George Lincoln Rockwell (March 9, 1918 – August 25, 1967) was an American neo-Nazi and founder of the American Nazi Party. He was a major figure in the neo-Nazi movement in the United States, and his beliefs and writings have continued to be influential among neo-Nazis.
On August 25, 1967, Rockwell was murdered by a former member of his own group while leaving a laundromat in Arlington, Virginia.
Rockwell was born in Bloomington, Illinois, the first of three children of George Lovejoy "Doc" Rockwell and Claire (Schade) Rockwell. His father was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and was of English and Scottish ancestry. His mother was the daughter of Augustus Schade, a German immigrant, and Corrine Boudreau, who was of Acadian French ancestry. Both parents were vaudeville comedians and actors; and his father's acquaintances included Fred Allen, Benny Goodman, Walter Winchell, Jack Benny, and Groucho Marx. His parents divorced when Rockwell was six years old, and he divided his youth between his mother in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and his father in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.
Rockwell attended Atlantic City High School in Atlantic City, and applied to Harvard University when he was 17 years old. However, he was denied admission. One year later, his father enrolled him at Hebron Academy in Hebron, Maine. He became an avid reader of Western philosophy and socially significant novels, leading him to re-examine the topic of religion. He had initially perceived himself as a devout Protestant, but, after reading the Bible numerous times, he perceived religion as a necessary pillar to civilization rather than literally true. He promoted the Christian Identity sect in the 1960s.
In August 1938, Rockwell enrolled at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island as a philosophy major. In his sociology courses, he rejected equality and the idea that people were made by their environment and all human beings had the same potential in life. He debated with fellow students over topics such as social themes in popular novels.
Military service and marriages
Rockwell had a successful naval career, both on active duty and in the Naval Reserve. A veteran of World War II, he was a naval aviator and served a follow-on tour during the Korean War. He transferred to the naval reserve.
In his sophomore year, Rockwell dropped out of Brown University and accepted a commission in the United States Navy. He appreciated the order and discipline of the Navy, and attended flight schools in Massachusetts and Florida in 1940.
On April 24, 1943, Rockwell married Judith Aultman, whom he had met while attending Brown University. Aultman was a student at Pembroke College, which was the female section of the university. The couple had three daughters: Bonnie, Nancy, and Phoebe Jean. At the time, Rockwell was studying at the Navy's aerial photography school in South Florida. When he completed his training, he served in the Atlantic and Pacific theatres of World War II. He served aboard the USS Omaha, USS Pastores, USS Wasp and USS Mobile, primarily in support, photo reconnaissance, transport and training functions. Though he never actually flew in combat, he was considered a good pilot and an efficient officer.
Rockwell was recalled to duty as a lieutenant commander at the beginning of the Korean War. He moved to San Diego, California, with his wife and three children, where he trained Navy and United States Marine Corps pilots.
In 1952, Rockwell was ordered to report to Norfolk, Virginia, where he was notified by a superior officer that he would be transferred to Iceland. Since families were not permitted to be with American service personnel stationed there, his wife and children stayed with her mother in Barrington, Rhode Island. Due to the separation, his wife filed for divorce the following year. Several months after his return to Iceland, Rockwell attended a diplomatic party in the capital city of Reykjavík. He met Thóra Hallgrímsdóttir there, and they were married on October 3, 1953 in the Icelandic National Cathedral by Thóra's uncle, the Bishop of Iceland. They spent their honeymoon in Berchtesgaden, Germany, where Hitler once owned the Berghof mountain retreat in the Bavarian Alps. Together they had three children: Hallgrímur, Margrét, and Bentína.
In his nineteen years of service, Rockwell had obtained the rank of Commander and was commanding officer of several aviation reserve units. In 1960, as a result of his political and racist activities, the United States Navy discharged Rockwell one year short of retirement, since he was regarded as "not deployable" due to his political views. The proceedings to dismiss him were an extremely public affair, and Rockwell widely advertised the results, saying he "had basically been thrown out of the Navy", though he was still given an honorable discharge.
After the war ended, Rockwell worked as a sign painter out of a small shop on land owned by his father in Boothbay Harbor. In 1946, he entered the commercial art program at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He and his wife Judith moved to New York City so he could study at Pratt. He did well at Pratt, winning the $1,000 first prize for an advertisement he did for the American Cancer Society. However, he left Pratt before finishing his final year, and moved to Maine to found his own advertising agency.
Rockwell saw a business opportunity in publishing a magazine for United States servicemen's wives. In September 1955, he launched the U.S. Lady. After presenting the idea to the generals and admirals who headed public relations departments of the military services, Rockwell began publishing in Washington, D.C. The new enterprise also incorporated Rockwell's political causes: his opposition to both racial integration and communism. He financed the operation through stock sales and subscriptions. With a staff of thirty workers, Rockwell could only promise to pay his employees before the launch of the first issue. The publication continued to have financial problems, and he sold the magazine. However, he still aspired to pursue a career in publishing.
It was during his time in San Diego that Rockwell became a supporter of Adolf Hitler and Nazism.:10 He was influenced by Senator Joseph McCarthy's stance against communism. Rockwell supported General Douglas MacArthur's candidacy for President of the United States. He adopted the corncob pipe, following MacArthur's example. Rockwell attended a Gerald L. K. Smith rally in Los Angeles, and read Conde McGinley's Common Sense, a political newspaper that introduced him to anti-semitism and Holocaust denial. He then read Hitler's National Socialist manifesto Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Privately, he adopted their beliefs. He published an Animal Farm-type parody, the long-form poem The Fable of the Ducks and the Hens. This was Rockwell's interpretation of Jewish power in the United States in the 20th century. In 1952, Rockwell began working with anti-Semitic and anti-Communist groups.
That year, he attended the American Nationalist Conference, which was organized by Conde McGinley’s Christian Educational Association.
After his move to Washington, D.C. in 1955 he gradually became radicalized until, in the words of his biographer, he was "on the farthest fringe of the right wing.":24–25 In July 1958, Rockwell demonstrated in front of the White House in an anti-war protest against President Dwight D. Eisenhower's decision to send peace-keeping troops to the Middle East. One day he received a large package from a supporter; it contained an 18-foot-long Swastika flag. He placed the flag on the wall of his home and made a shrine with Hitler's photo in the center, three lighted candles in front. In his autobiography, Rockwell claimed to have had a religious experience and swore allegiance to his leader, saluting "Heil Hitler!" Rockwell and a few supporters had uniforms. They armed themselves with rifles and revolvers, and paraded about his home in Arlington, Virginia. The window to his home was left open, so that others could see the huge Swastika flag. Drew Pearson wrote a news column about Rockwell, giving him his first taste of publicity. In the presidential election of 1964, Rockwell ran as a write-in candidate, receiving 212 votes. He ran unsuccessfully in the Virginia gubernatorial election of 1965 as an independent, this time polling 5,730 votes, or 1.02 percent of the total, finishing last among the four candidates.
American Nazi Party
In March 1959, Rockwell founded the World Union of Free Enterprise National Socialists (WUFENS), a name selected to denote opposition to state ownership of property. In December, the organization was renamed the American Nazi Party, and its headquarters was relocated to 928 North Randolph Street in Arlington, Virginia.
In order to attract media attention, Rockwell held a rally on April 3, 1960, on the National Mall of Washington, D.C., where he addressed the crowd with a two-hour long speech. The second rally was to be held at Union Square in New York City. Mayor Robert Wagner refused to grant him a permit to speak, and he appealed that decision to the New York Supreme Court. Jewish war veterans and Holocaust survivors gathered to oppose his appeal and, during a court recess, when Rockwell emerged in the courthouse rotunda he was surrounded by a crowd of television reporters. One of the reporters, Reese Schonfeld, asked Rockwell how he would treat Jews if he came to power in the United States. Rockwell replied by stating that he would treat Jews just as he treated all other American citizens. If they were loyal Americans, everything would be fine; if they were traitors, they would be executed. When Schonfeld asked Rockwell what percentage of Jews he perceived were traitors, Rockwell replied, "Ninety percent." The Jewish war veterans and Holocaust survivors rioted and began beating Rockwell and the reporter with their umbrellas, and Rockwell was escorted out of the courthouse rotunda in the midst of a police convoy. Rockwell, with the aid of the ACLU, eventually won his permit, but it was long after the date of the planned event.
The third rally was set for July 4, 1960, again held on the Mall. Rockwell and his men were confronted by a mob and a riot ensued. The police arrested Rockwell and eight party members. Rockwell demanded a trial-instead he was committed to a psychiatric hospital for thirty days. In less than two weeks, he was released and found mentally competent to stand trial. He published a pamphlet inspired by this experience titled How to Get Out or Stay Out of the Insane Asylum.
In the summer of 1966, Rockwell led a counter-demonstration against Martin Luther King's attempt to bring an end to de facto segregation in the white Chicago suburb of Cicero, Illinois. He believed that King was a tool for Jewish Communists who wanted to integrate America. Rockwell believed that integration was a Jewish plot to rule the white community.
Rockwell led the American Nazi Party in assisting the Ku Klux Klan and similar organizations during the Civil Rights Movement, in attempts to counter the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But he soon came to believe that the Klan was stuck in the past and ineffective in helping him wage a modern racial struggle. After hearing the slogan "Black Power" during a debate in 1966 with Black Panther Stokely Carmichael, Rockwell altered the phrase and started a call for "White Power". White Power later became the name of the party's newspaper and the title of a book authored by Rockwell.
Rockwell was a Holocaust denier. In an April 1966 interview with Playboy journalist Alex Haley, Rockwell stated, "I don't believe for one minute that any 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated by Hitler. It never happened." When asked in a 1965 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation if the Holocaust were true, Rockwell replied by claiming he had "incontrovertible documentary proof that that's not true."
The two-story farm house Rockwell established as his "Stormtrooper Barracks" was located at 6150 Wilson Boulevard, in the Dominion Hills district of Arlington. It was there that the interview with Alex Haley occurred. Situated on the tallest hill in Arlington County, the house has long since been razed and the property has been incorporated into the Upton Hill Regional Park. A small picnic table pavilion marks the house's former location. The site of the party headquarters, 928 North Randolph Street in the Ballston area of Arlington, is now a massive hotel and office building complex. Rockwell's successor, Matt Koehl, relocated the headquarters after Rockwell's death to 2507 North Franklin Road in the Clarendon area. It became the last physical address of the party before Koehl moved it to New Berlin, Wisconsin in the mid-1980s. The small red brick building, often misidentified today as Rockwell's former headquarters, is now a coffee shop called The Java Shack.
Hatenanny Records and the Hate Bus
In the 1960s, Rockwell attempted to draw attention to his cause by starting a small record label, named Hatenanny Records. The name was based on the word "hootenanny", a term given to folk music performances. The label released two 45 RPM singles of music with openly racist lyrics, and were sold mostly through mail order and at party rallies. When the Freedom Riders drove their campaign to desegregate bus stations in the Deep South, Rockwell secured a Volkswagen van and decorated it with White supremacist slogans, dubbing it the "Hate Bus" and personally driving it to speaking engagements and party rallies. According to an FBI report on the American Nazi Party, the van was repossessed after a loan default.
The party also produced and distributed a number of pamphlets and books, including writings by Rockwell, the periodical Stormtrooper Magazine (originally National Socialist Bulletin), and a propaganda comic book, Here Comes Whiteman!, where the title superhero character battles enemies modeled after racist stereotypes.
On August 25, 1967, Rockwell was shot and killed while leaving a laundromat in Arlington, Virginia. John Patler, a former member of Rockwell's group, was convicted of the murder and served eight years in prison. Hearing of his son's death, Rockwell's 78-year-old father said: "I am not surprised at all. I've expected it for quite some time."
Matt Koehl, the second in command at NSWPP, moved to establish control over Rockwell's body and the assets of the NSWPP, which at the time had some 300 active members and 3,000 financial supporters. Rockwell's parents wanted a private burial in Maine, but declined to fight with the Nazis over the question. On August 27, an NSWPP spokesman reported that Federal officials had approved a military burial at Culpeper National Cemetery, Rockwell being an honorably discharged veteran. The cemetery specified that no Nazi insignia could be displayed, and when the fifty mourners violated these conditions the entrance to the cemetery was blocked in a five-hour standoff, during which the hearse (which had been stopped on railroad tracks near the cemetery) was nearly struck by an approaching train. The next day Rockwell's body was cremated.
Called the "American Hitler" by the BBC, Rockwell was a source of inspiration for White Nationalist politician David Duke. As a student in high school, when Duke learned of Rockwell's assassination, he reportedly said "The greatest American who ever lived has been shot down and killed". In the mid-1960s, Rockwell had a strategy to develop his Nazi political philosophy within the Christian Identity religious movement. The Christian Identity group Aryan Nations started to use various Nazi flags in its services, and its security personnel started wearing uniforms similar to those worn by Rockwell's stormtroopers. Two of Rockwell's associates, Matt Koehl and William Luther Pierce, formed their own organizations. Koehl, who was Rockwell's successor, renamed the NSWPP the New Order in 1983 and relocated it to Wisconsin shortly thereafter. Pierce founded the National Alliance.
George Lincoln Rockwell is mentioned in the lyrics to the Bob Dylan song "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues". In the lyrics to the song, the narrator parodies Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson as being Communists, and claims that the only "true American" is George Lincoln Rockwell. Quoting the lyrics, "I know for a fact that he hates Commies, 'cause he picketed the movie Exodus."
For their album Not Insane or Anything You Want To, the comedy troupe Firesign Theatre created a fictional presidential candidate, George Papoon, running on the equally fictional ticket, the National Surrealist Light Peoples Party, the name taken as an apparent parody of Rockwell's own group, the National Socialist White Peoples Party.
In the television miniseries Roots: The Next Generations, Marlon Brando portrayed Rockwell and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his performance. On the post-World War II alternative reality show The Man in the High Castle, Nazi-occupied New York City's main airport is named Lincoln Rockwell Airport.
- This Time The World (1961)
- White Power (1966)