By Ken Stone, Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: Tom Metzger moved from Fallbrook to northern Indiana in 2006 but later returned to Southern California. Photo via splcenter.org
November 10, 2020 (San Diego) - Tom Metzger, one of the nation’s most notorious white supremacists and anti-Semites, has died, according to a post on his White Aryan Resistance website. He was 82.
The post said: “Thomas Linton Metzger, born April 9th, 1938 in Warsaw, Indiana, passed away in Hemet, California, on November 4th, 2020.”
The death of Metzger--who lived in Fallbrook for 40 years, where he worked as a TV repairman—also was noted in a paid death notice Tuesday in The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Ironically appearing next to an ad for Jewish burial spaces, the U-T “Life Tribute” ran only four sentences and didn’t mention his run for Congress, leadership of the Ku Klux Klan and legal battles.
His website repeated info from the death notice:
“He is survived by Mary Arnold, six children – Carolyn, Dorraine, John, Lynn, Rebecca, Laurie along with nine grandchildren and one great- grandchild. Tom served in the U.S. Army as a PFC-E1 from 1956 to 1959 and then moved to Southern California to work in the electronics industry.
Tom lived in Fallbrook, California for over 40 years working as the local TV repairman until he retired and moved to his hometown in Indiana before returning to California. The family will be having a private gathering.”
Cause of death wasn’t immediately known.
Nick Martin, editor of The Informant, which covers hate and extremism in America, tweeted: “If David Duke is America’s best-known white supremacist in the past 40 or so years, then Tom Metzger was arguably No. 2. His influence on organized racism in the US was large, and he even had sway with a number of young neo-Nazis in recent years.”
In 1990, an Oregon jury ordered Metzger to pay $5 million in punitive damages after skinheads he incited pleaded guilty in 1989 to criminal charges in the racially motivated killing of Mulugeta Seraw, a 27-year-old Ethiopian.
Metzger’s son, John, was told to pay $1 million—part of a $12.5 million judgment.
“The jury also awarded $3 million in punitive damages against the white supremacist group (WAR) and $2.5 million in compensatory damages under a rule that authorizes a plaintiff to collect the money from any defendant who can pay it,” said the New York Times.
Metzger in 1980 won a three-man Democratic Party primary for Congress in San Diego’s 43rd District, leading the party to disavow his candidacy and endorse his opponent, Republican Clair Burgener. Metzger lost by 87% to 13% in the heavily Republican district.
Donald Harrison was press secretary for Burgener’s campaign.
He said Burgener was so popular that no well-known Democrat bothered to run in the Democratic primary.
“At the last minute, Metzger, who then was known as a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, threw his hat into the ring, and won the Democratic party nomination, much to the party’s embarrassment,” said Harrison, now editor and co-publisher of San Diego Jewish World.
He said he developed a “Hatfield and McCoy” media strategy in that 1980 race, “whereby we would get Republicans and Democrats who were known to be political rivals, or whose philosophies were diametrically opposed, to hold joint news conferences in Burgener’s behalf.”
They told the media that they may not agree on many issues, but on “this we certainly agree: San Diego must not send a Ku Klux Klansman to Congress. Tom Metzger’s politics are too extreme and beyond the pale.”
Harrison said Metzger tried to play down his right-wing extremism, pretending that he had moderated his views.
“We showed a documentary in which Metzger appeared mouthing hateful, racist slogans,” he said via email. “Metzger showed up, wearing a mask as if the screening were a Halloween party. But his effort to make a big joke of it backfired, because when the news media saw him talking hatefully on film, they demanded afterwards to know whether he still believed those racist views or whether he would renounce them.”
Metzger was unwilling to outright repudiate the views he expressed in the documentary, helping doom his candidacy.
“Burgener probably would have won the election anyway, but the point of the campaign was to put San Diego solidly on record against racism and anti-Semitism.”
Ourcampaigns.com also noted his June 1982 run for the U.S. Senate out of California and his November 2010 race for a seat in Congress from Indiana. In that 2010 race, he received 10 votes as an Independent, losing to Republican Marlin A. Stutzman.
“Tom Metzger was personally responsible for spreading more hatred and misery than many people will likely ever realize,” said San Diego-based journalist Brooke Binkowski, who calls out racism via her truthorfiction.com fact-checking site and Twitter feed.
“Having spent much of my youth in a town that was absolutely rotten with white supremacists who worshiped Metzger and White Aryan Resistanc —La Mesa, California—I can tell you that his influence was wide and long lived. Now that he’s dead, I hope we can uproot his legacy, burn it to the ground, and salt the earth.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center labeled Metzger’s ideology as neo-Nazi.
The center, an Alabama-based nonprofit that monitors hate groups, summarized his criminal history:
“Metzger was jailed in 1991 for 45 days of a six-month sentence (he was released early to attend to his dying wife) in Los Angeles County for unlawful assembly after attending a cross burning in 1982. He and his son, John, were jailed for five days in Toronto, Ontario, in 1992 for violating Canada’s immigration laws by entering the country “to promote race hatred.” In 2009, Metzger’s home was searched in connection with the arrest of two brothers accused of carrying out a mail bomb attack that injured an Arizona diversity director.”
Simon Purdue, a Ph.D. candidate at Boston’s Northeastern University, also is a doctoral fellow with the Centre for Anaylsis of the Radical Right, based at the University of Oslo.
In a tweet Tuesday, Purdue said he’s spent the past three months reviewing Metzger’s newsletters and watching his TV appearances.
“All I can say is that 82 years was 82 too many,” he said. “He will not be missed.”
Don Bauder, who tracked white-collar criminals for the U-T and the San Diego Reader, recalled writing a short piece in September 2013 for the Reader about a neo-Nazi group attempting to establish an all-White beachhead in tiny Leith, North Dakota.
“Leith was fighting the neo-Nazis,” Bauder said Tuesday. “The commander of the group proclaimed that the group intended to ‘plant the seeds of National Socialism in North Dakota.’ My Reader piece noted that some real estate in the town purchased by the white supremacist group had already been transferred to Metzger, then 75, and living in Indiana.”
Bauder says Metzger vehemently complained to the Reader, claiming the weekly had said he had gone bankrupt.
“We replied that we had not said he had gone bankrupt, but that his group, White Aryan Resistance, had gone bankrupt,” Bauder said. “He replied with a nasty piece blasting us, but because of inaccuracies in it, we took it down. Then he wrote back: ‘Real cute blocking my second response. I jus loves dat freedom of de press.’”