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.
Born in Newark, Ohio, Effinger served with the United States Army during the Spanish–American War. Settling in Lima, Ohio after his military service, Effinger worked as a salesman in the town. A strong racist, anti-Semite and anti-Catholic, he joined the Ku Klux Klan and attained the rank of Grand Titan within the movement.
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. He soon advocated a revolution with the Legion seizing power in Washington D.C. and installing him as dictator. Effinger underlined his intentions when he described his movement as "a guerilla army designed to fight the Republican and Democratic parties". Such was his fanaticism that he even rewrote American history by claiming that the Legion dated back to the Boston Tea Party.
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. 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.
Effinger escaped capture and attempted to organise a successor movement, the Patriotic Legion of America in 1938, this time admitting Catholics. However the new group proved a failure and Effinger disappeared into obscurity. He died in a psychiatric hospital in Toledo, Ohio in 1955, denying any involvement in the Black Legion until his dying day.
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- Birdwell, Celluloid Soldiers, p. 46
- Birdwell, Celluloid Soldiers, p. 47