White Greetings

Ex-Klan frontman J.D. Alder has exchanged his robe and pointy hat for a reverend's blacks

A police helicopter hovered over Port St. Lucie last week, and cop cars lined all the roads in a five-mile radius. Officers, both uniformed and plainclothes, combed the area for clues and witnesses. The Washington Mutual Bank had been robbed.

Not long after the robbery, an African-American cop came to the door of a lime-green, ranch-style house that was located across the tree-lined street from the bank. He was looking for clues; perhaps a neighbor had seen something unusual. When the policeman entered the home, he saw things that were decidedly out of the ordinary, though they had nothing to do with banks or crooks. Three flags hung in the living room -- the Union Jack, the Scottish Dragon, and a Confederate battle pennant -- along with two portraits of Robert E. Lee, and a red cross with black rectangles was painted on the interior of the front door. The visitor didn't say anything, but it was obvious he was thinking along the lines of What the hell?

In this house lives a man who some people consider a beast. He holes up here studying history, reading the news, and fighting for his cause. The 46-year-old speaks softly and in a deep, gravelly voice. His cheeks are somewhat fleshy, and his hair is thinning and graying. He's a little hunched over, and a Benson and Hedges cigarette serves as his sixth finger -- there's always one in hand. This man does not appear, at least at first, as an immediate threat.

But he has sinister eyes. If it weren't for them, he would look more like someone's father than evil incarnate. And while he used to be the frontman for all things hateful, he has recently changed his image.

Meet J.D. Alder, former Imperial Wizard of the Templar Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Until two years ago, all the Grand Dragons and other Klan members in the southeastern United States reported to him. During the last three decades, he has been embroiled in all sorts of controversy and has been a talk show whipping boy.

Remember Jerry Springer's "Christmas with the Klan" in 1996? Maybe you recall the white-hooded guest's opening statement: "We're all gathered here tonight to celebrate a white Christmas, a Ku Klux Klan Christmas, a Christmas with multicolored lights instead of the damned Jew product of light bushes that we've got in the department stores. And Klana Claus will be here to give all the good Klansmen some real nice stocking stuffers and lumps of coal for the little nigger kids because we're having a white Christmas."

Or maybe you recollect another Springer show, when a Klan member dressed in full regalia was attacked by a black father-and-son combo?

Or how about in 1994, when an "archbishop" baptized children into the Klan on Geraldo Rivera's "Kids in the Klan"?

If you think hard and call upon your long-term memory, you might even remember the time the country was introduced to the Klan via a TV talk show; it was on Donahue in 1993.

Remember?

That was all Alder. He was, in some ways, the Klan's public face. He recalls the Springer appearance most fondly. "It was a free trip to Chicago, and Chicago's a great city," Alder says. "We wanted to get our message out and let people know that we were here."

What was the message? "White people need to wake up."

But these days Alder is a Klan ex-pat, as it were. And he's preaching a whole new genre of hate. No longer does he burn crosses and attend rallies in a white hood; he officiates at church services and plays politics.

He's in constant contact by telephone and e-mail with fellow members of the American Friends of the British National Party (AF-BNP), a fringe political group that advocates white power and white preservation. It calls for closing the borders of the United States and Great Britain to immigrants and informs white people that this land is theirs, so they should stand their ground.

The Klan just wasn't tough enough for Alder. "I saw the Klan as a dead end," Alder comments. "It's not political, it's just meetings and ceremonies. We could never get beyond that point of, well, what do you do when you get the members and they're all robed up and you have a cross-lighting?... And you can't keep doing that forever and ever."

Born in North Carolina, Alder grew up outside New York City. Alder says he has been a proponent of separation since the seventh grade. His involvement in white-power propaganda began in 1968 during the George Wallace-for-President campaign, then throughout the 1970s he dabbled in the now-defunct states'-rights movement in New York.

During the 1980s he rose quickly through the ranks of the Klan. Alder was and remains an easy conversationalist who lives and breathes white rhetoric. But by the mid-1990s he began to believe the Klan had become more of a joke then a threat.

He found an alternative two years ago, when an obscure group, a splinter of a political party in the United Kingdom, held a conference at the West Palm Beach Sheraton. This wasn't a bunch of guys in the backwoods with torches, barbecue, beer, and mangy German shepherds. It was the AF-BNP.

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