Supremacists' Deaths Sap Movement Old Guard

White Nationalism

Recent years have seen the death of some of the 20th century's key white supremacist ideologues and leaders, men like Richard Butler of the Aryan Nations and William Pierce of the National Alliance. In the space of three months starting last October, another half dozen aging professional racists met their demise:

• George "Irish" Matousek, a 76-year-old long-time white supremacist and militia enthusiast, died Oct. 16 of a "lingering illness" in Michigan, according to the Bay City (Mich.) Times. Matousek had dabbled in the radical right for decades, including membership in the John Birch Society, a group that once accused President Eisenhower of being a communist. He was also a convinced follower of the theology of Christian Identity, which identifies Jews as the spawn of Satan and people of color as "muds," and a close friend of the rabid Identity preacher James Wickstrom, who also lives in Michigan. As a well-known member of the Michigan Militia in the 1990s, he led a failed effort to pass an anti-gay referendum. When former militia member Scott Woodring murdered a state trooper, Matousek told a reporter that if the authorities kept "playing games" with radicals, "it's going to cost them their lives."

Samuel Holloway Bowers, who built the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan into one the bloodiest terrorist groups of the civil rights era, died Nov. 6 in a Mississippi prison, where he was serving a life sentence for ordering the firebomb murder of black voting rights activist Vernon Dahmer in 1964. Bowers was an extraordinarily violent man who created the White Knights as a breakaway from a larger Klan group he considered too passive; by 1964, he had a reported 10,000 members. He was tried four times for planning the infamous 1966 murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, but each case ended in deadlocked juries. He was finally convicted on related federal charges in 1970 and served six years. He was sent back to prison in 1998 in the Dahmer case. Bowers, 82 and unrepentant, died of a heart attack.

• Rick Cooper, an aging fossil of the American Nazi Party of the 1960s, died on Nov. 23 of kidney failure. Cooper, 60, who had also served as an officer of the National Socialist White People's Party, had all but retired, only showing up at an occasional white supremacist rally in recent years. He was for years the publisher of the National Socialist Vanguard newsletter, and enjoyed a close friendship with Richard Butler. Cooper lived in Goldendale, Wash.

• Dale Fox, imperial wizard of the Brotherhood of Klans (BOK), died Nov. 24 while chopping down a tree on a fellow Klansman's property. In better days, Fox had tried to return the Klan to its birthplace in Pulaski, Tenn., where it was formed in a lawyer's office on Christmas Eve 1865. The closest Fox came was founding a BOK chapter in Finger, Tenn., some two hours' west, in 1996. BOK had expanded rapidly in the months leading up to Fox's death, and had become the largest Klan in America with 30 chapters. His death left the future of the group in doubt, although other BOK officials vowed to soldier on.

• William "Wild Bill" Hoff, East Coast director for the National Socialist Movement (NSM), died Dec. 8 after being struck by a car while walking near his home in South Carolina. Hoff, 71, was a veteran of numerous neo-Nazi groups, starting with George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party in 1959. In the late 1960s, Hoff pleaded guilty to conspiracy and weapons charges in connection with a plot to bomb a room full of civil rights activists in New York. Hoff had intended to run for public office on the NSM ticket.

• Keith Kallstrom, a Christian Identity pastor from Oklahoma, died of an apparent heart attack in a federal prison cell in Michigan on Jan. 18, shortly after being convicted of an attempt to hire someone to kill former friend James Wickstrom. Kallstrom, whose wife ran off with fellow Identity preacher Wickstrom in 2003, was arrested in 2005 after driving to Michigan to literally cut off Wickstrom's head. He was already serving time on charges related to that attempt when he solicited fellow inmates to arrange Wickstrom's death. Wickstrom still lives with Kallstrom's wife, Kathy.