to the 17-member South Carolina Board of Education to replace a departing board member. Wilson, who has no college education, assumed his post in January over the protests of state Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, who said his election "sends a message of intolerance."

"We have someone who has dedicated his life to activities that are absolutely contrary to what we're trying to teach children in our schools," Tenenbaum said after the Southern Poverty Law Center publicized Wilson's past.

Wilson is a former member of the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens, both hate groups. His education expertise is limited to the business he ran out of his home selling textbooks to home-schoolers. One of these, Barbarians Inside the Gates, theorized that Jews are working towards world domination — and was specially touted by Wilson's Web site, which insisted, "You MUST READ THIS BOOK."

In his role heading the 32,000-member SCV, Wilson was part of a takeover attempt by extremists, and led efforts to purge more than 300 members for publicly condemning racism in the SCV. Since Wilson left that post in August 2004, the SCV has started to implode as the raging internal controversy continues.

Wilson, according to a recent report in The Greenville News, says he supports an English-only curriculum, wants creationism taught in public schools and would never vote "to put a known sodomite in front of our children to teach."

Wilson replaced John Hostetler, a former high school principal who is retiring. He was elected over Harris Wilks, a former member of the Anderson County Board of Education.

In a January public forum, state Sens. Billy O'Dell and Kevin Bryant faced openly hostile questions about Wilson's selection. O'Dell said he knew little about Wilson's background when he voted for him.

"If you're that busy," retorted parent Linda Hipsher, "maybe it's time for you to resign your position."