Posted on July 20, 2021

William H. Regnery II, 80, Dies

Clay Risen, New York Times, July 16, 2021

William H. Regnery II, a reclusive heir to a Midwestern textile fortune who bankrolled some of the leading 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 home in Boca Grande, Fla. He was 80.

A cousin, Alfred Regnery, said the cause was cancer.

Mr. Regnery rarely granted interviews or spoke in public, and he sought to work behind the scenes, through funding and organizing. He came to his far-right views late in life, at least 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 saw “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 began to lay the intellectual groundwork for a new movement built around strengthening what he believed was America’s founding white identity, embracing eugenics, sharp immigration restrictions and even the splintering of North America into racially pure “ethnostates.”

In 2001 he founded the Charles Martel Society, named for the Frankish king who defeated a Muslim army at the Battle of Tours in 732, an event that many white supremacists credit with saving Western civilization. {snip}

{snip} To give his views a more public face, in 2005 he spent $380,000 to create the National Policy Institute, a think tank designed to inject white-supremacist ideas into mainstream political conversations.

But the institute languished for its first decade, even after Mr. Regnery hired the alt-right figure Richard Spencer, a charismatic former Ph.D. student, in 2011.

The institute organized a “European identitarian congress” in Budapest in 2014, and both Mr. Regnery and Mr. Spencer traveled to Hungary to attend. {snip} The Hungarian government banned the meeting, and Mr. Regnery was detained upon arrival at the airport and deported the next morning. Mr. Spencer, who arrived in the country by land, was also deported.

Their fortunes turned a year later, as Donald J. Trump, early in his presidential campaign, began to energize the far right with his calls for immigration restrictions and other policies long advocated by the institute.

Mr. Regnery saw Mr. Trump’s victory as his own. At an institute conference in Washington just after the 2016 election, he said, “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 preferred to keep out of the spotlight and let Mr. Spencer speak for the institute. But in a 2017 interview with Buzzfeed News, he took credit for the seemingly sudden rise of the alt-right.

“My support,” he said, “has produced a much greater bang for the buck than by the brothers Koch or Soros Inc.”


William Henry Regnery II was born on Feb. 25, 1941, in the Chicago area and grew up in Hinsdale, Ill., a suburb. His father, William F. Regnery, worked for the family textile business, Joanna-Western Mills. {snip}


Mr. Regnery was not the only member of his family active in conservative politics. His grandfather, William H. Regnery, was a founding member of the America First Committee, which sought to keep the United States out of World War II. His uncle Henry founded Regnery Publishing, which produces books by a range of conservative voices, including William F. Buckley Jr., Ann Coulter and Mr. Trump.

Mr. Regnery attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied political science and joined the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative student organization co-founded by Mr. Buckley. He left before graduating to work on Senator Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign.