Council of Conservative Citizens
Council of Conservative Citizens
LEADER: Gordon Lee Baum
YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1985
ESTIMATED SIZE: 20,000
USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: United States
The Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC or CofCC) is a highy conservative political organization and a white supremacist/white separatist group that adheres to a mythical Southern way of life. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the CCC considers itself a grassroots organization that solves conservative problems, promotes conservative rights, and coordinates political activities, primarily at the local and state level but also nationally. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the International Relations Center (IRC), it claims to be the True Voice of the American Right. Rather than violence—which is common in white supremacist groups—the CCC uses its financial and political influence to elect and influence politicians.
The CCC consists of a national headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, and numerous local, decentralized chapters, with its two largest chapters located in Missouri and Mississippi. The CCC's founder and national leader is its chief executive officer, Gordon Lee Baum, and its publication is The Citizens Informer, with a circulation of about 20,000.
The CCC was founded in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 7, 1985, by Baum and thirty activists from the John Birch Society, former leaders of the Citizens Councils of America (CCA, its predecessor), and members of segregationist political administrations and campaigns. The group was founded due to the men's dissatisfaction with liberal U.S. government programs such as food stamps, quotas, and welfare checks.
The Confederate flag became an effective membership instrument beginning in the early 1990s. Southern conservatives and extremists were attracted to the group because it aggressively supported the flag as the traditional symbol for Southern heritage. Efforts to eliminate or minimize the flag's visibility were strongly opposed by the CCC. Some of its actions—according to a November 1999 article in the Augusta Chronicle (Georgia)—included over a dozen protests at the Georgia state capital over the removal of the Confederate flag from display.
In the mid 1990s, the CCC claimed that it held members in every state, with chapters and affiliates in twenty of the states. Later, in 1999, the CCC numbered about 15,000 members and thirty-three chapters in over twenty states, with 5,000 members in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.
The CCC raised its stature in the white supremacist movement by inviting prominent Southern politicians and white supremacist leaders to speak and participate at its conferences and meetings. Although the CCC was a local organization known primarily in extremist circles, it quickly vaulted itself into the national spotlight in the winter of 1998–1999. Journalists (primarily those with the Miami Herald and The Washington Post) and researchers (mainly at the SPLC) learned that many conservative federal, state, and local politicians, including U.S. Representative Robert Barr (Republican-Georgia) and U.S. Senator Trent Lott (Republican-Mississippi), had appeared one or more times at CCC events from the late 1980s to the late 1990s.
In fact, the Washington Post reported that Lott had been the 1992 keynote speaker at a CCC-Mississippi conference. Paralleling the story, conservative columnist Armstrong Williams said of the political pair: "Lott and Barr gave legitimacy to this racist organization by speaking before them."
Into the Mainstream: George Wallace Jr. Delivers Major Speech to Hate Group
MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Alabama Public Service Commissioner George C. Wallace Jr., whose father famously vowed to defend racial segregation "forever" in a 1963 speech from the steps of the state Capitol, gave the welcoming speech to the national delegates of a white supremacist hate group meeting here on June 3.
The younger Wallace, whose official resumé boasts of an NAACP Freedom Award, opened up the first day of the annual national convention of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), a group whose Web site has referred to blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity." More than 100 delegates heard his speech, which went without any immediate coverage in the Alabama print or broadcast media.
There is little debate that the CCC is a racist group. In fact, the head of the Republican National Committee in 1999 warned party members to avoid the group after the Southern Poverty Law Center published an exposé detailing its racism. The CCC was created from the mailing lists of the old White Citizens Councils, which were set up in the 1950s and 1960s to resist efforts to desegregate Southern schools, and which Thurgood Marshall once described as "the uptown Klan." Recently, it has embraced Holocaust deniers and published anti-Semitic articles on its Web site.
In the audience listening to Wallace were a number of leading white supremacists. They included Don Black, proprietor of Stormfront.org, the most influential hate site on the Internet, and former Alabama grand dragon of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; Jamie Kelso, right-hand man and Louisiana roommate of former Klan leader David Duke; Jared Taylor, editor of the neo-eugenicist American Renaissance magazine; Ed Fields, an aging white supremacist leader from Georgia; Alabama CCC leader Leonard "Flagpole" Wilson, who got his nickname shouting "Keep Bama white!" from atop a flagpole during University of Alabama race riots in 1956; and the CCC's national leader, St. Louis personal injury lawyer Gordon Lee Baum.
Wallace could not immediately be reached for comment. Later, he told The Associated Press, "There is nothing hateful about those people I've seen." He said he welcomed the delegates and spoke about his family and conservative values.
This was not Wallace's first flirtation with the CCC, a group that has grown more openly radical and racist in recent years. Wallace, who was Alabama state treasurer between 1986 and 1994 and was elected to the Public Service Commission in 1998, gave speeches to the CCC once in 1998 and twice during 1999.
Also speaking at the most recent convention was John Eidsmoe, a former law school professor and close friend and one-time legal adviser to Roy Moore, the Alabama chief justice ejected from his post for defying federal court orders to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the Supreme Court rotunda. Like Moore, Eidsmoe has suggested that the government "may not act contrary to God's laws."
The elder Wallace, who was governor of Alabama three times in the 1960s and 1970s, was famous for his resistance to desegregation, and he ran for president four times on a racist platform. But after his final defeat, Wallace came home to Alabama and sought to reconcile with civil rights leaders and others whom he had pilloried for most of his political life. In 1982, he was elected governor once more—this time with most black Alabamans behind him. It was never clear whether it was his conscience or political expediency that was behind this transformation.
Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, 2005
Whether or not these politicians knew about the CCC's racist viewpoints, a controversy nevertheless followed. The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Jim Nicholson, eventually denounced the CCC and suggested that Republicans resign from the group. A subsequent Congressional resolution to condemn the CCC was considered, but ultimately did not garner sufficient votes to pass.
For some time, the racist CCC was unable to pass itself off as a mainstream politically conservative group. Although much of its power diminished after this event, the CCC still remains politically effective, especially maintaining its strength in Mississippi. For example, CCC members were instrumental in soundly defeating a 2001 referendum to change the Mississippi state flag to include a less noticeable version of the Confederate battle flag. In addition, the CCC assisted in the 2003 gubernatorial election of CCC friend, Republican Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
In 2005, the web site of the CCC claimed to have at least fifty chapters and members in all fifty states, plus the District of Columbia. It describes its Mississippi chapter in Greenwood as its flagship chapter.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
CCC leadership maintains an ideology that supports the traditional Southern culture involving such principles as restricting non-white immigration, removal of government-sponsored race preference programs, eliminating race-mixing, removal of school integration, and support for the Confederate flag. CCC leaders attempt to disguise their racist policies behind a conservative advocacy policy. For example, the CCC aggressively promotes such mainstream conservative issues as states rights, race relations, and conservative Protestant Christianity, while aggressively opposing such topics as big government and gun control.
Consistent with its beliefs, the CCC regards the society of the United States as an outgrowth of the European culture. The CCC also claims that the issues it promotes have nothing to do with race. Its leaders, however, admit that they favor white European-Americans, while not advocating nor supporting the repression of non-white races or ethnic groups.
As a result of using the strategy of respectability within the mainstream, many conservative politicians have been attracted to the group over the years. CCC members often use economic pressure to sway politicians and businesspersons toward its viewpoints. For example, in 1999, the North Carolina chapter protested outside a Tyson Foods plant (threatening to boycott its foods) after it supposedly hired illegal immigrants.
Although not all chapters are considered extremist groups, all operate on the premise of bigotry against minorities, especially African Americans. Local leaders focus on such issues as interracial marriage, black-on-white violence, and white Southern culture.
Leaders of the SPLC, the ADL, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have frequently accused the CCC of promoting racist ideas, especially between black and white Americans.
Julian Bond, the 1999 NAACP chairman, asked the U.S. Senate to condemn the CCC for its activities of promoting white supremacy while degrading minority groups. According to the ADL, U.S. Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, and U.S. Representative Michael Forbes, a New York Republican, introduced a Congressional resolution in response to Bond's statement condemning the racism of the CCC. A modified resolution, proposed by Representative J.C. Watts of Oklahoma failed to pass.
- The Council of Conservative Citizens is formed by Gordon Baum as an offshoot of Citizens Councils of America.
- The Confederate battle flag helps to recruit new members; the CCC claims members in every state, with chapters and affiliates in twenty states.
- The CCC is nationally exposed to be not a mainstream conservative political group, but instead a white-supremacist organization with connections to prominent politicians.
- The CCC claims 15,000 members and thirty-three chapters in over twenty states.
- The CCC claims members in all fifty states and the District of Columbia, and at least forty-eight chapters predominantly in the northeastern, southeastern, and central parts of the United States.
Baum is a personal injury attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, who specializes in automobile accidents and workers' compensation claims. He has been a white-power activist throughout his professional career. Baum was the Midwest field director/organizer for the white-segregationist and anti-Semitic CCA until the organization folded after it lost the fight for Southern segregation. In 1985, Baum formed the CCC from the CCA's mailing lists. As of 2005, Baum remains its founder and leader in the position of chief executive officer.
The SPLC issued a report on December 18, 1999, that described the CCC as the "incarnation" of the CCA, which resisted integration and promoted segregation in Southern states during the civil rights movement. Joe Roy, director for the center's Intelligence Project, stated that the CCC has for years tried to disguise itself as a respectable conservative group—while all along holding white supremacist views.
Although CCC leaders maintain the group is not a Southern racist group, investigations into the group's activities throughout its existence show that it regularly associates with other known white-power groups and publishes racist articles. According to the ADL, organizations that have regularly advertised in the CCC's The Citizens Informer include the TC Allen Company (which sells racist pamphlets), Heritage Lost Ministries (an Ohio-based racist organization), and The Resister (a racist and anti-Semitic journal). The publication regularly voices the superiority of the white race while emphasizing, for example, excessive black violence and Hispanic immigration.
The CCC continues to attract conservative political leaders to its membership roles and as speakers at its events. As a result, the CCC has been able to recruit members into its organization based on the assumption that it is a conservatively-based political group. With primarily aging members, the CCC began in 1998, according to the SPLC, a campaign to bring in younger members, including the establishment of a youth chapter and an education committee.
The CCC continues to maintain strong ties with white-power groups. As investigated by such groups as the SPLC and the ADL, its policies, records, and public statements prove that it has not attempted to cut its ties with such extremist organizations. Conversely, it has furthered its strategies of advocating what critics contend is a fundamentally racist agenda.
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