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Louis Beam became a lone-wolf terrorist against the government he believed had betrayed the white race.
One of the most influential and incendiary personalities on the far right, Louis Beam (1946–) is generally considered the first important practitioner of the “lone-wolf” or “leaderless resistance” model of activism. Beam became active first as a Klansman, later as a neo-Nazi with Christian Identity ties. For over three decades he has engaged in an active crusade against a government that he judges tyrannical and controlled by an international Jewish conspiracy.
Reared in the segregationist South, Beam grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas. After an eighteen-month tour of duty in Vietnam, he returned to Texas in 1968 and became a member of the Texas branch of United Klans of America (UKA), under the leadership of Texas grand dragon Frank Converse.
In 1976 Beam left the UKA and joined David Duke’s Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), accepting the assignment of training Klansmen in guerrilla warfare.
Beam grew increasingly dismayed over the diminishing membership rolls of the white-supremacist movement, and it became his personal mission somehow to revitalize the Klan. During 1978 and 1979 he recruited Klan members among U.S. Army personnel at Fort Hood in Texas, and by 1980 Duke had promoted him to grand dragon of the Texas KKK.
In 1981 Beam ignited the explosive tensions between refugee Vietnamese shrimp fishermen and native fishermen sharing the Gulf Coast waters in the Galveston Bay area of Texas. With the battle cry “White Power! We will fight!” Beam brought in armed Klansmen in support of the Texas fishermen and harassed the refugee fishermen and other Vietnamese families residing in the area.
In concert with the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Vietnamese Fishermen’s Association sought an injunction that would halt the Klan’s harassment. In May 1981 a U.S. district court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered Beam and his men to cease engaging in unlawful acts of violence and intimidation.
Beam resigned as Texas grand dragon and became ambassador at large for Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations. While living at the Aryan headquarters at Hayden Lake, Idaho, Beam established an elaborate computer network to more effectively promulgate racist and anti-Semitic propaganda. Beam also created the notorious assassination “point system,” awarding scores to would-be assassins based on the importance of their victims. All indications were that Beam would ascend to the leadership of Aryan Nations when the ailing Butler decided to step down.
On April 24, 1987, Beam and thirteen others were indicted by a federal grand jury in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on charges that included the firebombing of a Jewish community center in Bloomington, Indiana, attempting to blow up a natural gas pipeline in Fulton, Arkansas, purchasing firearms and explosives in Missouri and Oklahoma, and stealing over $4 million from banks and armored cars in Washington State. Taking the code name “Lonestar,” Beam disappeared in Mexico before the indictment was issued. After an encounter with Mexican federal judicial police in Guadalajara that left one officer critically wounded, Beam was captured and turned over to U.S. officials on November 6, 1987.
Beam chose to represent himself in court, with the assistance of Kirk Lyons, a lawyer known to be sympathetic to radical-right clients. On April 7, 1988, after seven weeks of testimony and twenty hours of deliberations, the jury acquitted Beam and his codefendants on all charges, dealing a major blow to the federal government’s attempted policing of the far right during the 1980s.
Filled with new confidence in his cause and defiance toward the federal government, Beam announced the birth of the “New Right,” a movement that married Christian Identity to “the creation of a national state for the white man, an Aryan republic within the borders of the present occupied country.” At the same time, Beam linked America’s far right with the “liberation movements” of Syria, Libya, Iran, and Palestine. In Beam’s view, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a particularly admirable figure.
In the first half of the 1990s Beam was recognized as one of the most influential figures in American extremism. He began slowly to fall out of favor with the radicals in the movement because he made anti-Semitism secondary to ridding the nation of the evils of the federal government. Beam had also been heard to make anti-Nazi comments.
In a letter to supporters in October 1996 Beam stated that it had been ten years since his arrest, trial, and subsequent release at Fort Smith, Arkansas. He had given the cause another ten years, and now he intended to give his family the next years of his life. In addition, he admitted for the first time, he had been exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam, and his health was declining.
Today, Beam focuses his efforts primarily on his website.