Virgil Effinger

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Virgil H. "Bert" Effinger (1873 – 15 December 1955) was a renegade member of the Ku Klux Klan who became the leader of the Black Legion in the United States. He advocated a fascist revolution in the US with himself as dictator.

Early life[edit]

Born in Newark, Ohio, Effinger served with the United States Army during the Spanish–American War.[1] Settling in Lima, Ohio after his military service, Effinger worked as a salesman in the town.[2] A strong racist, anti-Semite and anti-Catholic, he joined the Ku Klux Klan and attained the rank of Grand Titan within the movement.[3]

Black Legion[edit]

Effinger took control of the Black Legion, a group within the local Klan, in 1931 and saw in it the basis for a network of revolutionary cells.[2] He soon advocated a revolution with the Legion seizing power in Washington D.C. and installing him as dictator.[2] Effinger underlined his intentions when he described his movement as "a guerilla army designed to fight the Republican and Democratic parties".[4] His extreme fanaticism even induces him to rewrite American history, claiming that the Legion dated back to the Boston Tea Party.[2]

Under Effinger's leadership the Legion grew during the early 1930s and was linked to a handful of racist murders as well as attempts to appeal to a wider base of the community by arson and bomb attacks on communist bookshops.[5] The murder of Catholic Charles Poole by Legion member Major Dayton Dean and some followers in 1936 proved the Legion's undoing. While crimes against non-whites and communists trying to infiltrate the labor movement were often ignored by small-town police at the time, offenses against religious belief tended to be taken more seriously. Poole's killers were vigorously pursued.[6]

Later years[edit]

Effinger escaped capture and attempted to organise a successor movement, the Patriotic Legion of America in 1938, this time admitting Catholics.[6] However the new group proved a failure and Effinger disappeared into obscurity.[1] He died in a psychiatric hospital in Toledo, Ohio in 1955, denying any involvement in the Black Legion until his dying day.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Rees, Philip (1990). Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 110. ISBN 0-13-089301-3. 
  2. ^ a b c d Birdwell, Michael E. (2001). Celluloid Soldiers: The Warner Bros.'s Campaign Against Nazism. New York: New York University Press. p. 45. ISBN 0-8147-9871-3. 
  3. ^ Norwood, Stephen Harlan (2002). Strikebreaking and Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. p. 196. ISBN 0-8078-2705-3. 
  4. ^ MacDonnell, Francis (1995). Insidious Foes: The Axis Fifth Column and the American Home Front. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0-19-509268-6. 
  5. ^ Birdwell, Celluloid Soldiers, p. 46
  6. ^ a b Birdwell, Celluloid Soldiers, p. 47