William Dudley Pelley

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William Dudley Pelley, in the uniform of the Silver Shirts

William Dudley Pelley (1890-1965) was a Hollywood screenwriter best known as the founder and leader of The Silver Shirts. It existed 1933-41 as an ant-Semitic hate group with chapters in the South and the West Coast.

Through a curious blending of astrology, spiritualism, anti-Semitism, and white supremacy, Pelley's Legion envisioned a Christian commonwealth filled with Nazi symbols and philosophies. The group was all sound and fury and apart from speeches and hate literature, had few activities.

Pelley won a few thousand votes for president in 1936 on the so-called "Christian Party" ticket.

While he preached against 'the international Jewish-Communist conspiracy' and the 'greediness of industrial capitalists,' Pelley never grounded his ideology in European fascism as did such writers as Lawrence Dennis. Christian millenarianism and nostalgia for a pre-industrial American utopia - the mainstays of Pelley's ideology - attracted most of his adherents. His influence waned after he dissolved the Silver Legion of America in 1940, and ended with his arrest and conviction for sedition in 1942. He was released in 1950 and died in obscurity.

Pelley was the son of a Methodist minister from Massachusetts but never graduated from high school.

See also

Further reading

  • Beekman, Scott. Wiliam Dudley Pelley: A Life in Right-Wing Extremism and the Occult (2005)
  • Beekman, Scott. "Wiliam Dudley Pelley" in American National Biography
  • Ribuffo, Leo P. The Old Christian Right: The Protestant Far Right from the Great Depression to the Cold War (1983), which studies three anti-Semitic activists - William D. Pelley, Gerald B. Winrod, and Gerald K. Smith