ABBEVILLE, S.C. – Since its bookish beginnings as a group dominated by academics in 1994, the League of the South (LOS) has been obsessively driven to glorify Southern history and culture, pining for the independence denied the region by federal troops 150 years ago.
Over the years, the neo-Confederate group’s platform grew to be distinctly racist, with the goal of a theocratic South defined by “the cultural dominance of the Anglo-Celtic people and their institutions,” as its president, former Stillman College professor Michael Hill, once put it. At the same time, its early rhetoric angrily demanding that the rest of the country treat the South with more respect has been replaced with explicit calls for a second secession from the “ungodly” North.
Now, the League’s agenda appears to be evolving even further away from the ivory tower in favor of armed militancy and survivalist resistance.
During its national conference last weekend in Abbeville, S.C. — the self-proclaimed “birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy” — the LOS took as its theme “When the Day Comes,” an apocalyptic phrase suggesting that members should prepare for the day the federal government collapses and the South rises again. “The mantra [that] violence, or the serious threat thereof, never settles anything is patently false,” Hill said in a speech later posted on the group’s website. “History shows that it indeed does settle many things. Please don’t forget this – your enemy hasn’t.”
For two days, more than 100 members sat through workshops focused on surviving the repeatedly predicted unrest. John Weaver, an LOS member and former chaplain for the Southern heritage group Sons of Confederate Veterans, gave lessons on basic gun safety.Franklin Sanders, considered the League’s No. 2 man, encouraged members to invest in silver and gold – the idea being that when the government collapses so will the Federal Reserve. There were also training sessions on how to stock and maintain a home pantry, lessons on how to hunt and track, and calls for members to buy short-wave radios and begin using them instead of telephones.
Hill did much to suggest that a fight is brewing. “He who is willing to die for a cause will defeat one who isn’t,” he said. “Always act as if you are fighting in the last ditch for the survival of all you hold dear.” Later, Hill added, “We are already at war – we just don’t know it.”
In other recent speeches, Hill has warned that uncontrolled immigration will undermine the “Southern” fabric of American culture. At a meeting in March of the League’s Georgia chapter, Hill encouraged members to stock up on assault weapons (AK-47s are preferred because they require less maintenance) and plenty of ammunition. He said a family would need 400 rounds of ammunition to last in the woods for two days, and he has even recommended the style of bullets – deadly hollow points.
For a group that essentially has defined itself for years as a political club for culturally concerned intellectual Southerners, this open embrace of survivalist paramilitarism comes as something of a surprise. But there have been hints for years of the hard-line militancy of at least some key League members.
The best example may be Michael Tubbs. The former Green Beret demolitions expert pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy in the 1990s for stealing a cache of weapons from the military -- some of them robbed at gunpoint from fellow soldiers as Tubbs and a partner yelled, "This is for the KKK!" -- that included machine guns, 25 pounds of TNT, land mines, an anti-aircraft gun, grenades, 45 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive and more. Prosecutors said Tubbs had drawn up a list of targets including newspapers, television stations and businesses owned by Jews and black people, though none was ever attacked. Today, Tubbs is the director of the Florida state chapter of the League of the South despite his past. He gave a speech during the Abbeville conference on why reforming the federal system is impossible.
Tubbs told the national gathering to withhold loyalty from the federal government and instead pledge allegiance to the Southern National Congress, a neo-Confederate group focused exclusively on advancing a new secession. Tubbs’ presentation also included a seven-part strategy to “delegitimate” the federal government through the establishment of “organic local communities.”
“The beast is dying and dragging us with it,” Tubbs said.
To Hill — a former history professor, with an expertise in Celtic traditions, at Alabama’s historically black Stillman College — the coming fight is no different than Scottish freedom fighter William Wallace’s insurgent war against the British. In fact, he first developed his ideas about Southern heritage in the 1970s, expanding on the idea that the South was different from the North because the population was “Celtic” – a belief that led to the creation of the LOS. Now, Hill seems to believe that the only way to defend the South is through force of arms.
“What would it take to get you to fight? … What would it take to turn you into a William Wallace?” Hill asked in opening his Abbeville speech. “We are not made to live in isolation. Rather, we here in the South are a people. … The South is where we make our stand.”
Hatewatch staffer Ryan Lenz contributed to this report.