The Right Side of the 1960s The Origins of the John Birch Societyin the Pacific Northwest

The cold war era that followed World War II was long and frightening, as the United Nations struggled to survive the burden of displaced populations, disrupted economies, and shattered empires. The United States found itself in a new position of power, but confrontations with the Soviet Union escalated after 1945. The Korean War (1950–1953), the nuclear arms race, developments in missile technology, and the shock of Sputnik added to international tensions in the 1950s; and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, and the war in Vietnam set the tone for the 1960s.

The threat of nuclear war and the intense diplomatic competition between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Bloc countries during those decades undermined international stability, led to numerous small wars and rebellions, and significantly influenced domestic policies. People and governments adapted, but not without strains and changes in behavior. For Americans, these international events and the challenges of the Civil Rights Movement, dramatic economic and social changes, and a prolonged period of religious revivalism were catalysts for the postwar Red Scare that evolved into the anti-Communist mood of McCarthyism and its successors in the 1950s and 1960s. The birth of the John Birch Society (JBS) in December 1958 was no aberration.

Long disturbed by what he perceived as a conspiratorial chain of events, Robert H.W. Welch, Jr., invited “eleven friends” to join him for a two-day meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, where they founded the Birch Society. According to historian Robert Goldberg, “The men included President Eisenhower’s first commissioner of internal revenue, a formal personal aide of General Douglas MacArthur, two past presidents of the National Association of Manufacturers, a banker, and a University of Illinois professor. Well-to-do businessmen filled out the rest of the group.”[1] In late September 1959, fewer than ten months after that initial meeting, sixty-year-old Robert Welch conducted a two-day seminar in the Olympic Hotel in Seattle, Washington, and enlisted the organization’s first members from the Pacific Northwest. During succeeding decades, the JBS never grew beyond a few thousand members in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, but its relatively small size has not prevented the organization from exploiting the regional legacy of anti-radicalism and periodically stirring local political passions with its crusade against alleged subversives, its support of strict law enforcement, and its vociferous opposition to the United Nations, taxes, fluoride in drinking water, sex education in public schools, abortion, and other social and cultural issues.

The first Birch Society members in the Northwest echoed Welch’s charges that Communists controlled the Republican administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. At the same time, however, many of them found a political haven in the Republican Party. While these Northwest Birchers had occasional flirtations with third-party movements, they generally looked and acted like conservative Republicans. Early JBS members were typically from social, religious, and educational backgrounds and held ideas about society, economics, and moral values that were similar to those of conservative Republicans. Aside from their ideological rigidity, the principal characteristic separating JBS members from other Republicans was a willingness to adopt and promote conspiracy theories. This persistent trait contributed to bitter divisions within the Republican Party and eventually marked Birchers as a political liability in the controversial Goldmark libel trial of 1963–1964 in eastern Washington and during the presidential campaign of Republican Senator Barry M. Goldwater in 1964.[2]

Nearly half a century after its birth, scholars still know little about the origins and early activities of the John Birch Society. Lisa McGirr’s Suburban Warriors (2001), which places the organization in the larger context of the evolution of the New Right in Orange County, California, is the best current account of its early years.[3] Cautious recruiting practices, secrecy about membership, and effective use of front organizations initially limited the public exposure of the Birch Society. Additionally, scholarly preoccupation with studies of dissent on the left in the 1960s has obscured the activities of right-wing dissenters. When they have not ignored the Birch Society, scholars have often portrayed it as a secretive band of fundamentalist “kooks and krazies,” or they have treated it as an example of what Richard Hofstadter has called the “paranoid style” of pseudoconservatism. Others have branded it with what has become the more ominous label of the Radical Right. These negative labels may accurately describe some Birchers, but they fail to explain how the Birch Society mobilized alienated conservatives and attempted to influence mainstream politics in the 1960s.[4]

This case study of the origins of the Birch Society in the Pacific Northwest adds substance to earlier accounts of the organization’s membership and activities in this region and nationally. By revealing the organization’s basic recruiting techniques and identifying the economic and political factors that contributed to its initial appeal in the Northwest, the study opens new avenues of research into a Far Right organization that has survived for nearly fifty years. Beginning in a historical period marked by public concern about the Cold War and the national purpose, the Birch Society provided an ideological bridge between members of a social and economic elite and a general membership representing a broader range of class backgrounds. Robert Welch’s obsession with conspiracy theories and the organization’s failure to win broad support, however, soon alienated many traditional conservatives in its ranks and drove militant members into more radical movements.

While the ideological content and militant tone of anti-Communism in the 1960s differed only slightly from that of McCarthyism in the early 1950s, events during the years between the death of Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin in May 1957 and the Goldwater presidential campaign in 1964 gave symbolism and substance to a new organizational thrust on the political right. Conservative intellectuals allied with William F. Buckley, Jr., and his National Review circle sought recognition and gained political experience, while the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, led by Australian physician Dr. Fred C. Schwarz, and the Oklahoma-based Christian Crusade of the Rev. Billy James Hargis blended anti-Communism with evangelical and fundamentalist strains of religious revivalism.[5] Although the John Birch Society was named for a former Baptist missionary and led by an ex-Baptist, it was a secular organization that, along with these other nationwide anti-Communist organizations, emerged and matured during the Eisenhower and Kennedy years.[6] Even more than its contemporaries, the Birch Society represented a dramatic shift in the character and tone of American politics as a growing number of conservatives rejected President Eisenhower’s Modern Republicanism and the New Frontier of Democratic President John F. Kennedy.

The john birch society was Robert Welch’s brainchild, and he served for more than two decades as its founder and president and as the publisher and editor of American Opinion, a monthly conservative magazine. Observers at the time generally agreed that Welch was an unlikely leader, but they could not fault his dedication and timing. Physically unimposing, soft-spoken, and reserved, Welch was neither charismatic nor dynamic, but he was obsessed with the role of conspiracy in history. As Robert Alan Goldberg observed in Enemies Within (2001), Welch was “the most determined member of the countersubversive conspiracist movement” in the 1950s and 1960s.[7] Few persons in American political life have aroused such bitter controversy in so short a time.

Born in North Carolina in 1899, Welch lived into the 1980s, and his life was a blend of the old and the new, the self-made man and the corporate executive. He grew up in the rural, agrarian South and achieved success in the urban, industrialized North, his life evolving in tandem with the dramatic changes in American society during the twentieth century.[8] Ironically, in the 1950s Welch, who deeply feared international conspiracies, was a neighbor of one of the leading internationalists of the twentieth century. Explaining why he had not publicly criticized Henry Kissinger, Welch wrote a friend in 1959 that he “lives just four houses from me, on our street” in Belmont, Massachusetts.[9]

Welch’s otherwise tenacious ideological stance and his obsession with multifaceted conspiracy theories simultaneously attracted members and repelled potential conservative allies. William F. Buckley, Jr., wrote an editorial in the National Review praising members of the JBS and criticizing Welch’s “conspiratorial theory of history.” Even some directors of the Birch Society considered Welch a liability to the organization and privately discussed options for silencing him. While commending Welch’s dedication to the struggle against Communism, one JBS director lamented to his fellow director T. Coleman Andrews: “It’s just too bad, as you and I well know, we can’t alleviate his paranoia somewhat.”[10]

Despite these criticisms, Welch held steadfastly to his belief that the revolutionary ideas and Masonic heirs of the eighteenth-century Order of Illuminati had “been absorbed into the top echelons of the communist conspiracy.”[11] In the John Birch Society Bulletin for November 1959, Welch even charged that internationalists were coordinating a campaign for department stores to “substitute UN insignia this December for conventional Christmas decorations.”[12] These ideas may have caused consternation among his directors and either angered or amused his critics, but they were essential stimuli for many members of the Birch Society. In comments to a reporter for the Oregonian in 1961, Portland television repairman Paul Clement, an early member of the JBS in Oregon, condemned the UN as a Communist instrument “to control the world.” Clement also feared the corrosive influences on American culture of modern art, progressive jazz, and Beatniks.[13]

From JBS headquarters, located near his Belmont home, Welch directed an organization that would claim more than eighty thousand members nationally by the mid-1960s, having its greatest strength in the upper Midwest, the Southwest, and California.[14] Once it was introduced into the Pacific Northwest in September 1959, the fledgling organization tapped regional veins of conservative political dissent and the historical residue of earlier Red Scares.[15] Discontent with the Depression-era New Deal of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the postwar Fair Deal of Harry Truman had been festering and seeking outlets for years. Economic booms stimulated by war could not be maintained. Suburbanization, with the accompanying demands for housing, schools, infrastructure, and electricity, added new pressures and attracted a more diverse population, which in turn challenged traditional regional social practices. A lengthy and costly labor strike in the timber industry in 1954 and the “Eisenhower Recession” of 1957 added to political factionalism in the region.

Although it was sometimes difficult to discern ideological differences between Democrats and Republicans in the Pacific Northwest, the major parties were not the only actors in the uneasy political transition from the Eisenhower years into the 1960s.[16] A few minor parties, some anti-Communist organizations, and numerous special-interest groups contributed to the political ferment of the late 1950s. National organizations such as the DeMille Foundation, which fought organized labor, and Willis E. Stone’s Liberty Amendment Committee, which sought to eliminate the federal income tax by abolishing the Sixteenth Amendment, mobilized conservatives. Regional organizations such as the Pacific Northwest Development Association in Oregon and the Washington State Research Council and Association of Washington Industries in Washington coordinated the lobbying activities of a loose coalition of small businesses, large corporations, and conservative voters.

United mainly by ties to the Republican Party and opposition to taxes and organized labor, this conservative coalition introduced and coordinated a campaign for Initiative 202, a right-to-work measure, in the state of Washington in 1958. The bill, which resembled legislation introduced into California and more than a dozen other states that year, would have virtually eliminated the “closed shop” of union member-only contracts. The Boeing Company and the General Electric Company, which was the primary contractor for the Hanford Project, were among the major financial contributors to the right-to-work campaign, while prominent Seattle attorney Frank E. Holman wrote an anti-union tract, Preserve the Right to Work—Vote for 202; and Ashley E. Holden, a conservative Spokane journalist and political activist, solicited votes in eastern Washington as executive director of the Citizens’ Committee for Voluntary Unionism.[17] Opponents defeated the measure, but the right-to-work initiative and a local “tax revolt” in Ritzville, Washington, in 1959 attracted national attention and served as catalysts for conservative dissenters.

Although they failed to gain widespread support in Washington state, the right-to-work and anti-tax groups focused attention on state and local issues and trained a dedicated cadre of campaign workers. Eager to tap these political assets, Holden worked to elect conservatives from eastern Washington who belonged to both major parties. Corporate leaders disagreed with this strategy, however. The public information director of the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, for example, advised Holden to run candidates only on the Republican ticket and, on the advice of Reno Odlin, president of the Puget Sound National Bank in Tacoma, rejected “participati[on]” by Weyerhaeuser “in the formation of any additional organizations.”[18] This virtual decree aggravated tensions between conservatives from the eastern and western portions of the state, aroused anti-corporate sentiment, and led to defections from the Republican Party.

They may have disagreed about political tactics, but grassroots conservatives and corporate executives found common ground in Cold War anti-Communism. This ideological mindset permeated economic and cultural institutions throughout the United States from the 1940s through the 1960s and sometimes blurred the distinctions between Birchers and other conservatives. Building on the attempt by Washington’s Joint Legislative Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities (the Canwell Committee) to purge Communists from the University of Washington in the late 1940s, businesses, educational institutions, churches, social clubs, and fraternal organizations throughout the state revealed many of the anti-Communist traits that would be identified with the slightly later McCarthy period.[19] At the state level, members of these groups typically demanded ideological conformity through loyalty oaths and campaigned to eliminate alleged radicals from churches, schools, and government. The House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Truman administration were in the vanguard of anti-Communism at the national level.

This earlier form of anti-Communism merged with McCarthyism in the 1950s, and businesses, government agencies, and social organizations conducted well-financed programs to educate the public about the evils of Communism. For more than a decade after the motion picture Communism on the Map was introduced in the 1950s, the Boeing Company regularly showed the frightening portrayal of Soviet aggression to its employees, and its public relations department distributed the film to schools, social clubs, and businesses throughout the West.[20] During the early 1960s, conservatives added Operation Abolition (1961) to their anti-Communist motion-picture arsenal. This widely distributed and adroitly edited documentary portrayed opponents of the House Committee on Un-American Activities as violence-prone leftist radicals.[21] These were only two of many documentary-style motion pictures and cartoons spawned by Cold War anti-Communism, but both were among the principal promotional pieces used by the John Birch Society.

Given the historical legacy of violence by and against the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) early in the twentieth century and periodic anti-Communist agitation in the Pacific Northwest, it is perhaps surprising that the John Birch Society arrived so late and remained so small, but its organizing techniques and ideological rigidity and a recruiting campaign aimed initially at social and economic elites virtually assured that result. The first members of the Birch Society in Oregon and Washington came from overlapping networks of predominantly older, white, middle- and upper-middle-class conservatives who were principally businessmen, professionals, lumbermen, and agriculturalists, many of whom were already acquainted through social clubs, business associations, and political activities. Their first recruits included housewives and some skilled laborers. Anti-Communism, disillusionment with the Eisenhower administration, and concern about social issues brought these Northwesterners together, and their active role in regional politics elevated several of them into the upper echelons of the John Birch Society. Pacific Northwesterners were involved with the JBS from its inception, and several Birchers or former members from the Northwest have been elected to local and state offices and even to Congress in the decades since that first meeting in the Olympic Hotel.[22]

Public knowledge of the early activities of the Birch Society was limited. Journalists apparently failed to detect its existence until the summer of 1960, when Welch spoke at a conservative rally to promote the presidential candidacy of Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona during the Republican National Convention in Chicago.[23] By then, the fledgling organization was approaching its second anniversary and had already spread across the nation. The genesis of the JBS can be traced to a number of sources, but a meeting in New York City in early 1958 was a primary cause. Welch and several men who would later join him in the Birch Society attended a meeting held by conservative polemicist Merwin K. Hart at the University Club on February 14, 1958, to discuss ways to reverse what Hart described as the national trend toward collectivism.[24] Although Hart anticipated that the meeting would generate support for his organization, the National Economic Council, instead Welch took the initiative to make tentative efforts to organize the JBS in the summer of 1958.

At the time, Welch was an executive in the James O. Welch Company, his brother’s candy business, and a vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers. A dedicated supporter of Republican senators Robert A. Taft of Ohio and Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, Welch had shared long political letters with friends and business colleagues for many years. Angered that Dwight Eisenhower had won the Republican presidential nomination over Taft in 1952 and that the Senate had censured McCarthy in 1954, Welch abandoned the Republican Party, complaining that liberals and pro-Communists had captured it. Conservative Chicago publisher Henry Regnery printed two of Welch’s “letters” as books. May God Forgive Us, a history of the “betrayal of China to the Communists as a background to the dismissal of General MacArthur,” appeared on the eve of the Republican National Convention in 1952. Two years later, Regnery published The Life of John Birch, a biography of a former Baptist missionary and U.S. Army intelligence officer killed by Chinese Communists a few weeks after the end of World War II.[25] In early 1956, Welch began to publish a magazine he titled One Man’s Opinion, later renamed American Opinion. This magazine, like his books, preached a simple message. Most American political leaders, Welch believed, were either pro-Communists or the dupes of Communism. He rejected both major political parties and campaigned for the election of Independent Party presidential nominee T. Coleman Andrews of Virginia in 1956. That unsuccessful political venture convinced Welch that the only hope for the United States was a conservative movement that matched the dedication and zeal of the Communists.[26]

Methodically pursuing his goal, Welch soon distributed a long manuscript, “The Politician,” to prominent conservatives, friends, and business associates in the National Association of Manufacturers.[27] The manuscript, which Welch revised periodically, was a vicious attack on President Eisenhower and the domestic and foreign policies of his administration. Labeling Eisenhower “a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy,” Welch described a Republican administration corrupted by power and riddled by Communism.[28] In mid-August 1958, Seattle attorney Frank E. Holman, a former president of the American Bar Association and a leading national spokesman for the Bricker Amendment (which aimed to prevent international treaties and executive agreements from amending the Constitution), received a numbered copy of “The Politician” from Welch by registered mail.[29] An enclosed letter described the manuscript as “an extremely confidential document” sent “only to a limited number of good friends and outstanding patriots.” His goal, Welch wrote, was to save “our country from becoming three or four ‘Soviet Republics’ in the world-wide dominions of the Kremlin.”[30]

Acknowledging that the manuscript was “a loan and confidential,” Holman informed Welch that it “looks tremendously interesting.”[31] But Holman’s interest lagged, and Welch did not invite him to the founding meeting in Indianapolis, where Welch and his associates, including the erstwhile presidential candidate T. Coleman Andrews, established the John Birch Society.[32] Even without Holman, the Pacific Northwest was represented at the birth of the JBS. Ernest G. Swigert, head of the Hyster Company in Portland, Oregon, and a former president of the National Association of Manufacturers, was, according to Welch, an old friend and “one of the original founders of the John Birch Society.”[33] Although Swigert apparently never officially joined the Birch Society, the Oregonian in 1961 described him as “associated with the group.” Additionally, Swigert continued to meet with Welch and the JBS board of directors into the mid-1960s and served for several years on the editorial advisory board of American Opinion.[34]

Taking a militantly anti-Communist stance, the Birch Society quickly achieved a prominent place among the organizations emerging as the core of the Far Right in the early 1960s. Although the JBS had Catholic, Jewish, and African American members, public statements by some of its members and overlapping membership with White Citizens’ Councils in the South exposed the organization to charges of fostering racial and religious prejudice. Although Welch condemned racism and violence and favored Republican Senator Barry M. Goldwater of Arizona for the presidency, many JBS members in the South and Southwest supported George C. Wallace of Alabama and practiced racial segregation in their local chapters. When Welch denied charges that the JBS was anti-Semitic and noted the Jewish members, his disavowals were often met with skepticism. University of Illinois professor Revilo P. Oliver, one of the first JBS members, and other contributors to American Opinion had been tainted by anti-Semitism, and some Birchers echoed The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion by charging that Communism was a Jewish plot to rule the world.[35]

As the Birch Society grew, its American Opinion Bookstores, Western Islands Press, and American Opinion Speakers’ Bureau spread Welch’s ideas and JBS programs across the United States and into Canada. Yet, the success of the JBS could not be measured simply by the size of its membership or even its enrollment of several members of Congress. A better indicator could be found in the activities of its members in local politics, churches, and social and fraternal organizations. Birchers often succeeded in keeping their membership secret and sometimes gained influential positions in other organizations, in the process raising ideological polemics to an art form in local and national politics.[36]

Barely a month after founding the JBS in Indianapolis, Welch began a year-long recruiting campaign by distributing “The Politician” and conducting a series of seminars in major cities throughout the United States. “Our present goal,” he explained, “is to find … good Americans who are ready and waiting to join the John Birch Society as soon as they have enough understanding of its background, methods, and purposes.” Presenting a Manichean dichotomy between capitalist good and Communist evil, Welch described the JBS as a “monolithic body” matching that of its Communist enemies.[37] This initial organizing phase was a personal missionary effort, and the response was both positive and challenging. Eventually, extensive travel and increased paperwork exhausted Welch and imposed a more structured approach to organizing. He slowed his pace and hired state coordinators for the second and more intensive phase of recruiting. Capitalizing on the polarization in American society caused by revived Cold War tensions, Fidel Castro’s rise in Cuba, and the conservative backlash against the Civil Rights Movement, Birch Society organizers proclaimed themes of “no compromise [and] no coexistence” with “the Communist conspiracy” and “less government, more individual responsibility, and a better world.”[38]

These first JBS organizers, still working in relative obscurity through 1960, attracted many women and significant numbers of men who worked in business, white-collar professions, and police and fire departments. By the end of 1960, the JBS claimed it had eighteen thousand members and between one and one hundred chapters in each of thirty-four states.[39] While these new members generally lacked the social and economic status of Welch’s first recruits, they still ranked relatively high on socioeconomic scales, with a large percentage having a college education. There were members from other faiths and denominations, but the largest percentage belonged to mainstream or evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant denominations.[40] Society membership cost twenty-four dollars for men and twelve dollars for women and was renewable annually but subject to revocation without explanation by any JBS officer at any time.[41]

The first members of the Birch Society in the Pacific North-west resembled early recruits across the nation. Six months after Holman received “The Politician,” B.E. Hutchinson, the former treasurer of the Chrysler Corporation, wrote Seattle businessman James W. Clise, Jr., that upon Hutchinson’s recommendation Welch would mail Clise a copy of “The Politician.”[42] Clise was already acquainted with Welch, having occasionally exchanged political correspondence with him since 1957, and this new relationship confirmed their similarly pessimistic views about American politics and society. Although they had grown up in different regions of the United States, they were almost the same age and shared the economic perspectives of independent businessmen. Moreover, Clise, like Welch, had voted for T. Coleman Andrews in 1956.[43]

Clise and his older brother, Charles, were members of an early Seattle business family and graduates of Yale University, where the younger Clise earned his degree in mechanical engineering.[44] Nearly sixty years old in 1959, James Clise was conservative but not provincial. He was a member of several national business associations, belonged to the “Medicine Lodge Camp” of California’s exclusive and strictly male Bohemian Club, and was a compulsive joiner of conservative political groups and an avid sampler of religious esoterica. He was also a generous contributor to Republican candidates and conservative causes in the state of Washington and nationally.[45]

Clise held firmly and consistently to a few basic principles: support for the gold standard and opposition to organized labor and Communism. He supported the investigation of the University of Washington by the Canwell Committee and backed the controversial Spokane Republican Al Canwell during his unsuccessful congressional campaigns in the early 1950s, even serving as Canwell’s finance chairman during the 1952 contest.[46] Clise also praised the work of Senator Joseph McCarthy. “You made a wonderful speech out here in Seattle,” he wrote McCarthy in 1951. Describing it as the “most convincing thing I ever listened to,” Clise continued: “We’ve got to get the treasonable rats out of our administration and we must get back on a gold standard.” This support for the witch-hunt mentality of McCarthyism was reflected in his personal effort to purify the local community. In the mid-1950s, Clise refused to support the Seattle Symphony Orchestra because of “a pianist who has known subversive leanings,” and he wrote FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that “I have given your Seattle office information on several occasions” about other local citizens.[47]

Displaying lifelong traits of commitment and political naiveté, Clise eagerly joined Welch’s crusade. B.E. Hutchinson, Clise’s original sponsor, had second thoughts about the Birch Society in the meantime. Although he wrote Clise that “I personally regard Welch as a sincere, dedicated patriot,” Hutchinson confided to William C. Mullendore, chairman of the board of Southern California Edison Company, that “I’m perfectly sympathetic to the movement, as you are, but, like you, I’m dubious of its ultimate efficacy.”[48] Hutchinson did not share his reservations with Clise, who seldom questioned Welch’s ideas and assumptions.

Clise received copy number sixty-three of “The Politician” by registered mail in mid-February 1959. The cover letter noted that B.E. Hutchinson had recommended Clise and explained that the manuscript was “not intended for publication” and should remain confidential. After reading the introduction and first chapter, Clise thanked Hutchinson for recommending him and, reversing his 1952 support for Dwight Eisenhower, mentioned that he agreed “completely” with Welch’s description of Ike as “probably the most dangerous president we have ever had.”[49]

Clise sent a copy of this letter to retired Seattle lumberman Harry M. Robbins, who expressed keen interest in reading “The Politician.” “I met Welch and had a little talk with him when I was east in the summer of ’56,” the eighty-year-old Robbins explained, adding: “I think he is doing great work.”[50] Clise responded by asking Welch’s permission to share “The Politician” with friends and received a cautiously worded reply. After describing an elaborate distribution system intended to protect the confidentiality of the document, Welch told Clise to submit a list of names for his review.[51]

By limiting his contacts and avoiding public statements during the first organizing phase, Welch avoided premature disclosure of his activities but also ensured slow growth for the Birch Society. After conducting several seminars in the East, Midwest, and South during the first half of 1959, he finally turned his attention to the Pacific Coast. In a letter to Clise in August, Welch disclosed plans to hold seminars at the Statler Hotel in Los Angeles, the Mark Hopkins in San Francisco, and the Olympic Hotel in Seattle in September. He also mentioned that Hughston McBain, an executive of Marshall-Field and Company and another of Clise’s old friends, had recommended inviting Clise to the Seattle meeting. The seminars, as Welch described them, were “one integrated story” that required “two full days to explain” and would be held at hotels in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle in September.[52]

Welch invited a few dozen conservatives from the Pacific Northwest to the Seattle meeting, and his obsession with secrecy in this first recruiting stage became clear when he stated that there would be no publicity and that invitations were “not transferable.”[53] The presentation, Welch explained, would “begin at nine o’clock sharp on the first day and finish about five o’clock on the second day,” and the participants would be his luncheon guests. Clise accepted promptly, but several Northwesterners who had received copies of “The Politician” were unable or unwilling to attend. William S. Street, an executive of the Frederick and Nelson department store chain, Alfred Schweppe, former dean of the University of Washington Law School, and Eli Dorsey, also of Seattle, joined lumberman John W. Blodgett of Portland and Grand Rapids, Michigan, and James Bronson of Yakima in extending their regrets. Clise’s friends Stuart G. Thompson, Jay Morrison, and Frank Holman declined to attend because they considered “The Politician,” as Clise wrote Welch, “too strong to take.” Holman, in fact, returned his copy of the manuscript to Welch with the judgment that “in your enthusiasm as a crusader, you had indulged in charges that were not only intemperate but which even might be regarded as vilifying prominent people.”[54]

Some of Clise’s friends did not share these negative sentiments. After attending the seminar in Los Angeles, George Washington Robnett, a founder of the staunchly anti-Communist Church League of America, wrote Clise, agreeing with Welch’s assertions and praising his performance.[55] Clise needed little encouragement. He was extremely pessimistic about the state of the economy and American politics, already subscribed to American Opinion, and earlier in the summer had distributed over nine hundred petitions for the Committee against Summit Entanglements, a Welch-led protest against the scheduled 1959 summit conference between President Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.[56] Primed for a new movement that promised action, Clise joined nineteen other potential JBS recruits from Washington, Oregon, and Colorado at the Olympic Hotel in Seattle on September 25, 1959.

Clise took extensive notes during the marathon seminar and wrote brief descriptions of several participants. In a note titled “Attendance Geographical,” Clise identified their places of residence as “Seattle and Suburbs (7); balance of Washington (4); Portland and Suburbs (6); other Oregon (1); and Elsewhere (2).”[57] The Washingtonians included his friend and political ally P.C. “Cap” Beezley of Mercer Island; Col. Tom Hutton, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence officer from East Stanwood, who claimed to have met John Birch in China during World War II; Charley Embree of Alderwood Manor, the manager of one of Clise’s business enterprises and a former fund-raiser for Whitworth College; Fred Harris, a dairyman from Yakima; and Thomas B. O’Reilly, a manufacturer’s agent from Bellevue. Oregonians in attendance included a politically ambitious Portland insurance man named Wallace Lee and Edith Phetteplace, the wife of a physician and a committed Republican who traveled to Seattle from Eugene. Science-fiction author Robert A. Heinlein and his wife from Colorado Springs, Colorado, joined the Northwesterners. Clise described Heinlein as “an independent writer of philosophical fiction” whose “prime interest” was winning the release of American prisoners held in the Soviet Union.[58] The attendees, according to Clise, were uniformly impressed by Welch, contributed “several checks,” and pledged to establish “three units in different locations.”[59]

Welch’s dedication and stamina impressed Clise, who also expressed awe at Welch’s knowledge and was receptive to his historical perspective. After nearly a dozen of these remarkable two-day performances, the method and argument had become a familiar routine for Welch, who blended personal opinions and facts into a depressing historical monologue offset only by occasional bits of humor and his penchant for reciting poetry. He ranged widely and selectively through history and politics. Citing examples from ancient history to support his arguments about the decline of civilization and the rise of Communism, Welch explained that the “Reds” had exploited what he perceived as English historian Arnold Toynbee’s one-world assumptions in his multivolume A Study of History (1935–1961) at the expense of German philosopher Oswald Spengler’s pessimistic prediction about the future in The Decline of the West (1918). Insistent that history was primarily the story of conspiracy, Welch labeled the United States a “socialist nation” and described the causes and consequences of the “Red Conspiracy” to rule the world. He concluded by appealing to his listeners to be “informed alarmists.”[60]

Afterward, Clise praised Welch’s presentation and expressed his willingness to “join a local group here if & when formed but at present cannot be a leader.” Instead, Clise applied for membership in the JBS Home Chapter, a general category of membership for individuals without a local chapter, and promised Welch he would eventually try “to establish a new local chapter.” Clise also sent Welch a list of friends in other states to invite to future seminars, purchased one hundred copies of The Life of John Birch, and wrote his Seattle friends that he “was very favorably impressed with Bob Welch.” Holman, who had not changed his mind, replied: “I like him too, but feel he has become somewhat intemperate in his statements.”[61]

While many conservatives in the Northwest later echoed Holman’s reservations about Welch and his message, most of the seminar attendees joined the Birch Society. Charley Embree even asked Welch to appoint him coordinator for the state of Washington. Because these were salaried positions and he had just hired three coordinators in other states, Welch was reluctant to hire “a staff man in the Northwest area” until some local chapters were formed. “Cap” Beezley began working toward that goal in Bellevue and Seattle, and Welch expressed confidence that, as elsewhere, one chapter would quickly divide into two. Within a few months, the Washington JBS had chapters in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Bellingham, Yakima, and Spokane. Beezley, with the assistance of Clise and his wife, Denny, conducted a series of meetings in private homes. In October 1959, just a week after the seminar with Welch, Clise invited more than a dozen of Seattle’s leading businessmen and lawyers to meet in Beezley’s Mercer Island home. There is no record of who attended that meeting or which of them may have joined the JBS, but the strategy employed in the Seattle area resembled that used elsewhere. Organizers followed an established procedure and strict ideological guidelines, using a set of audiotapes, packets of JBS publications, motion pictures, and a flannel-board presentation provided by Birch Society headquarters. Attendance at chapter meetings was mandatory, and Welch required new recruits to read The Blue Book of the John Birch Society (1959), the printed version of his seminar presentation.[62]

The birch society grew equally rapidly in Oregon. In an interview with a reporter in 1961, Wallace Lee declared that he had “organized the John Birch Society in Oregon” soon after returning from the 1959 meeting with Welch. Lee’s efforts took root, and chapters were formed in “Medford, Grants Pass, Newport, Lebanon, and Portland.” According to Lee, the early members included “several business executives and professional people.” Lee resigned from the JBS to conduct an unsuccessful political campaign as the Republican opponent of Representative Edith Green in the 1960 election, and in September 1960 Welch hired Leslie Fleming, a Springfield dairyman, as the first paid coordinator in Oregon at a salary of three hundred dollars per month. Fleming soon claimed that he had organized six new chapters, including ones in Eugene and Springfield, and had attended approximately twenty-six meetings per month in all parts of the state. By early 1961, the Oregon JBS had an estimated dozen chapters with four in Portland.[63]

The fledgling organization took longer to take root in Idaho but, once established, the chapters in that state operated effectively within the Republican Party. Idaho Birchers also drew from slightly different social groups — the organization was strong in the southern half of the state, where a significant percentage of its members were Mormons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not sanction the Birch Society, and church authorities tried to steer a neutral course. Yet, they faced a touchy internal problem. Idaho-born Ezra Taft Benson, who was secretary of agriculture under Eisenhower and a member of the church’s hierarchy, served as the unofficial catalyst for the JBS among Mormons. Benson, the future president of the church’s Council of Twelve, did not join the society, but he made several highly publicized appearances with Welch during the early 1960s and his son, Reed Benson, served as a regional official of the JBS.[64]

An overwhelming majority of the early leaders and members of the JBS were men. Soon, a substantial number of women joined them. The recruiting practices in the Pacific Northwest resembled the pattern in Orange County, California, which Lisa McGirr described in Suburban Warriors.[65] Seattle organizers worked hard to recruit women with activities such as a “flannel board talk” that Denny Clise tried to schedule for a group of women at the Clise residence in November 1959.[66] Despite the casual acceptance of men as coordinators and chapter leaders, women played a significant role in letter-writing campaigns and promoted the JBS agenda in social, religious, and educational organizations in their hometowns. In early 1960, for example, Gladys G. Giffin and a group of JBS women in Seattle organized letter-writing campaigns supporting the impeachment of Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and opposing the United Nations and internationalism.[67] In Oregon, Edith Phetteplace earned a reputation in Eugene as a conservative gadfly who vigorously fought fluoridation, the United Nations, and radicalism at the University of Oregon. As the Birch Society grew, women increasingly moved into leadership positions. Mrs. C. Arthur Bruce, Jr., a housewife and mother of six, was a chapter leader in Tigard, Oregon, in 1961.[68]

Organizing activities in the Pacific Northwest were in their infancy when the John Birch Society celebrated its first anniversary in December 1959. By then, according to Welch, the Birch Society had a well-staffed headquarters in Belmont, Massachusetts, and an extensive publishing program, seven salaried and five volunteer coordinators, between one and twelve chapters in each of fifteen states, including Washington, and the national Home Chapter, with members representing nearly twenty-five states.[69] Clise, who was suffering from terminal cancer and would die in 1961, proudly acknowledged that he had “helped get a local chapter” and a state coordinator “functioning out here.”[70] While there were only a few dozen members in the Northwest and several thousand nationally by early 1960, the expectation of rapid growth encouraged Birch officials to participate in political activities that soon brought them into public view. After journalists finally discovered the JBS in the summer of 1960, it became the focal point of a national debate about the Radical Right in American politics.

This controversy erupted just as the JBS chapters in the Northwest were approaching political maturity, and local leaders responded by accelerating organizing drives and increasing political activities. Birchers merged anti-government themes with accusations of global conspiracy and worked hard to influence other organizations. In the state of Washington, Bellingham chapter leader Lee J. Adamson, a certified public accountant, urged his fellow Birchers to infiltrate or develop coalitions with other right-wing groups.[71] Colonel Hutton joined the struggle by simultaneously promoting the Birch Society and his own anti-Communist intelligence network, SPX Research Associates.[72]

The Birch Society reached its numerical and political peak in the Northwest and the nation in the mid-1960s. Drawing from the legacy of McCarthyism, the JBS fueled the resurgent conservatism of the 1960s and was an ideological conduit for the New Right of the 1970s. The organization also served as an ideological way station or catalyst for several men who became leaders of extreme rightist groups, several with Pacific Northwest connections. Former members who considered JBS methods ineffective include William Pierce of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, Tom Metzger of the Ku Klux Klan and White Aryan Resistance, Robert Mathews of The Order, and Randy Weaver, whose son and wife were killed at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.[73]

The John Birch Society withered but did not die after Welch’s death in 1985. It became a living relic of the Cold War, with small chapters and a few American Opinion bookstores surviving past 2000 in such different locales as Seattle and Clarkston, Washington; Grants Pass, Hood River, and Portland, Oregon; and Pocatello, Idaho.[74] In basic ways, the John Birch Society linked historic regional themes of anti-radicalism and social conservatism, but the organization’s ideological center reflected the primary influence of the Cold War. The response of Mrs. William Lee Bailey of Tacoma to Colonel Hutton’s 1960 lecture about the spread and brutality of Communist aggression summarized a primary emotion of many early Birchers and provides an appropriate epitaph for the Cold War era. Hutton’s lecture, Bailey wrote to Clise, “was magnificently terrifying!”[75]


1. Robert Alan Goldberg, Enemies Within: The Culture of Conspiracy in Modern America (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2001), 39.

2. See William L. Dwyer, The Goldmark Case: An American Libel Trial (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 198), 52–8, 103–4. The JBS was initially charged as a co-conspirator in the Goldmark libel trial, together with Albert F. Canwell and Ashley Holden, but the judge eventually dismissed charges against the Birch Society and its coordinator.

3. Eckard V. Toy, Jr., “Ideology and Conflict in American Ultraconservatism, 1945–1960” (Ph.D. diss., University of Oregon, 1965); Lisa McGirr, Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001), 54–110.

4. See, for example, Todd Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York: Bantam, 1987), and William J. Rorabaugh, Berkeley at War: The 1960s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990). While celebrating their own emergence, conservative intellectuals studiously criticized their right-wing brethren. See George H. Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945 (New York: Basic Books, 1976), 292–3; Ronald Lora, Conservative Minds in America (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1971), 257–8; William A. Rusher, The Rise of the Right (New York: William Morrow, 1984), 59–63, 117–26; and Jerome L. Himmelstein, To the Right: The Transformation of American Conservatism (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1990), 66–7. Scholarly assessments of the Birch Society are in Daniel Bell, ed., The Radical Right (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday: 1963); Richard Hofstadter, The Paranoid Style in American Politics and Other Essays (New York: Knopf, 1965), 3–5; Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics of Unreason: Right-wing Extremism in America, 1790–1977, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978); and David H. Bennett, The Party of Fear: From Nativist Movements to the New Right in American History (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1988), 315–23.

5. See Rusher, Rise of the Right, 57.

6. Goldberg, Enemies Within, 37–65.

7. Ibid., 65.

8. See William B. Hixson, Jr., Search for the American Right Wing: An Analysis of the Social Science Record, 1955–1987 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1992), 102.

9. Robert Welch to James W. Clise, October 1, 1959, James W. Clise Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene (hereafter Clise Papers).

10. Rusher, Rise of the Right, 117–21, 189–90; and William F. Buckley, Jr., “The Uproar,” National Review, April 23, 1961, 241–3. Despite his public criticism of Welch, Buckley confided privately to T. Coleman Andrews “that he’s one of the finest men we’ll ever meet.” Buckley to Andrews, June 7, 1961; William R. Kent to Andrews, November 21, 1960, T. Coleman Andrews Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene (hereafter Andrews Papers).

11. Quoted in Bennett, Party of Fear, 25–6. In 1776, Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law in Bavaria, formed a secret Masonic order that opposed the Jesuits and promoted ideas of the Enlightenment. Their opponents accused them of fomenting the French Revolution and spreading its influence internationally, See Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, The Politics of Unreason: Right-Wing Extremism in America, 1790–1977 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), 35. See Goldberg, Enemies Within, 6, 45–9, for a description of Welch’s use of this conspiracy theory.

12.John Birch Society Bulletin, October 31, 1959, 2.

13.Oregonian, March 31, 1961

14. “Welch … said that Tennessee, Texas, and Southern California are the best Birch Society areas.” See James Graham Cook, The Segregationists (New York: Appleton-Century Crofts, 1962), 264.

15. See also Scott G. McNall, Career of a Radical Rightist: A Study in Failure (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press 1975).

16. Carlos A. Schwantes, The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 357–63. See Paul Kleppner, “Politics without Parties: The Western States, 1900–1984,” in The Twentieth-Century West: Historical Interpretations, ed. Gerald D. Nash and Richard W. Etulain (Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1989), 295–338.

17. Ashley E. Holden to James W. Clise, July 14, 1958; Clise to Frank E. Holman, September 2, 1958; William Allen to Clise, October 21, 1958; copy of letter from David Pollock to the Rev. Lester Kinsolving, November 12, 1958, Clise Papers.

18. Walter J. DeLong to Clise, March 27, 1959; Reno Odlin to Clise, March 30, 1959, Clise Papers.

19. The Canwell Committee of 1948–1949 was named for its chairman, State Representative Albert F. Canwell, a Spokane Republican.

20. The National Economic Program affiliated with Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, produced Communism on the Map.

21. See Jane Sanders, Cold War on the Campus: Academic Freedom at the University of Washington, 1946–64 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979), 21–46; Melvin Rader, False Witness (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969); Dwyer, Goldmark Case, 24–7; Stanley W. Dwinnell to Clise, January 4, 1961, Clise Papers.

22. Congressional representatives include Jack Metcalf from Washington and George Hansen from Idaho, for example. The lack of membership lists for the JBS makes it difficult to identify all Birchers in political office, but newspaper accounts and JBS publications have occasionally noted membership or influence on issues.

23. Jack Mabley of the Chicago Daily News was generally acknowledged as the first journalist to report about the JBS in a column on July 26, 1960. See J. Allen Broyles, The John Birch Society: Anatomy of a Protest (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), 8.

24. Merwin K. Hart to J. Howard Pew, February 21, 1958, Merwin K. Hart Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

25. Robert Welch, May God Forgive Us (Chicago: Regnery, 1952), and The Life of John Birch (Chicago: Regnery, 1954). Welch described Birch as “probably the first American casualty in [the] Third World War.” See Eckard V. Toy, Jr., “American Opinion,” in The Conservative Press in Twentieth-Century America, ed. Ronald Lora and William Longton (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999). If approached with caution, the role of conspiracy theories in American history can be examined in Hofstadter, Paranoid Style, and David Brion Davis, ed., The Fear of Conspiracy: Images of Un-American Subversion from the Revolution to the Present (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971). One source of Welch’s conspiracy theories in European history is Nesta Webster, Secret Societies and Subversive Movements (n.p., 1924), published in a more recent edition by the Christian Book Club of America and sold in American Opinion bookstores.

26. Broyles, John Birch Society, 31.

27. “The Politician” was sometimes called the “black book” because of its cover. Welch shared the first unpublished version with about thirty friends in 1954, distributed a longer version to nearly sixty friends in 1956, and completed a third version in June 1958. After a firestorm of criticism from outside and within the Birch Society, he deleted or modified some of the most extreme statements and published The Politician (Belmont, Mass.: Belmont Publishing, 1964).

28. Welch, The Politician, 267.

29. The Bricker Amendment, named for Republican Senator John Bricker of Ohio, was never adopted. See Duane Tananbaum, The Bricker Amendment Controversy: A Test of Eisenhower’s Political Leadership (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). Holman had supported Al Canwell during his unsuccessful campaigns for Congress in the early 1950s. See Frank E. Holman to Clise, September 6, 1952, Clise Papers.

30. Robert Welch to T. Coleman Andrews, September 29, 1958, Andrews Papers; Welch, The Politician, 295.

31. Frank E. Holman to Robert Welch, August 22, 1958, Frank E. Holman Papers, Manuscripts and Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries, Seattle (hereafter Holman Papers).

32. Although he accepted a position on the board of directors of the Birch Society, Andrews soon admitted: “Confidentially, some of us who heard Bob at Indianapolis were not completely sold.” Andrews to George S. Montgomery, Jr., March 16, 1959, Andrews Papers.

33. Welch to Clise, August 13, 1959, Clise Papers; Oregon Journal, March 30, 1961.

34.Oregonian, March 31, 1961. Swigert is listed as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board on the title page of American Opinion, 1958–1964; see also seating chart for meeting of Directors, Andrews Papers.

35. Neil R. McMillan, The Citizens’ Councils: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954–1964 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1971), 199–202. See also Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (New York: Harper and Row, 1967).

36. Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt, Silent Brotherhood: Inside America’s Racist Underground (New York: Free Press, 1989), 21.

37. Robert Welch, The Blue Book of the John Birch Society (Belmont, Mass.: 1959), 158–9. This publication went through twenty-one printings by the spring of 1985.

38.John Birch Society Bulletin, October 31, 1950, 12; July 1, 1960, 4; and Robert Welch, The John Birch Society (Belmont, Mass: n.d.), 3.

39. Goldberg, Enemies Within, 41; Oregon Journal, March 31, 1961. Idaho was among the states without organized chapters.

40. See Himmelstein, To the Right, 225 n.25; Goldberg, Enemies Within, 41.

41. “Application for Membership in the John Birch Society,” Clise Papers.

42. B.E. Hutchinson to Clise, February 9, 1959, Clise Papers. Hutchinson had served with Welch as a director of the National Association of Manufacturers.

43. Clise to Mark Granite, October 21, 1958, Clise Papers.

44. Charles Clise was in real estate and investment, and James Clise manufactured and marketed building materials; they had similar political perspectives.

45. See Eckard V. Toy, Jr., “Spiritual Mobilization: The Failure of an Ultraconservative Ideal in the 1950s,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 61 (April 1970): 77–86; and Toy, “The Oxford Group and the Strike of the Seattle Longshoremen in 1934,” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 69 (October 1978): 174–84.

46. Clise to R. Mort Frayn, November 10, 1952, Clise Papers.

47. Clise to Joseph R. McCarthy and Harry P. Cain, August 29, 1951, Frederick E. Baker Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene; Clise to J. Edgar Hoover, July 2, 1954; Clise to Lee Moran, March 22, 1955, Clise Papers.

48. Hutchinson to William C. Mullendore, September 30, 1959, Mullendore Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Knight Library, University of Oregon, Eugene.

49. Clise to Hutchinson, February 19, 1959, Clise Papers.

50. Robbins also subscribed to American Opinion. Harry M. Robbins to Clise, October 7, 1958; February 24, 1959, Clise Papers.

51. Welch to Clise, February 25, 1959, Clise Papers.

52. Welch to Clise, August 13, 1959, Clise Papers.

53. Ibid.

54. Holman to Welch, September 3, 16, 1959, Holman Papers; Clise to Welch, October 2, 1959; Stuart G. Thompson to Clise, October 9, 1959; Welch to Clise, October 12, 1959, Clise Papers.

55. George Washington Robnett to Clise, September 24, 1959, Clise Papers. See also Mark Sherwin, The Extremists (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1963), 75.

56. Welch to Clise, June 9, 1959, Clise Papers. Nearly one-third of the officers and board members of the Committee against Summit Entanglements were also directors of the John Birch Society.

57. “Notes of Meeting at Olympic Hotel,” September 25, 1959, Clise Papers.

58. 1959 file; Clise to Welch, October 2, 1959, Clise Papers.

59. Clise to Hughston M. McBain, October 6, 1959, Clise Papers.

60. “Notes on Robert Welch,” September 25, 26, 1959, Clise Papers.

61. Clise to Welch, September 26, October 2, 16, 1959; Holman to Clise, September 30, 1959; Welch to Clise, October 1, 1959; Clise to McBain, October 6, 1959, Clise Papers.

62. The JBS encouraged life memberships. Clise planned to invite attorneys Edward Allen, Paul Ashley, Payne Karr, and Charles Paul; Alan Black, treasurer of Seattle Cedar Mfg. Co.; R.B. Colwell, a property manager; W.V. Culver, vice president of Vermiculite Northwest; Joshua Green, Jr., president of Peoples National Bank; J.J. Pfeiffer, manager of James W. Clise and Co.; Paul Piggott, president of Pacific Car and Foundry Co.; Gordon Scott, president of Pioneer Sand & Gravel Co.; Alfred Schweppe, former dean of the University of Washington Law School; Paul Smith, president of Smith Shingle and Lumber Co.; and S.E. Stretton, Pacific Northwest Manager of Standard Oil of California. Clise to Welch, October 1, 2, 1959, Clise Papers.

63.Oregon Journal, March 30, 1961; Oregonian, March 31, 1961.

64. James A. Aho, The Politics of Righteousness: Idaho Christian Patriotism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1990), 114–17.

65. McGirr, Suburban Warriors, 70–5.

66. Clise to P.C. Beezley, November 4, 1959, Clise Papers.

67. Gladys G. Giffin to Clise, February 11, 1960, Clise Papers. Clise used a pseudonym in these campaigns, signing his name as James Williams of Mercer Island in a letter to the editor of the Seattle Times, January 16, 1960 (in Clise Papers).

68. While a graduate student at the University of Oregon, the author observed the activities of Edith Phetteplace. For Mrs. Bruce, see Oregon Journal, March 30, 1961.

69.John Birch Society Bulletin, November 30, 1959, 2.

70. Clise to Glenn A. Green, January 29, 1960, Clise Papers.

71. Lee J. Adamson to Clise, August 18, 1960, Clise Papers.

72. See “Fourth Quarter Report,” SPX Research Associates, February 1, 1960, Clise Papers. In Hutton’s terminology, SPX stood for Soviet Principle Ten, the theory of subversion.

73. Flynn and Gerhardt, Silent Brotherhood, 20–2; and Elinor Langer, A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, The Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003), 115–16.

74.Oregonian, February 10, 1992; author’s collection.

75. Mrs. William Lee Bailey to Clise, September 14, 1960, Clise Papers.




By: Eckard V. Toy, Jr.