Ch. 3: The Koch Family - An Unbroken Lineage of White Supremacy
Part 3: White Citizens Councils and JBS
The John Birch Society had deep connections to the violent white supremacist organization known as the White Citizens Council (WCC, later known as the Council of Conservative Citizens).
The WCC was founded in response to Brown v. Board of Education, a 1954 supreme court case that desegregated public schools. Thurgood Marshall referred to the WCC as the “uptown klan” (SPLC). The JBS and the WCC were forefront in opposing the civil rights movement all throughout the late 1950s and through the 1960s.
In 1956, Dr. Martin Luther King said of the WCC:
in so many sections of the South, a new modern form of the Ku Klux Klan has arisen in the form of white citizens councils. The methods of these councils range from threats and intimidation to actual economic reprisals against Negro men and women. Also these methods extend to white persons in the South who will dare take a stand for justice. These are the devotees of these councils so often stand up and preach sermons and give long talks about the nonviolence. They piously claim that they don’t believe in violence, but we know all too well that their methods and public denouncements create the very atmosphere for violence. They must be held responsible for all of the terror, the mob rule, and brutal murders that have encompassed the South over the last several years, . . .It is an indictment on America and democracy that these ungodly and unethical and un-Christian and un-American councils have been able to exist all of these months without a modicum of criticism from the federal government (‘‘Desegregation and the Future,’’ 15 December 1956) (Emphasis added).
In 1963, a member of the WCC was responsible for the murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. In 2015, the WCC was cited as inspiration by Dylan Roof, the white supremacist responsible for the 2015 murder of nine people in the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
The WCC leaders included William Simmons and Louis Hollis, both members of the John Birch Society. Simmons was the editor of WCC’s publication, The Citizen, whose managing editor Medford Evans, was also a JBS member and contributing editor of JBS’s publication, American Opinion, where he and Simmons were regular contributors.
As early as 1957, Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises can be seen alongside WCC’s Evans on the external advisory committee of Welch’s publication, One Man’s Opinion. When JBS was founded the following year, Mises and Evans both served on the editorial advisory committee of the publication, which changed its name from One Man’s Opinion to American Opinion.
In the JBS 1961 Bluebook, Robert Welch described their efforts to protect the WCC’s Medford Evans’ position at Northwestern State College in Louisiana, proposing a “front group” called the “Committee To Protest The Firing Of Medford Evans” in order to recruit the “uninformed“ Americans “into the fight” for the John Birch Society:
A few similar actions would slow down some of the brazen squeezing out of conservatives from teaching jobs, and give new courage to those that remain. . . [Evans] is a fairly well-known writer for conservative publications. Also, he has friends, both inside and outside of academic circles, all over the United States. (pg 57)
As late as 1966, the White Citizens Council and John Birch Society filed a joint “petition the federal government to investigate whether King and over 100,000 other rights activists had Communist connections” (King, 26 May 1966, Stanford’s MLK Encyclopedia). Charles Koch was an active member of JBS until 1968, two years after the JBS/WCC petition was filed.
In Part 4 of this chapter, we see that the White Citizens Councils have survived, many of their leaders going on to found violent hate groups, including the League of the South.