Leader of St. Louis-based white-rights group accused of influencing Charleston killer | St. Louis Public Radio

Leader of St. Louis-based white-rights group accused of influencing Charleston killer

Jun 22, 2015

Earl Holt III, a former member of the St. Louis School Board who figured in a controversy 25 years ago over his ties to a white-rights group, is in the spotlight again over accusations that his writings influenced the actions of Dylann Roof, the suspect in last week’s murder of nine African-Americans in a Charleston, S.C., church.

Charleston shooting suspect enters the church. Dylann Roof has been arrested in the killings.
Credit Charleston Police Department/NPR

As a result, several Republican presidential candidates announced Monday that they are returning, or directing to charities, campaign donations they have received from Holt.

Holt now lives in Texas. But he’s also the president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which has a St. Louis mailing address. The council has been around for decades and long has contended that white rights are being trampled. Holt’s predecessor, the late Gordon Baum, had denied that the group espoused white supremacy.

Holt declined comment Monday, directing news outlets’ inquiries to Jared Taylor, a former council board member. Taylor now heads the New Century Foundation.

A spokesman for Taylor confirmed that Holt was the same person who served on the St. Louis School Board in the early 1990s, but declined further comment.

Authorities have been examining Roof’s online “manifesto’’ in which he quotes from Holt’s writings on the council website. Among other things, Holt asserted that there’s a lack of news-media coverage of black-on-white crime.

Holt’s latest statement on the council website, along with a companion piece by Taylor, defends Holt’s previous assertions but also condemn Roof’s actions.

In any case, that controversy has spread to the GOP contest since the British publication The Guardian reported Holt’s campaign contributions to Ted Cruz,  Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. The New York Times offered more details on Monday.

Holt’s donations totaled more than $60,000 over several years. The campaigns for all three contenders announced Monday that they were giving money to charities that equaled what Holt had donated to their campaigns. Santorum, for example, said he was giving an equivalent amount to a charity set up to aid the families of the Charleston shooting victims.

Holt’s St. Louis ties

Holt, who grew up in St. Louis, served on the city school board from 1989-1993. He was part of a slate of school board candidates who promoted their opposition to busing for racial integration. Several, including Holt,  had ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens.

At one point, the council allies were close to having a majority on the board. But their camp lost ground in the 1991 school board election, which attracted national attention. A cadre of local business leaders assembled and bankrolled a rival slate of candidates who won the election.

While on the board, Holt gained a reputation as a fiscal conservative. But he rarely made controversial comments, aside from jabs at busing, and was known for his jovial demeanor.

That reputation took a hit a few years later when Holt co-hosted with Baum a late-night radio program, “Right at Night,’’ on WGNU. He ran into controversy in late 2003 when he posted racist comments, including using the “n” word, on a local blogger’s web site. Holt soon was off the air.