The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) is the modern reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils, which were formed in the 1950s and 1960s to battle school desegregation in the South. Among other things, its Statement of Principles says that it “oppose[s] all efforts to mix the races of mankind.” Created in 1985 from the mailing lists of its predecessor organization, the CCC, which initially tried to project a "mainstream" image, has evolved into a crudely white supremacist group whose website has run pictures comparing the late pop singer Michael Jackson to an ape and referred to black people as "a retrograde species of humanity." The group's newspaper, Citizens Informer, regularly publishes articles condemning "race mixing," decrying the evils of illegal immigration, and lamenting the decline of white, European civilization. Gordon Baum, the group’s founder, died in March of 2015.
In Its Own Words
"God is the author of racism. God is the One who divided mankind into different types. ... Mixing the races is rebelliousness against God."
— Council of Conservative Citizens website, 2001
"We believe the United States is a European country and that Americans are part of the European people. … We therefore oppose the massive immigration of non-European and non-Western peoples into the United States that threatens to transform our nation into a non-European majority in our lifetime. We believe that illegal immigration must be stopped, if necessary by military force and placing troops on our national borders; that illegal aliens must be returned to their own countries; and that legal immigration must be severely restricted or halted through appropriate changes in our laws and policies. We also oppose all efforts to mix the races of mankind, to promote non-white races over the European-American people through so-called ‘affirmative action' and similar measures, to destroy or denigrate the European-American heritage, including the heritage of the Southern people, and to force the integration of the races."
—Statement of Principles, Citizens Informer, 2007
"Controlling immigration is about the security of this republic [terrorists illegally crossing the borders] and making sure countries like Mexico stop dumping their murderers, rapists, those carrying AIDS and other communicable diseases and gang members on America's door step."
—Devvy Kidd, Citizens Informer, 2006
Founded in 1985 by Gordon Baum, a worker's compensation attorney and longtime racist activist, the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC) rose from the ashes of the Citizens Councils of America (CCA), commonly called "White Citizens Councils," a coalition of white-supremacist groups and individuals formed throughout the South to defend school segregation after the Supreme Court outlawed the policy in 1954 in Brown vs. Board of Education.
Unlike the KKK, the CCA groups had a veneer of civic respectability, inspiring future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to refer to it as the "uptown Klan." While there were plenty of bare-knuckle racists attracted to the councils' anti-integration slogan, "Never!," the members also included bankers, merchants, judges, newspaper editors and politicians — folks given more to wearing suits and ties than hoods and robes. During the White Citizens Councils' heyday, the groups claimed more than 1 million members. Although they weren't immune to violence — Byron De La Beckwith, who murdered civil-rights leader Medgar Evers in 1963, was a member — the councils generally used their political and financial pull to offset the effects of "forced integration."
Once the segregation battle was lost, the air went out of the White Citizens Councils. The councils steadily lost members throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Sensing the need for a new direction, Baum, formerly the CCA's Midwest field director, called together a group of 30 white men, including former Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox and future Louisiana Congressman John Rarick, for a meeting in Atlanta in 1985. Together, they cooked up a successor organization: the Council of Conservative Citizens.
Like the original White Citizens Councils, the CCC is made up of local chapters, some of which are active in civic affairs beyond the national group's racist agenda. And until the 2000s, some of the group's "uptown" attitude remained, as meetings resembled Rotary Club events more than Klan outings and regularly featured politicians as keynote speakers.
Most Americans learned of the CCC in late 1998, when a scandal erupted over prominent Southern politicians' ties to the brazenly racist group. After it was revealed that former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) gave the keynote speech at the CCC's 1998 national convention and that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had spoken to the group five times, both claimed they knew nothing about the CCC. However, an Intelligence Report investigation, publicized by national television and newspaper reports, made clear what the CCC really was: a hate group that routinely denigrated blacks as "genetically inferior," complained about "Jewish power brokers," called LGBT people "perverted sodomites," accused immigrants of turning America into a "slimy brown mass of glop," and named Lester Maddox, the now-deceased, ax handle-wielding, arch-segregationist former governor of Georgia, "Patriot of the Century."
As evidence of widespread association between Southern GOP officeholders and the CCC mounted, Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson took the unusual step in 1998 of asking party members to resign from the group because of its racist views. A resolution moved through the U.S. Congress "condemning the racism and bigotry espoused by the Council of Conservative Citizens," although it ultimately failed. (Congress had earlier condemned the black supremacist Nation of Islam in a similar manner, but failed to do the same with the CCC. Republican Party leaders, likely embarrassed by Lott's very public connection to the CCC, managed to defeat the censure effort.)
But six years later, many Southern lawmakers were still pandering to and meeting with the CCC — and still pleading ignorance. According to a 2004 Intelligence Report review of the Citizens Informer, no fewer than 38 federal, state and local elected officials had attended CCC events between 2000 and 2004, most of them giving speeches to local chapters of the hate group.
Since the 1998/1999 scandal stripped much of the remaining varnish off the CCC's mainstream pretensions, the extremist views expressed on its website and in its newspaper have become increasingly crude. "What do you call ... four blacks, three Hispanics, three Russian Jews, and one white guy?" the CCC home page asked in 2003. "The FBI's Most Wanted List!" Another day, the home page ran photos of accused Beltway snipers John Muhammad and John Malvo, 9/11 conspirator Zacharias Moussaoui and shoe-bomber Richard Reed. "Notice a Pattern Here?" asked a caption underneath the four photos. "Is the face of death black after all?" In 2002, the Web site featured a photo of Daniel Pearl, the "Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter" who had just been decapitated by Islamic terrorists. In the photo, Pearl was shown with his "mixed-race wife, Marianne." The headline above the couple's picture was stunning even for the CCC: "Death by Multiculturalism?"
The danger of "race-mixing" has been a consistent theme for the group since the days of the White Citizens Councils. "God is the author of racism," said one story on the CCC's website in 2001. "God is the One who divided mankind into different types. ... Mixing the races is rebelliousness against God." After the NAACP declared its boycott of South Carolina in 1999 because the state continued to fly the Confederate battle flag over its Capitol dome, the CCC distributed a mock advertisement proclaiming, "South Carolina Now Has Whiter Beaches!" The Citizens Informer item urged whites to vacation in South Carolina and "enjoy a civil liberty that has been denied to them for many years at hotels, restaurants and beaches: the freedom to associate with just one's own people."
Along with theological arguments, the Citizens Informer has published countless stories detailing "scientific" evidence for white people's inherent superiority. Writing about Brown vs. Board of Education in 2004, contributor Michael Polignano noted that many commentators were using the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling striking down public school segregation to talk about "how far America still falls short of racial equality." According to Polignano, that lack of progress "should surprise no one, because racial inequality is genetic and cannot be changed by social programs. ... Blacks are on average probably less intelligent than Whites and more aggressive, impulsive and prone to psychopathologies." To prove this point, a 2005 article in the Citizens Informer written in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina described "[a]ccounts of little children — girls and boys —being gang raped, rescue vans and copters being repeatedly fired upon by mobs of violent blacks, anarchy, chaos, confusion, looting even by black police officers."
More recently, the CCC has focused very heavily on battling non-white immigration. The group jumped quite early on the "threat" it perceived was posed by immigration, holding a rally against immigration in Cullman, Ala., in 1998 that featured major nativist hate group leaders Barbara Coe and Glenn Spencer, both of whom worked to pass the punishing California anti-immigrant Proposition 187 (the rally was also attended by an unrobed Klan leader and a top official of the Federation for American Immigration Reform). The CCC has held rallies nearly every year since then against immigration and the topic is addressed regularly at the CCC's biannual conferences, which have included as participants CCC leaders and prominent racists including Jared Taylor, editor of the anti-black and anti-Latino race science newsletter American Renaissance, and Don Black, founder of the first hate site on the web, Stormfront.org.
CCC meetings have rarely featured politicians as speakers since the 2004 Intelligence Report exposé that exposed the fact that dozens of GOP politicians (and one Democrat) had been speaking at the group's events despite GOP chief Jim Nicholson's warnings in 1998. But a few have continued to associate with the CCC. In 2005, George Wallace Jr., the son of the late segregationist Alabama governor who was then an Alabama Public Service commissioner, spoke at the group's summer conference. In June 2008, another Alabama politician, state Sen. Charles Bishop (R-Jasper), addressed the group. Bishop's speech appealed to the assembled CCC crowd, particularly when he denounced the idea that Southern states should apologize for having sanctioned slavery. Bishop said that "atonement equals reparations" — meaning that apologies would surely be greeted by demands for financial payback by black Americans. Bishop received a standing ovation from the audience and he and his wife posed for pictures with members afterwards.
And in 2009 Republican Mississippi State Sen. Lydia Chassaniol spoke to the group. She gave a rabble-rousing speech on "Cultural Heritage in Mississippi." In a brief history of the state since 1540, Chassaniol complained that the U.S. was in decline, as evidenced by tributes to Michael Jackson, a "pedophile who's being celebrated." She indicated that the government wants to "take from those who have and give to those who don't want to work for it." And she worried that the 2010 national census might hand over government "to the radical left." Chassaniol confirmed to the Southern Poverty Law Center that she is a member of the CCC, which she described as a "conservative organization."
A June 2011 barbeque held in Tennessee showcased another set of unsavory relationships maintained by the CCC. According to postings on website of the CCC’s Tennessee chapter, members of Volksfront and Blood and Honour, two notorious and violent racist skinhead groups, joined CCC members to network and discuss “ideas and plans to make a positive impact on our regions.” The then-head of the CCC, Gordon Baum, referred to the meeting as a “no-no” after stating that the chapter was not supposed to meet with “costumed Nazis.”
On April 7, 2013, Leonard R. Wilson of Jasper, Alabama, died. He was a charter member of the CCC, as well as the organization’s national secretary and the Alabama state coordinator. He earned the nickname of "Flagpole" Wilson by climbing a flagpole during 1956 anti-integration riots at the University of Alabama to shout, "Keep 'Bama white!"
A few months later, at the organization’s 2013 annual conference in Winston-Salem, N.C., Bill Lord addressed a crowd of around 75 attendees, imploring them to think locally and “get you some bigots together and take some organizations over.” Lord, who was then the chairman of the Carroll County Democratic Party in Mississippi, was referring to positions such as the school board. He then went on to refer to Greenwood, Miss., as “the Congo” because of its large black population. The gathering only went further sideways from there, with Keith Alexander of the “Political Cesspool,” a racist and anti-Semitic far-right radio program, decrying Jewish political power and influence before stating, “The only people who can be trusted to be in charge are white people.” Another attendee, John Shudlick, five-time mayor of Ocean Ridge, Fla., encouraged the crowd to use critical thinking in the struggle for the country’s soul. According to Shudlick, the “six million figure [Jews killed in the holocaust] is a dirty filthy lie.”
In November of the same year, the CCC and the neo-Confederate League of the South held their first joint protest together against the removal of a statue of Tom Watson, an infamous racist and anti-Semite known for playing a key role in instigating the lynching of Leo Frank in 1915, from the steps of the Georgia state Capitol. The two groups’ membership rolls overlap a good deal; however, this event was demonstrative of the CCC’s longstanding strategy, focused on small, local rallies, being adopted by other hate groups.
Gordon Baum, the CCC’s founder and longtime leader, died at the age of 74 in early March 2015, leaving the future of the CCC uncertain. However, Baum’s death did little to slow down the activities of several of the group’s board members. Just weeks later, Jared Taylor and Sam Dickson, both well-known racist activists, appeared as speakers at the Russian Conservative Forum in St. Petersburg, Russia, alongside some of Europe’s most extreme, right-wing fringe.