He could be one of 18 people making decisions that will affect your children's education, and some say he has no place in state government. Ron Wilson has a lengthy history of being affiliated with groups that not everyone agrees support a true democracy. His appointment to the state Board of Education has been swarming with controversy because of that.
"It's been tough on my family because they know the kind of person I am," expresses Wilson.
Wilson runs a precious metals company and feels his business experience is what the Board of Education needs.
"I want to make sure the taxpayers of this state are getting a dollar of production out of the education system for every dollar of taxes," says Wilson.
Three out of seven local legislators voted against Wilson.
"It's not so much that I voted against a person or candidate as I was voted for a candidate because I knew Harris Wilkes and Henry Gilbert were well qualified," says Rep. Becky Martin (R) Anderson.
Not only does Wilson not have a background in education, but his past is raising some eyebrows.
"He has a long history of association with groups we consider to be hate and extremist groups," says Deborah Lauter of the Anti Defamation League.
Wilson was commander-in-chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans a couple years ago. Several state lawmakers are also part of that group. He was a member of the League of the South for one year and the Council of Conservative Citizens for four years. He says he left those because he didn't feel comfortable with their views. Wilson is accused of being racist and anti semitic, partly because of a book he once sold.
"One of the books he knowingly included was Barbarians Inside the Gates. It is not an obscure book...it is extremist with conspiracy tones favoring neo-nazi groups," says Lauter.
Wilson says just because he doesn't agree with the book, doesn't mean he shouldn't sell it and he pointed out it got five stars on Amazon.com. He also has the backing of H.K. Edgerton, the previous president of the Asheville, NC branch of the NAACP. He says, "Black students and parents do not have a better friend in South Carolina that Rob G. Wilson,"
Superintendent Inez Tenebaum has voiced her opposition to Wilson's appointment but according to her spokesperson, she has no authority to change it. Each appointee must be certified by the Secretary of State's office and Wilson has reportedly not yet been certified.
Commentary: What's next...replacing the United State's flag in our state's schools with the confederate battle flag. Now I must admit, that would make certain State Senators and House Members naughty parts tingle with joy and feel like they were about to be taken up into the rapture. But instead they would ask the Lord God Almighty to give their first class ticket to heaven to someone else so that they could see the confederate dead walk the earth again. I am not some liberal wacko. I was a member of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans, so was my father. In fact I am a member of more heritage organizations than I care to mention. Many go way back than that ole period of the old "battle of Northawn Aggression". I guess you could say that I am one of those triffling old "blue bloods". But my father and I seceeded from the Sons of the Confederate Veterans when Ron Wilson took over the organization. He attempted, almost successfully, to turn it into a militant and what could truly be considered hate group, and that is truly unfortunate. When this organization was founded it was founded on the principal of honoring the memory of those who died in the war not to refight the war or to work to attempt seceed from the union ever again. Mr. Wilson has tried to do both. His appointment to our State School Board will create true division and dissention into an entity that must work together to provide a pathway to bring up our struggling schools. I don't believe Mr. Wilson will work to do this. While I will try never to inject third party comments into my commentaries, I feel compelled to add this information that was furnished to me by an anonymous source. Mr. Ron Wilson has a file that has been collected on him over the years because of his activities and this is a copy of his confidential profile.
Ronald Wilson is a 56-year-old precious metals dealer from Easley, South Carolina. Until 2003, he also sold textbooks to home schooling parents. Although he has had connections with extremist groups (such as the League of the South and the Council of Conservative Citizens, documented below), most of his current activities take place within the Confederate heritage group, the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV), of which he has been a member since 1991.
Wilson is one of the leaders of a radical faction of SCV members which in the past several years has attempted to take over the SCV in order to make it pursue a more overtly political agenda. From 2002-2004, Wilson was the Commander-in-Chief of the SCV and is still a prominent member.
In 2004, Wilson mounted an unsuccessful campaign for state senator. In the fall of 2004, the Anderson County members of the South Carolina General Assembly selected Wilson by a 4-3 vote to be appointed to the South Carolina Board of Education.
Wilson has admitted in an interview with the South Carolina newspaper The State that he was a former member of the Council of Conservative Citizens. This virulently racist organization, descended from the White Citizens Councils in the South that fought desegregation in the 1950s and 60s, is one of the largest and most active hate groups in the South. Wilson was not just a member, but also wrote a series of columns for the racist group’s newspaper, The Citizens’ Informer, in the 1990s and was a speaker at a Council conference in 1997.
Wilson has also admitted to having been a member of the League of the South, a neo-Confederate organization that supports secession from the United States, claims that “Anglo-Celtic” culture should dominate the South, and asserts that communities should be able to decide whether or not they want to be segregated.
Wilson, in his tenure as C-in-C of the SCV, appointed members of both the Council of Conservative Citizens and the League of the South to prominent leadership positions in the SCV. In fact, he admitted to a reporter that his own SCV Chief of Staff was a member of the League of the South. This was presumably a reference to Ronald Casteel, former Missouri State Chairman of the League.
One of Wilson’s closest allies in his SCV battles has been North Carolina attorney Kirk Lyons, a major figure on the racist right, who has had extensive professional and social connections to a wide variety of neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other racists. While denying that he is a white supremacist, Lyons has admitted to being an “active sympathizer” of his clients’ causes. He is the brother-in-law of David Tate, a member of a white supremacist terrorist group currently serving a life sentence for the murder of a Missouri state trooper. For a number of years, Lyons operated the CAUSE Foundation (the name is an acronym for the “white” countries/regions of Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa, and Europe), which billed itself as a civil liberties legal center for the far right. CAUSE, however, was not successful, which motivated Lyons in the 1990s to move to the more fertile fields of the “Southern heritage” movement, for which he established the Southern Legal Resource Center. Until he resigned to run for SCV C-in-C, Wilson was actually a co-director of the Southern Legal Resource Center.
The South Carolina newspaper The State reports that one financial supporter of Wilson’s 2004 state senate campaign was restaurateur Maurice Bessinger. Bessinger has been a controversial figure in South Carolina ever since it was discovered that he distributed pamphlets at his barbecue restaurants that defended and justified the enslavement of Africans. Under Wilson’s tenure, the SCV created a “Chaplains’ Corps,” and the first “Chaplain-in-Chief” was Pastor John Weaver, author of the pamphlets Bessinger distributed.
Actions and Words
The magazine Intelligence Report has revealed that, through a Web site selling educational materials to home schooling parents, Wilson offered for sale the book “Barbarians Inside the Gates: The Black Book of Bolshevism.” This book, by anti-Semite Donn De Grand-Pré, is an extremist conspiracy tome, often sold by militia and neo-Nazi groups, that depicts a sinister conspiracy (of Jews) trying to take over the United States.
In an affidavit for a civil court case in Virginia in 2003, Wilson said that he believes in the right of secession. He also said that he wanted “Confederate Southern Americans” designated a minority group equivalent to Hispanics or African-Americans. This is in line with the strategy of the Southern Legal Resource Center to have “Confederate Southern Americans” designated as a “people” under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to newspaper reports, in 2004 the SCV gave Lyons and his Center $20,000 for this purpose.
As C-in-C of the SCV, Wilson expelled hundreds of SCV members who opposed him, including those who wanted the SCV to stay out of politics and to reject racism and extremism.
Under Wilson’s leadership, the SCV launched a new publication, the Southern Mercury (published by the SCV’s nonprofit arm, the Foundation for the Preservation of American Culture), whose premier issue featured writers such as Boyd Cathey, who has long been an editorial advisor to the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial organization.