September 10, 2009


[Members of the James Younger Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in 2006.]

Looking into the background of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, after his heckling of President Obama last night, I came across this:

Joe also has been a member of the Columbia World Affairs Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Sinclair Lodge 154, Jamil Temple, Woodmen of the World, Sons of Confederate Veterans, ....

This is an organization that, as the SPLC has detailed assiduously, has been taken over in the past decade by radical neo-Confederates who favor secession and defend slavery as a benign institution. Leading the takeover is a radical racist named Kirk Lyons, who's been an important legal figure on the far right for some years.* [More below]

In more recent years, the takeover has led to an outright internal civil war. Andrew Meacham at the St. Petersburg Times detailed the internal rift last year:

Experts say the divisions within the Sons vary between two extremes. On one side are the traditionalists, members who focus on cleaning up Confederate grave sites and conducting Civil War re-enactments.

On the other side are the so-called Lunatics, up to 2,000 members who deride traditionalists as "grannies'' and belong to camps named after notorious Southern figures such as John Wilkes Booth and Jesse James.

John Wilkes Booth members have been known to put pennies in urinals, making sure to leave the Lincoln side face-up. Other Lunatic groups have removed the U.S. flag from their halls and banned the Pledge of Allegiance, says Walter Hilderman, who several years ago created an anti-Lunatic group called Save the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

"The problem is it's supposed to be a patriotic organization," says Hilderman, 59. "You are either that or you let guys in who want to secede."

As Heidi Beirich at the SPLC reported, this rift has led to Lyons himself coming under harsh attack from his own right flank. The SCV is a serious mess.

Now, add this to the fact that Joe Wilson, as a state legislator, was one of only seven Republicans to go against their own party and vote to keep the Dixie Rebel flag flying over the South Carolina capitol:

The flag came down that year after Republicans in both houses went for a compromise that would put it on Statehouse grounds at the Confederate Soldier’s monument. The “Magnificent Seven” of Senators who voted to keep the flag up included current Congressman Joe Wilson (who I served with in the 218th Infantry Brigade of the National Guard.)

A clearer picture of why this congressman might so virulently breach protocol and loudly interrupt an African-American president's speech to Congress by calling him a liar does start to emerge, doesn't it?

So inquiring minds want to know:

Is Joe Wilson still a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans?

If so, does he condone the activities of the "Lunatic" faction that now controls the SCV?

Does Joe Wilson consider the Republican Party "the Party of Lincoln"?

Does Joe Wilson support secession?

Blue Texan at FDL has more.

*I encountered Lyons when I was covering the Freemen standoff near Jordan, Montana, in 1996. He actually played a key role in bringing an end to the 81-day standoff, mainly because he had so much cred with with radical racists who were holed up at the Clark Ranch.

Here's the relevant excerpt from In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (pp.257-58):

The talks in Jordan continued apace. The final piece of the puzzle came June 9 when the FBI flew in Kirk Lyons, director of a North Carolina legal organization called the CAUSE Foundation, and two of his colleagues. The group (whose initials ostensibly stand for Canada, Australia, United States and Europe -- everywhere that white people are established) describes itself as a defender of unpopular causes and the powerless: ``I will always support the rights of radicals,’’ Lyons is fond of saying. ``The more radical they are, the more they need to be supported for their rights. If you take away their rights, we’re all losers.’’

Actually, Lyons himself is a white separatist who sneers at the current American system. ``Democracy in America is a farce and a failure,’’ he once wrote. ``It has led us to the brink of a police state.’’ He attended Pete Peters’ 1992 gathering at Estes Park, Colorado, that is widely credited with giving birth to the militia movement. At the session, he led discussions on how to establish common-law courts throughout the country.

Lyons first made a name for himself successfully defending Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon Louis Beam in his 1988 post-Order sedition trial in Arkansas. He attempted to represent David Koresh during the standoff at Waco, filing for a restraining order against the FBI that a judge abruptly refused, and after the siege ended in disaster, he took up the cause of surviving Davidians in their lawsuit against the government.

The Freemen, however, indicated to the FBI that they trusted Lyons to handle some of the legal negotiations. Lyons had previously contacted the FBI in March and told them he’d be willing to act as a mediator. On June 9, they called him and said: ``You have been elevated to a viable option.’’ Lyons and his colleagues caught a flight out the next day and arrived at the Clark ranch on June 10.

Lyons assured the Freemen they would be able to present their cases in court, as he had done in Arkansas. ``They came in as a vehicle,’’ says Karl Ohs. ``Edwin was saying, `Well, I’m gonna leave.’ And the CAUSE people were then able to talk to the other four and convince them. Because if Edwin was going to leave, they knew they had to leave too. So they convinced them that there was some sort of legal documents that they could file -- it gave them a glimmer of hope, even though everybody probably knew it was false hope, at least they could say that it wasn’t, and have some dignifying grace. And they knew enough of the things that they had to file and do that could let them have a way of escaping.’’

Central to the Freemen’s willingness to come out lay in protecting all their documents, law books and computer files they had stored up over the years, so that they could easily access them in preparing their defense. Lyons negotiated an agreement to load the documents into a Ryder truck and hand all the documents over to Karl Ohs, who promised to protect them from being mishandled by the FBI.

All the elements were in place, except for one: Edwin Clark wanted to have a final consultation with LeRoy Schweitzer, who was locked up at the Yellowstone County Jail in Billings. The Freemen wouldn’t come out, they said, unless LeRoy gave it his blessing.

Lyons went to the FBI with a proposal: Let him accompany Edwin Clark in a plane flown by the FBI to Billings, so Clark could present the surrender package to Schweitzer and see if it passed legal muster in the Freeman’s eyes -- that is, that they wouldn’t be signing their rights away by surrendering. Only Schweitzer, it seemed, could make the final ruling on that for them.

The FBI agent, according to Lyons, responded: ``Let me get this straight. You want us to take a man who is technically under arrest, fly him in an FBI plane to a jail we hope to see him incarcerated in, bring him home and then put him under the siege again? Is that what you’re asking?’’

Yes, Lyons replied.

The negotiators checked in with FBI Director Louis B. Freeh back in Washington. Freeh personally approved the plan.

On Tuesday, June 11, Edwin Clark walked out of the compound, where he met Lyons and two FBI agents. They piled into a Suburban and drove to the Jordan airport, and then flew to Billings. He arrived in Billings at about 2 p.m., and returned to the Jordan airport by 7 p.m. The FBI kept mum on whether or not Schweitzer had given his blessing to the plan, but the mood among the agents seemed decidedly optimistic.

The next day, Dana Dudley’s daughter Amanda Michele Kendricks -- or Ashley Taylor, as she sometimes called herself -- walked out of the ranch with a female FBI agent and promptly asked for a cigarette. FBI agents did not mind letting the teenager smoke in front of them. They were just glad she was out. It was the last of the ``innocents’’ to leave the Clark ranch.

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