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William Pierce: A Political History

Examine a timeline that traces the rise of William Pierce.

EARLY 1960S Beginning a life of political extremism, Pierce briefly joins the John Birch Society while an assistant professor of physics at Oregon State University.

1966 Pierce leaves a job as senior research scientist at a Connecticut aerospace firm to join George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party. After buying a printing press, Pierce starts up and edits the National Socialist World for the party.

1967 After Rockwell's assassination by a follower, Pierce becomes a principal leader in the American Nazi Party.

1968 Pierce becomes an official of Youth for Wallace, an organization supporting George Wallace's bid for the presidency. Also involved in the group is Willis Carto, who will become one of the nation's leading anti-Semitic activists.

1970 Pierce and Carto reconfigure Youth for Wallace as the National Youth Alliance. But the two men split, with each claiming to be the new group's leader. Eventually, Pierce wins control of the group, which is limited to people under 30 and focuses on activities on college and university campuses.

1971 The lingering dispute between Pierce and Carto heats up, with Carto accusing Pierce of stealing a mailing list belonging to Carto's anti-Semitic Liberty Lobby organization. Pierce writes those on the mailing list, attacking the leaders of Liberty Lobby.

1974 Seeking to build a more militant group open to whites of all ages, Pierce reorganizes the National Youth Alliance as the National Alliance. The Alliance, which aims to be a vanguard party capable of leading the "lemmings" to revolutionary victory, adopts the slogans "Free Men Are Not Equal" and "Equal Men Are Not Free."

1978 Pierce's novel of race war, The Turner Diaries, is published as a book after first being serialized in the Alliance publication Attack! It is, Pierce will boast, a "Blueprint," a "Handbook for White Victory." Pierce changes the name of Attack! to National Vanguard, replacing "red headlines and exhortations to action" with "sober analyses" of politics in a bid to present a more serious public image. The IRS denies the National Alliance's request for tax-exempt status as an "educational" organization. Alliance membership begins a period of several years of significant growth.

1983 Pierce's Pacific Northwest leader, Robert Mathews, joins with three other Alliance members and, later, some 20 other people, to create The Order. Based on a group portrayed in The Turner Diaries, Mathews' gang ultimately robs some $4 million from armored cars. Officials have suggested, but never proved, that Pierce received some of that money. Alliance recruitment slows, then declines until the end of the 1980s.

1984 Declaring "War in '84," members of The Order murder a well-known Jewish talk show host in Denver. Later in the year, Mathews is killed in a shootout with the FBI. Pierce hails his martyred acolyte, saying Mathews "took us from name-calling to bloodletting." Pierce pays $95,000 in cash for a 346-acre tract of land in West Virginia.

1989 Pierce's publishing arm, National Vanguard Books, prints his second novel, Hunter, depicting the assassinations of interracial couples, Jews and politicians. The book is dedicated to Joseph Paul Franklin, convicted of the sniper murders of at least two black men. Pierce says a period of membership decline ends. On the 100th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's birth, Pierce editorializes that the Nazi leader was "the greatest man of our era."

1991 National Vanguard Books begins publishing audiocassettes. In December, the Alliance begins broadcasting a shortwave radio program, "American Dissident Voices," worldwide. Within months, it is carried by several AM stations. Membership doubles between 1990 and 1991, according to Pierce.

1992 Pierce says membership again doubles this year. By the end of the year, he says, recruitment rates are 30 times what they had been in early 1989. Pierce buys a piece of land in North Carolina from Ben Klassen, founder of the neo-Nazi Church of the Creator (COTC), in a bid to help Klassen keep his headquarters from being seized in a civil case Klassen expects to be filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center over the murder of a black sailor by a COTC "reverend."

1994 Around this time, Pierce begins making annual trips to Europe in a bid to widen his international neofascist contacts. He allegedly supplies a computer and some money to a British paramilitary fascist group, Combat 18.

1995 Timothy McVeigh, aided by Army pal Terry Nichols, blows up the Oklahoma City federal building, killing 168 people. The day before, officials say, McVeigh called a National Alliance recorded message line seven times. When McVeigh is arrested, police find excerpts from The Turner Diaries in his car. Ten days after the attack, which is patterned on a similar bombing depicted in The Turner Diaries, Pierce predicts that resentment of Jews, minorities and others will lead to terrorism "on a scale the world has never seen before." Later in the year, the Alliance goes on-line with its own Web site.

1996 Officials arrest Alliance member Todd Vanbiber in Florida after a pipe bomb he is building explodes in his face. After Vanbiber is sentenced for federal firearms violations, confederates who are also Alliance members testify that the Vanbiber gang had robbed three banks and donated at least $2,000 to Pierce. A week before the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, Larry Shoemake opens fire on a black neighborhood in Jackson, Miss., killing one person and wounding seven others. Relatives say he was inspired by Pierce's writings. In May, Center attorneys win an $85,000 judgment against Pierce for his role in a scheme to keep COTC assets away the family of a murdered sailor. In the fall, Pierce is keynote speaker at a convention of the neofascist British National Party.

1998 An appeals court upholds the $85,000 judgment against Pierce. The Supreme Court later refuses to review the judgment. While Pierce says membership is flat, the number of his chapters jumps by more than half, from 22 in 1997 to 35 at the end of this year. Pierce says the Alliance Web site, together with an identical "mirror" site, is now being visited by 2,500 people a day. The site now offers The Turner Diaries in French and German. Pierce continues to cultivate ties to extreme right-wing groups in Germany and Britain.

1999 Pierce buys "white power" music label Resistance Records for some $250,000. The deal gives Pierce control of the label's compact disc catalogue, inventory, mailing list and publishing arm. Ultimately, Resistance comes to dominate the white power music scene in the U.S. and becomes the biggest moneymaker in the National Alliance empire.

2000 After "national socialist black metal" musician and convicted German murderer Hendrik Möbus takes up residence at the National Alliance headquarters, his music label, Cymophane, is transferred to Pierce's control. Three months after arriving at the compound, Möbus is arrested on an international arrest warrant issued in Germany. In an unusual move, Pierce spearheads a campaign to free Möbus and raises money to pay for his legal fees. Ultimately, however, Möbus is deported and jailed in Germany.

2001 In a break with the past, the National Alliance begins to hold rallies and engage in other public activities like leafleting. Organized by Deputy Membership Coordinator Billy Roper, Alliance members join with other white supremacists in front of the Israeli Embassy to protest Jewish influence in the U.S.

2002 Pierce makes his last public speech at the secretive "leadership conference" held at his compound on April 20, Hitler's birthday, and emphasizes the need to continue building a professional organization while rejecting alliances with other hate groups. At the time, the Alliance has 17 full-time staffers, is earning over $1 million a year, and is better known than at any other point in its history.