NAME: Richard Girnt Butler

HOME BASE: Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, United States

BORN: February 23, 1918

DIED: September 8, 2004

When we first posted this entry back in 2002, we opined, “Why this fucker isn’t dead yet is beyond us.” He was just simply one of those scumbags that just wouldn’t go away, but two years later this demon ended his time on this earth and now serves as Satan’s footstool in Hell – or at least we like to think he does. The greatest thing about Dick Butler’s legacy is when he died, Aryan Nations, the organization he founded, pretty much died along with him. It first broke apart into several different factions, all of them irrelevant and not with the same kind of strength that it had under Butler, who before he died lost much of that in a lawsuit the SPLC filed against the group. But now none of the the factions seem to register so much as a blip, and this entry is nothing more than a historical reference. 

Born in 1918 in Denver, Colorado and raised in Los Angeles, Richard Girnt Butler began his education at the public colleges of Southern California in the 1930s. He received a degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Los Angeles City College, and went to work in the military service during World War II as an aircraft specialist, pilot and flight instructor. After the war, Butler worked for nearly 30 years in different quarters of the aerospace industry, including the aircraft manufacturer Lockheed. Butler holds several patents, including one for the rapid repair of tubeless tires. However, during most his professional career Butler was involved in far-right and racist politics.

He has been, at different times, a Ku Klux Klan member, a member of Posse Comitatus and a neo-Nazi. Most surprisingly he was a member of William Dudley Pelley’s Silver Legion of America, aka the Silver Shirts, the first National Socialist party in America, and one that was openly against the U.S. war against Nazi Germany. Pelley was tried under the anti-sedition Smith Act and was jailed until after the war. Butler’s exit from the Silver Shirts and into the U.S. Armed Forces is peculiar, but it is certain that he maintained the contacts that he made in the Silver Shirts, including Posse founder Henry Beach and Gerald L. K. Smith, lieutenant governor to Louisiana’s populist governor Huey Long. Butler’s most important political relationship was with Wesley Swift, with whom he was openly associated from 1961 till Swift’s death ten years later. Swift was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ, Christian (CJC-C), a Christian Identity organization that taught that Northern European peoples were the true Biblical tribes of Israel. In addition, from 1962 to 1965, Butler served as director of the anti-Semitic Christian Defense League.

After Swift died in 1971, Butler took over control of CJC-C. In 1973, he moved the headquarters of the organization from Southern California to Hayden Lake, Idaho, and declared Hayden Lake to be the future capital of a five-state Aryan nation that would encompass all of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Oregon. This was the beginning of the militant phase of CJC-C and the birth of Aryan Nations — the neo-Nazi organization that Butler heads to this day.

Butler ruled Aryan Nations from Hayden Lake like a sort of potentate. He was the unquestioned head of the entire organization, which had strong ties to several KKK outfits throughout the country as well as units of the anti-government, White supremacist group Posse Comitatus. He has personally ordained as “pastors” in CJC-C Jim Wickstrom of Posse Comitatus, Thom Robb of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and Ralph Forbes, a former member of the American Nazi Party and a close aide to David Duke. Beginning in the 1980s, Butler hosted annual Aryan congresses at his compound at Hayden Lake. It was in the mid-1980s when he sponsored Aryan Nations member Bob Mathews paramilitary terrorist group “The Order” by reportedly allowing counterfeiting of U.S. currency to be done on Aryan Nations premises. Butler was also reported to one of several recipients of moneys taken by The Order in their string of armed robberies. As a result of the death of Matthews and the incarceration of its surviving members, Smith and several other Aryan Nations members were indicted in 1988 of sedition and conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government. The Federal trial, which took place in Fort Smith, Arkansas, ended in an acquittal for Butler and his co-defendants, many of whom were already serving life sentences.

Butler held dozens of press conferences and spoke with the Hayden Lake-area press often. According to former Aryan Nations Youth Recruiter Floyd Cochran, Butler instituted a chain of command to ensure that Aryan Nations will long survive its founder. That was shot completely to hell due to a pretty damaging lawsuit, which on September 7, 2000 slapped a $6.3 million judgment against Aryan Nations, Butler and three former members. The jury ruled that the defendants were negligent in connection with a 1998 armed attack by Aryan Nations security guards on Victoria Keenan and her son Jason. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which represented the Keenans, Victoria and Jason Keenan were returning from a wedding and stopped briefly in front of the compound to retrieve something that had fallen from their car. Something – possibly a firecracker – led a group of Aryan guards to think they were under attack, and, jumping into a pickup truck, they chased the terrified Keenans down the road firing repeatedly at the Keenans, eventually shooting out a tire and forcing them into a ditch. They were threatened and brutalized, but finally freed. Two of the guards were tried and convicted while a third remains at large. Butler was culpable because being disturbed by an alleged series of acts of vandalism caused him to place his security force on “heightened alert,” telling them to be on the lookout for the hated Jews. Even from his jail cell months later, one guard continued to insist that the Keenans were part of a conspiracy orchestrated by Jewish enemies of the Aryan Nations.

Although right-wingers covering the trial went by their playbook routine of crying about Aryan Nations being punished for their speech, this was actual more of a personal injury trial, as jurors found, in effect, that Butler had hired untrained ex-convicts as guards; given them no training or formal policies to follow; allowed them to carry assault weapons; filled their heads with hatred; and set them loose on the community. “Butler should have known that the actions of his security guards were a foreseeable result of his negligent and reckless supervision,” the SPLC wrote.

Butler agreed to give up the compound, its contents and even the name Aryan Nations if a judge turned down his request for a new trial. The judge did in fact turn down Butler’s request, and the transfer of the property to the Keenans was planned by mutual agreement. But all that was put on hold after Butler’s filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. All of his mail – including any donations from supporters – went first to the court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.

This lawsuit pretty much ended the viability of Butler. He has already lost his wife Betty on Dec. 1, 1995 – the 40th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement. Newman Britton, the supposed heir to Butler’s throne did not seem interested to take it up, let alone the fact that he was even further incapacitated than Butler when he died in 2001. Aryan Nations had about 200 members when Butler died three years later.

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