Racists marked the end of an era with the March 5 death of Gordon Lee Baum, founder of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a white nationalist hate group that at the height of its power had 15,000 dues-paying members, among them some of Washington’s most powerful politicians.
Baum, a former personal injury lawyer from Missouri, founded the group in 1985 as a reincarnation of the segregationist Citizens’ Councils of America (CCA), which were better known as White Citizens Councils. The group — which pushed theological and “scientific” arguments against race-mixing, deplored the influence of “Jewish power brokers,” denounced LGBT people as “perverted sodomites” and called blacks a “retrograde species of humanity” — was largely unknown to most Americans until late 1998. That’s when news broke that then-U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) had given the keynote address at the 1998 CCC annual convention and that then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) had addressed it five times.
The GOP strove to distance itself from the CCC in the wake of that scandal, with Republican National Committee Chairman Jim Nicholson asking that party members resign from what he described as a “racist” group. But many Southern lawmakers quietly continued to pander to it — no fewer than 38 local, state and federal elected officials, mostly in the South, attended meetings between 2000 and 2004, an SPLC investigation found. In the aftermath of the Lott scandal and that 2004 story, the group declined as politicians generally fled its embrace.
The CCC, which had long strived to portray itself as respectable, became more vulgar and thuggish in the wake of the 1998 scandal, featuring jokes like this one, from the group’s homepage in 2003: “What do you call … four blacks, three Hispanics, three Russian Jews, and one white guy? The FBI’s Most Wanted List!” Instead of seeking fellow travelers in the halls of Congress and in state capitols, Baum was reduced to trolling other white nationalist hate groups, particularly Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance, which also affects a facade of respectability.
With Baum gone, it’s unclear who will assume leadership of the CCC. One likely contender is his son-in-law Bradley Dean Griffin, a racist blogger whose obituary for Baum ended on a defiant note: “Those who are giddily expecting the CofCC to crumble along the same lines as the [neo-Nazi] National Alliance will be sorely disappointed. Unlike William Pierce, Renee and I will still be here to preserve Gordon’s legacy long after many of our opponents are gone.”
Other possible helmsmen are CCC Webmaster Kyle Rogers; CCC North Carolina Chair A.J. Barker, a former leader of the extreme-right Populist Party who shared a platform with Holocaust-denying ex-Klansman David Duke at a 1999 rally to keep the Confederate battle flag atop the South Carolina capitol; CCC Mississippi coordinator Bill Lord, who once said the way to secure America’s future is to “get you some bigots together and take some organizations over”; and CCC national advisory board member Earl Holt, who after winning a seat on the St. Louis school board on an anti-busing platform denounced critics who called him out as a white supremacist as “sanctimonious nigger-lovers.”