James Wickstrom may be America's hardest-line preacher of the racist and anti-Semitic theology of Christian Identity. Known for violent, raging sermons that call for extermination of "the Jews," Wickstrom, who has an extensive criminal history, has been preaching his hatred since his involvement in the 1970s with the anti-Semitic and antigovernment Posse Comitatus.
In His Own Words
"I'd like to see these Jews all be brought to the VA [Veterans Administration hospital] and wooden chairs be put down on the lawn. Tie the Jews in. Bring these veterans down who have been mutilated … and give them baseball bats and let them beat these Jews to death! Every one of them! Take these chairs and Jews after they're beaten to death, throw 'em in the wood chipper! And from the wood chipper let the remains go into a big incinerary [sic] truck, which is right behind the wood chipper, and give them the holocaust they rightly deserve!"
— Videotaped interview, 2004
"I have a dream! If that goddamn nigger can have a dream, I can have a dream, too. I have a dream that in the days to come there won't be anyone who isn't white that's gonna be in America!"
— Speech at a racist skinhead gathering, 2003
Wickstrom was convicted in 1984 on two counts of impersonating a public official. He was sentenced to 13½ months in prison.
In 1990, Wickstrom was convicted of counterfeiting currency and illegally possessing firearms. He was sentenced to 38 months.
Former Snap-On Tools salesman James P. Wickstrom is one of the most aggressive Christian Identity proselytizers in the nation, and a hard-line, venomously anti-Semitic interpreter of the doctrine, which holds that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan and Eve.
Raised in Munising, Mich., Wickstrom protested the Vietnam War on the grounds it was being fought for "Jew bankers." In the late 1970s and 1980s, at a time when thousands of farmers in the Midwest were suffering through a severe financial crisis, Wickstrom became the so-called National Director of Counterinsurgency for the Posse Comitatus, a violent, anti-Semitic tax resistance group driven in large part by Identity theology and focused on recruiting farmers in trouble. In this role, Wickstrom crisscrossed the Midwest organizing farmers, conducting paramilitary training, spreading conspiracy theories, and calling for Jews, non-whites and other enemies to be hanged from telephone poles.
In 1984, Wickstrom went to prison for illegally impersonating a public official while leader of a Posse compound in Tigerton Dells, Wisc., that he had tried to shape into an independent community. Six years later, he was convicted on counterfeiting and weapons charges. Though his influence diminished somewhat while he was in prison, Wickstrom returned on his release to being a popular speaker at neo-Nazi gatherings, where he is famous for remarks like the one in which he said that he lives "for the day I can walk down the road and see heads on fence posts."
During the late 1990s, Wickstrom was one of those on the radical right who predicted — completely wrongly, as it turned out — that the "Y2K" computer bug would set off an apocalyptic race war in which whites, like David in the Bible, would "fill our shoes with the blood of our enemies and walk in them."
Over the years, Wickstrom was close to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, based at the time in the Idaho Panhandle. But the Aryan Nations got into serious trouble in 2000, when the Southern Poverty Law Center won a suit against its leader, Richard Butler, along with several other members and the group itself. In September 2004, after the lawsuit had forced the sale of the group's compound, Butler died, putting the future of what remained of the group in doubt. Shortly before his death, however, one of the group's young leaders, Charles Juba, had appointed Wickstrom as chaplain.
When Aryan Nations split in the wake of Butler's death, Wickstrom aligned himself with the smaller breakaway faction in which Juba was a prominent activist. That move, some observers said at the time, was a savvy attempt to claim Butler's mantle. "Jim Wickstrom has a certain stature in the racist movement — one Juba doesn't have — and especially among the more religious, the biggest ones that are really into the Christian Identity aspect," said former Aryan Nations spokesman-turned-anti-racist-activist Floyd Cochran in late 2004. "With the death of Richard Butler, the Christian Identity aspect of the movement is now more focused on Wickstrom."
But Wickstrom had made some serious enemies by that point, and he never seemed to return to the importance he had once had in the movement. Part of the reason may have had to do with the fact that Wickstrom made off in 2003 with the wife of another long-time Christian Identity preacher, Keith Kallstrom, after meeting her during one of Kallstrom's sermons in Broken Arrow, Okla.
Kallstrom and Wickstrom had been friends for 30 years and Kallstrom was enraged at the betrayal. In June 2005, according to federal authorities, Kallstrom vowed to cut off Wickstrom's head and place it on his mantle. Two months later, Kallstrom was arrested in Michigan after driving all the way from Oklahoma in a pickup that contained four homemade hand grenades, an assault rifle, a shotgun, a 9 mm pistol, a ski mask and a pair of handcuffs. Authorities said Kallstrom had come to kill his former fellow pastor. Wickstrom, long known for his apoplectic exhortations to murder Jews and government officials, gratefully praised the FBI and Michigan State Police, who, he said, "have done an outstanding job."
Today, Jim Wickstrom broadcasts a weekly Internet radio program called "Yahweh's Truth" and continues to sell his bloodthirsty "sermons" through the mail and the Internet to all who care to hear them. However, he has not been particularly active in the movement beyond his marketing and propaganda activities.