A Black Mississippi reverend has died after making national headlines for persuading a National Socialist Movement leader to give him control of the neo-Nazi group as part of his secret plan to dismantle it.
James Stern, 55, was in fact still in a legal fight with the organization over who would lead it when he died Oct. 11 at home in Moreno Valley, Calif. after being in hospice care for cancer, according to The Associated Press.
The news agency spoke with one of Stern’s attorneys, Bob Ross, and the deceased activist’s friend Arne Edward List.
“James was a very unconventional crusader,” Ross said Monday.
He courted longtime leader of the National Socialist Movement Jeff Schoep for weeks in recorded phone calls to get Schoep to turn over the organization to him, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
In turn, he promised to get the organization removed from a federal lawsuit alleging Schoep and two dozen other hate groups secretly planned violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, the newspaper reported.
“You have to go with me. Go with my instincts,” Stern told Schoep. “We started this for a reason.”
The racist leader later complained that Stern tricked him.
“Like, it’s basically like you’re trying to legally wrangle the organization from me,” Schoep told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Michigan records The Associated Press obtained showed Stern replaced Schoep in January, and Stern went on to sue several group members two months later in California court, the news agency reported.
It’s unclear how the legalities will play out given Stern’s death.
Stern said before his death he wanted to disband the group, hold its members accountable for the violent white nationalist protest last year and use its website to stream movies about slavery and the Holocaust, CBC radio reported March 5.
“I did take possession of the organization, but it was strictly for the purpose of making sure that its 45 years of reigning terror on humanity will be over,” Stern told “As It Happens.”
“I don’t want to lead it. I’m not leading it,” he said. “I’m dismantling it.”
In the movie, Stallworth infiltrated a branch of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.
“He fought with such courage in everything he did,” List told The Associated Press of Stern. “James was very clear that this fight isn’t going to die with him.”