William H. Regnery II, a reclusive inheritor to a Midwestern textile fortune who bankrolled some of the main organizations and figures behind the rise of the alt-right and championed efforts to win adherents to a modernized notion of white supremacy, died on July 2 at his residence in Boca Grande, Fla. He was 80.
A cousin, Alfred Regnery, stated the trigger was most cancers.
Mr. Regnery hardly ever granted interviews or spoke in public, and he sought to work behind the scenes, by means of funding and organizing. He got here to his far-right views late in life, no less than publicly, saying he had grown disenchanted with the “ebullient optimism” of the Republican Party in the early 1990s.
Instead, he wrote in a 2015 memoir, “Left Behind,” he noticed “nascent political correctness stifling debate, unrestricted immigration changing the demographics of the country, affirmative action penalizing whites, and open housing curtailing freedom of association.”
In response, he started to put the mental groundwork for a brand new motion constructed round strengthening what he believed was America’s founding white id, embracing eugenics, sharp immigration restrictions and even the splintering of North America into racially pure “ethnostates.”
In 2001 he based the Charles Martel Society, named for the Frankish king who defeated a Muslim military at the Battle of Tours in 732, an occasion that many white supremacists credit score with saving Western civilization. The society’s most important output is The Occidental Quarterly, which publishes academic-sounding essays with titles like “Reflections on Some Aspects of Jewish Self-Deception.”
Membership in the society is confidential; Mr. Regnery supposed it to be one thing of a protected house for like-minded extremists. To give his views a extra public face, in 2005 he spent $380,000 to create the National Policy Institute, a assume tank designed to inject white-supremacist concepts into mainstream political conversations.
But the institute languished for its first decade, even after Mr. Regnery employed the alt-right determine Richard Spencer, a charismatic former Ph.D. scholar, in 2011.
The institute organized a “European identitarian congress” in Budapest in 2014, and each Mr. Regnery and Mr. Spencer traveled to Hungary to attend. But the convention was a bust: The Hungarian authorities banned the assembly, and Mr. Regnery was detained upon arrival at the airport and deported the subsequent morning. Mr. Spencer, who arrived in the nation by land, was additionally deported.
Their fortunes turned a 12 months later, as Donald J. Trump, early in his presidential marketing campaign, started to energise the far proper along with his requires immigration restrictions and different insurance policies lengthy advocated by the institute.
Mr. Regnery noticed Mr. Trump’s victory as his personal. At an institute convention in Washington simply after the 2016 election, he stated, “I never thought in my life I would experience an event such as this, and I am now persuaded that with your courage the alt-right side of history will prevail.”
Mr. Regnery most popular to maintain out of the highlight and let Mr. Spencer communicate for the institute. But in a 2017 interview with Buzzfeed News, he took credit score for the seemingly sudden rise of the alt-right.
“My support,” he stated, “has produced a much greater bang for the buck than by the brothers Koch or Soros Inc.”
Buzzfeed referred to as him “the most influential racist you’ve never heard of.”
Mr. Regnery, seen exterior his residence in Boca Grande, Fla., in 2017, as soon as stated the solely method to save America’s white id was for it to interrupt up into a number of smaller nations, one every for the nation’s varied ethnic teams.Credit…Will Vragovic
William Henry Regnery II was born on Feb. 25, 1941, in the Chicago space and grew up in Hinsdale, Ill., a suburb. His father, William F. Regnery, labored for the household textile enterprise, Joanna-Western Mills. His mom, Elisabeth (Brittain) Regnery, was a homemaker.
He is survived by his spouse, Judith (Page-Timson) Regnery; his brothers, Peter and Patrick; two sons from a earlier marriage, Robert and William T. Regnery; two of his spouse’s youngsters, William F. and David Regnery, whom he adopted; two youngsters with Mrs. Regnery, Jonathan Regnery and Johanna Durkin; and 12 grandchildren.
Mr. Regnery was not the solely member of his household energetic in conservative politics. His grandfather, William H. Regnery, was a founding member of the America First Committee, which sought to maintain the United States out of World War II. His uncle Henry based Regnery Publishing, which produces books by a variety of conservative voices, together with William F. Buckley Jr., Ann Coulter and Mr. Trump.
Mr. Regnery attended the University of Pennsylvania, the place he studied political science and joined the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative scholar group co-founded by Mr. Buckley. He left earlier than graduating to work on Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential marketing campaign.
In the 2017 interview with Buzzfeed, one of the few occasions he spoke to the information media, he claimed that his efforts on behalf of Mr. Goldwater included what he referred to as “Operation Dewdrop,” by which he tried to discourage Democratic voters in Philadelphia by hiring a airplane to seed the skies with dry ice, in the hopes of making it rain. He failed — although, he recalled, he burned his fingers on the ultracold dry ice containers.
Mr. Regnery later returned to Chicago, the place he labored for Joanna-Western Mills. He turned the firm’s president in 1980 however was ousted a 12 months later, after a number of quarters of poor monetary efficiency. According to his personal account, he spent the relaxation of his profession in a range of companies, whereas additionally dabbling in Illinois politics.
In his memoir, he recounted how he first started to show towards the Republican Party after listening to a speech in 1993 by which the economist Milton Friedman declared that the finish of the Cold War meant that the free-market financial doctrines of the Reagan period had received. In an early signal of that break, in keeping with a 2017 profile in Mother Jones, Mr. Regnery ran unsuccessfully for Illinois secretary of state in 1994 on the Term Limits and Tax Limits Party ticket
Five years later, he convened a Who’s Who of white supremacists for a convention in Florida, the place he delivered a speech, “For Our Children’s Children,” by which he stated the solely method to save America’s white id was for it to interrupt up into a number of smaller international locations, one every for the nation’s varied ethnic teams.
His racism grew extra specific. He introduced plans in 2004 to begin a whites-only courting web site. It by no means occurred, however he continued to fret that white individuals had been in peril of extinction: In 2006 he delivered a speech in Chicago by which he stated, “The white race may go from master of the universe to an anthropological curiosity.”
By then he had severed most of his ties with mainstream Republicans, they usually with him. T hat similar 12 months the management of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which he had joined in school, eliminated him from its board.
Mr. Regnery could have seen the election of Mr. Trump as his ticket again into the get together, with the National Policy Institute and Mr. Spencer as his automobile. It didn’t occur.
In the years since Mr. Trump’s victory, the institute has confronted mounting monetary and personnel issues, particularly after Mr. Spencer helped set up the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, by which a white supremacist, Alex Fields Jr., drove his automotive right into a crowd of counterprotesters, injuring a number of and killing one.
By 2020 the institute’s web site was moribund, with no new content material in months, and the Internal Revenue Service had revoked its tax-exempt standing. In May a decide in Illinois ordered the institute to pay $2.four million to Bill Burke, who was injured by Mr. Fields, however it’s unclear the place the cash will come from.