William Luther Pierce

William Luther Pierce was an American neo-Nazi and white supremacist who authored The Turner Diaries, a fictional novel that describes a violent race revolution in the United States that leads to a world war and the extermination of non-white races. The novel has become popular amongst white nationalists and required reading for some groups. The Turner Diaries and Pierce’s other writings inspired multiple violent crimes, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and the 1984 murder of Jewish radio host Alan Berg. Pierce died of cancer in 2002 but The Turner Diaries remains a popular and influential work among white nationalists.Christopher Reed, “William Pierce – The ‘theoretician’ of America’s extreme right and author of the book that was claimed to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing,” Guardian (London), July 25, 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/jul/25/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries1.

Pierce promoted the idea that only whites should live in the United States because “white people must have living space exclusive to ourselves if the white race is to survive.”David Cay Johnston, “William Pierce, 69, Neo-Nazi Leader, Dies,” New York Times, July 24, 2002, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/us/william-pierce-69-neo-nazi-leader-dies.html. He blamed the Jewish-controlled media for any negative reactions to his positions. After Pierce’s death, Kevin Strom, an editor with the National Vanguard publishing company Pierce created, told the New York Times that Pierce was motivated “by a love for his own people, a deep and profound understanding of the danger that people of European descent are in and by a vision of what we could be in the future.”David Cay Johnston, “William Pierce, 69, Neo-Nazi Leader, Dies,” New York Times, July 24, 2002, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/us/william-pierce-69-neo-nazi-leader-dies.html.

Pierce was educated as a physicist and taught the subject at universities in the 1960s. In 1965, Pierce joined George Lincoln Rockwell’s American Nazi Party (ANP). After Rockwell’s assassination in 1967, Pierce joined Youth for Wallace in support of segregationist George Wallace’s presidential campaign.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. In 1970, Pierce left the ANP and, along with Willis Carto, transitioned Youth for Wallace into the white supremacist youth organization National Youth Alliance. Pierce created National Alliance in 1974 after a falling out with Carto.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. National Alliance sought to encourage a violent white revolution that would create an all-white America through ethnic cleansing.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. In 1998, the Anti-Defamation League labeled National Alliance “the single most dangerous organized hate group in America.”Jo Thomas, “Behind a Book That Inspired McVeigh,” New York Times, June 9, 2001, https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/09/us/behind-a-book-that-inspired-mcveigh.html. By 2001, National Alliance’s membership had increased to more than 2,000.Jo Thomas, “Behind a Book That Inspired McVeigh,” New York Times, June 9, 2001, https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/09/us/behind-a-book-that-inspired-mcveigh.html.

Through National Alliance, Pierce published a newspaper called Attack! In this paper, Pierce began writing a serialized story about a future race war. In 1978, Pierce self-published the stories as The Turner Diaries under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald. The book is a historical retelling of the fictional race war through the diary entries of protagonist Early Turner.Christopher Reed, “William Pierce – The ‘theoretician’ of America’s extreme right and author of the book that was claimed to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing,” Guardian (London), July 25, 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/jul/25/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries1. National Alliance labeled The Turner Diaries a “Handbook for White Victory.”“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. Former White Patriot Party leader Glenn Miller claimed he handed out some 800 free copies of the book during his tenure with the group. The leaders of The Order, a National Alliance spinoff group, reportedly kept at least 20 copies at their headquarters.Katheen Belew, Bring the War Home (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2018), 110. The Turner Diaries has reportedly sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide and serves as a guide for white nationalists seeking to attack infrastructure in order to create a white nation-state within the United States.Katheen Belew, Bring the War Home (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2018), 110-113.

In 1978, a group of National Alliance members formed the Cosmotheist Community Church around the pseudo-religion Cosmotheism, a derivative of Pantheism.“What is the National Alliance?” National Alliance, accessed January 4, 2018, https://natall.com/about/what-is-the-national-alliance/. According to Pierce, the church grew out of a weekly religious discussion group that began meeting in 1974. Cosmotheism dictates that man and God are part of the same whole and both are meant to achieve self-realization. According to Pierce, man is both an agent of and part of the creator. In 1984, the church bought a 360-acre site in West Virginia and set up a compound where it encouraged faithful to move.Bradford Hanson, “William Pierce’s Original Prospectus for the Cosmotheist Community,” National Vanguard, December 2, 2017, https://nationalvanguard.org/2017/12/william-pierces-original-prospectus-for-the-cosmotheist-community/.

In 1983, Pierce left his wife and twin sons and moved to Hillsboro, West Virginia. There, he created the National Vanguard Books publishing house and later Resistance Records, reportedly the largest publisher of hate records in the world. As of Pierce’s death in 2002, the companies reportedly sold $1 million worth of neo-Nazi books and CDs per year.Dennis Roddy, “Hate was in his blood but not in his genes,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 28, 2002, http://old.post-gazette.com/columnists/20020828roddy4.asp; David Cay Johnston, “William Pierce, 69, Neo-Nazi Leader, Dies,” New York Times, July 24, 2002, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/us/william-pierce-69-neo-nazi-leader-dies.html. From his compound in West Virginia, Pierce broadcast a radio show called American Dissident Voices. The show began on shortwave radio but several AM band stations reportedly picked it up.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. Recordings on the show remain available online.

In 1989, Pierce wrote Hunter, about a man who kills interracial couples in order to spark a race war. Hunter has reportedly sold more than 500,000 copies worldwide.David Cay Johnston, “William Pierce, 69, Neo-Nazi Leader, Dies,” New York Times, July 24, 2002, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/24/us/william-pierce-69-neo-nazi-leader-dies.html. Pierce dedicated the book to the novel’s inspiration, white supremacist serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin, who murdered at least seven people, blew up a synagogue, and famously shot pornographer Larry Flynt during a killing spree in the 1970s and ’80s. Franklin was executed in 2013.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce; “Joseph Franklin, white supremacist serial killer, executed,” BBC News, November 20, 2013, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-25016217.

The Turner Diaries has inspired numerous acts of violence and terrorism. It was reportedly a favorite book of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, who blew up the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. McVeigh reportedly sold The Turner Diaries at gun shows.Katheen Belew, Bring the War Home (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2018), 110. Police found a copy of the book in his car after his arrest. The book describes a truck bomb blowing up the FBI headquarters, which prosecutors called a “blue print” for the Oklahoma City bombing.Christopher Reed, “William Pierce – The ‘theoretician’ of America’s extreme right and author of the book that was claimed to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing,” Guardian (London), July 25, 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/jul/25/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries1; Jo Thomas, “Behind a Book That Inspired McVeigh,” New York Times, June 9, 2001, https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/09/us/behind-a-book-that-inspired-mcveigh.html. Weeks before McVeigh’s execution in 2001, Pierce called the bomber “a man of principle” who was “willing to accept the consequences” of what he did.Jo Thomas, “Behind a Book That Inspired McVeigh,” New York Times, June 9, 2001, https://www.nytimes.com/2001/06/09/us/behind-a-book-that-inspired-mcveigh.html.

In 1983, National Alliance Pacific Northwest leader Robert Mathews formed the splinter group The Order with other National Alliance members.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. The group called for a violent race revolution as described in The Turner Diaries. The Order named outspoken, Jewish Denver-based radio host Alan Berg as their first target. Mathews, Bruce Pierce, and two others shot Berg to death outside his Denver home on June 18, 1984.Andrea Dukakis, “Murder Of Colorado Radio Man Alan Berg Still Resonates 30 Years Later,” Colorado Public Radio, June 18, 2014, http://www.cpr.org/news/story/murder-colorado-radio-man-alan-berg-still-resonates-30-years-later. Pierce was allegedly carrying the book with him at the time of his arrest.Katheen Belew, Bring the War Home (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 2018), 110. According to Berg’s radio producer, The Order targeted him because he had derided “their ridiculous beliefs that the Jews were mud people and the spawn of Satan.”Howard Pankrantz, “Neo-Nazi who shot Denver radio host Alan Berg dies in federal prison in Pa.,” Denver Post, August 17, 2010, https://www.denverpost.com/2010/08/17/neo-nazi-who-shot-denver-radio-host-alan-berg-dies-in-federal-prison-in-pa/. Mathews died in a firefight with the FBI later that year while the other three were sentenced to prison. William Pierce reportedly praised Mathews for taking “us from name-calling to bloodletting.”“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce; Howard Pankrantz, “Neo-Nazi who shot Denver radio host Alan Berg dies in federal prison in Pa.,” Denver Post, August 17, 2010, https://www.denverpost.com/2010/08/17/neo-nazi-who-shot-denver-radio-host-alan-berg-dies-in-federal-prison-in-pa/. On June 7, 1998, white supremacists Shawn Allen Berry, Lawrence Russell Brewer, and John William King murdered black man James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas. King reportedly declared, “We’re starting The Turner Diaries early.”“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce; “Closing arguments today in Texas dragging-death trial,” CNN, February 22, 1999, http://www.cnn.com/US/9902/22/dragging.death.03/.

Pierce died of cancer on July 23, 2002.Christopher Reed, “William Pierce – The ‘theoretician’ of America’s extreme right and author of the book that was claimed to have inspired the Oklahoma City bombing,” Guardian (London), July 25, 2002, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/jul/25/guardianobituaries.booksobituaries1. Shortly after Pierce’s death, National Alliance named Erich Gliebe as his successor. Without Pierce, however, the group fractured. By 2009, National Alliance reportedly had fewer than 100 members.“William Pierce,” Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed January 2, 2019, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/individual/william-pierce. In 2013, Gliebe announced the group’s dissolution. In response, former members William White Williams and Kevin Alfred Strom reformed the National Alliance and rededicated it to Pierce’s philosophies.“What is the National Alliance?” National Alliance, accessed January 4, 2019, https://natall.com/about/what-is-the-national-alliance/. Pierce’s National Vanguard media company continues to publish books, radio programs, and other media, as well as republishing Pierce’s writings.National Vanguard homepage, accessed January 4, 2019, https://nationalvanguard.org/. The National Alliance is also constructing a library in Tennessee dedicated to Pierce.Kevin Alfred Strom and William White Williams, “Progress: The William Luther Pierce Memorial Library and Research Center,” National Vanguard, January 5, 2019, https://nationalvanguard.org/2019/01/progress-the-william-luther-pierce-memorial-library-and-research-center/.

 
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