Richard Girnt Butler
|Died||September 8, 2004 (aged 86)|
(m. 1941; died 1995)
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/||United States Army Air Forces|
|Years of service||1942–1945|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
Richard Girnt Butler (February 23, 1918 – September 8, 2004) was an American engineer and white supremacist. After dedicating himself to the Christian Identity movement, a racialist offshoot of British Israelism, Butler founded the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations and would become one of the most well known and influential leaders of the American far-right.
Butler was born in Denver, Colorado, to Winfred Girnt and Clarence Butler. His father was of English ancestry, while his mother was of German-English ancestry. He was raised in Los Angeles, California, and after graduating from high school in 1938, he became an aeronautical engineering major at Los Angeles City College. He was a co-inventor of the rapid repair of tubeless tires, for which he held both U.S. and Canadian patents.
Butler was a former member of the Silver Shirts, an American fascist organization modeled on the Nazi Brownshirts, which was active until its suppression following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
While he was a member of a Presbyterian church he married Betty Litch in 1941, with whom he fathered two daughters. Litch died on December 1, 1995 after 54 years of marriage. After Pearl Harbor, Butler enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he served stateside for the duration of World War II.
In 1946, Butler organized and operated a machine plant for the production and precision machining of automotive parts and engine assemblies for commercial and military aircraft in the United States, Africa, and India. Butler was a marketing analyst for new inventions from 1964 to 1973. Butler later became a senior manufacturing engineer for Lockheed Martin in Palmdale, California.
In the early 1970s, he moved with his family from Palmdale, California, to North Idaho, where he founded the Aryan Nations, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ–Christian, whose ideology is a mixture of Christian Identity and Nazism. The organization operated from a 20-acre (81,000 m2) compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, a suburb of the tourist town Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which became the center of a Neo-Nazi network with worldwide links. Beginning in the 1980s, Butler was implicated in plots to overthrow the United States government, and he had ties to the neo-Nazi group known as The Order. His group often blanketed the community with fliers and mass mailings, and held an annual parade in downtown Coeur d'Alene, however the parade was a pariah since the Aryan Nations was condemned by the town of Coeur d'Alene. Locals responded almost immediately by forming the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, with legal battles often overshadowing the parades.
Butler organized yearly gatherings of white supremacists at his compound in Idaho which he termed the "Aryan Nations World Congress." At their height in 1984-86, several hundred people would attend including most of the well known leaders of the American far right, such as Klansman Louis Beam, White Aryan Resistance leader Tom Metzger, Gordon "Jack" Mohr, Robert E. Miles, Posse Comitatus leader James Wickstrom, Thomas Robb, Grand Wizard Don Black, and John Trochmann leader of the Militia of Montana.
In 1987, Butler was among fourteen far right activists "indicted for seditious conspiracy" by the U.S. Department of Justice, and their trial was held at a federal court in Arkansas. However, "prosecutors failed to convince an Arkansas jury that Butler and several other prominent racists had conspired to start a race war."
In 2000, Victoria and Jason Keenan, a Native American mother and son, who were harassed at gunpoint by Aryan Nations' members – in part by asking them if they were Native Americans – successfully sued Butler. Represented by local attorney Norm Gissel and Morris Dees's Montgomery, Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, they won a combined civil judgment of $6.3 million from Butler and the Aryan Nations' members who attacked them. Butler then sold the compound. In September 2000, fellow Sandpoint, Idaho millionaire Vincent Bertollini provided Butler with a new house in Hayden, Idaho. The house was troublesome for neighbors; police were forced to respond to at least one domestic disturbance call, in which two Aryan Nations members were engaged in an altercation on his lawn.
From late 2003 until his death, his reputation within the Aryan Nations suffered; when Butler and traveling companion Wendy Christine Iwanow attempted to board a plane in Spokane, Washington, Iwanow turned out to be porn star "Bianca Trump" and she was arrested on an outstanding forgery warrant.
Butler died in his home on September 8, 2004. A spokesman for the Aryan Nations stated that he died in his sleep from congestive heart failure. At the time of his death, the Aryan Nations had 200 members, Butler's 2002 World Congress drew fewer than 100 people, and when he ran for mayor, he lost by 2,100 votes to 50.