James Ellison (polygamist)

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James Ellison (c. 1937[1]) was an American white supremacist leader from San Antonio, Texas. In 1971, he founded the radical organization The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA). Ellison purchased a 250-acre (1.0 km2) strip of land near Elijah, Missouri to serve as his compound. He was also a close associate of both Richard Wayne Snell and Timothy McVeigh.


Ellison was a polygamist who spent time in federal prison with his 'high priest' Kerry Noble. Robert G. Millar, the founder of Elohim City, Oklahoma, became one of his spiritual advisers. He was also mentored by Richard Girnt Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations and Robert E. Miles, founder of The Mountain Church in Cohoctah, Michigan. Both extreme right leaders taught and practiced Christian Identity, a religion included on the FBI watchlist as an 'extremist religion'. Ellison had very close ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the Northern Idaho-based group Aryan Nations, led by Richard Butler. Miles had a very active prison ministry and newsletter, relating mostly to several violent white supremacist groups, most notably the Aryan Brotherhood. After Ellison was released from prison, he moved to Elohim City, where he married Millar's granddaughter.[2]

The siege at CSA: April 19, 1985[edit]

The ATF set up what is thought to have been a group of around 300 federal agents in Elijah, having them pose as fishermen because the area was a common destination for anglers. On the morning of April 19, 1985, they moved in with a warrant for the arrest of Ellison and surrounded the CSA compound.[3] Some agents stayed in fishing boats in order to seal off the lakeside area of the compound. There they waited, until a few hours later when two guards emerged from the compound. They appeared to be unaware of the presence of the officers, and they walked towards a sniper hold-out, until an officer yelled commands to return to the compound; the guards complied. Later, an unnamed individual emerged from the compound and talked with the federal agents, reporting to Ellison that the FBI agents were outside and willing to negotiate his surrender and the emptying of the compound. Ellison emerged later, and the FBI agents felt that he would not go down without a firefight. FBI negotiators convinced him that the CSA would certainly lose in a gun battle. They convinced him that they wanted peaceful cooperation, and he asked that his spiritual adviser, assumed to be Robert G. Millar, come to the compound to instruct him. The individual was flown to the area and seemed eager to convince Ellison to stand down, understanding that otherwise there would be certain bloodshed. They allowed the individual into the compound, and the FBI agents instructed him to call in every 30 minutes in order to report on how negotiations were going.

US Attorney and future Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson, who would later go on to successfully prosecute Ellison and other leaders of the CSA, put on an FBI flak jacket and entered the compound in order to personally join in the negotiations, ultimately leading to a peaceful conclusion to the armed standoff. After several calls requesting more time, early on the morning of the fourth day of the siege, Ellison, his command, and all of the males in the compound emerged, and surrendered themselves to authorities.[4]


Ellison and most of his leadership were charged in federal court with illegal weapons possession, and Ellison faced the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Ellison was convicted on federal racketeering and weapons charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison.[5] Ellison was released in 1987 after agreeing to testify against the leader and six senior members of the Aryan Nations, which was rumored to have been strengthened by Robert Miles during his time in federal prison. Upon his release from federal prison, Ellison moved to Elohim City, Oklahoma.[2]


  1. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation (1988). "Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of the Lord". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  2. ^ a b Hastings, Deborah (February 23, 1997). "Elohim City on Extremists' Underground Railroad". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ Coates, James (April 22, 1985). "Neo-Nazi Fortress Under FBI Siege". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ Coates, James (April 23, 1985). "Neo-Nazi Leader Seized". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  5. ^ Richey, Warren (October 8, 1985). "US a safe haven for paramilitary groups that provide legal mercenary training". p. 2. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Associated Press (July 14, 1985). "Ellison Trial Begins Monday". Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  • Egan, Nancy (2011). "James Ellison". In Martin, Gus. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Terrorism, Second Edition. SAGE. p. 185. ISBN 9781412980166.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  • Noble, Kerry (June 12, 2012). "City of Hope". This Land Press. Retrieved September 4, 2013. 
  • Quarles, Chester L. Christian Identity: The Aryan American Bloodline Religion. McFarland. pp. 165–166. ISBN 9780786481484. 
  • Tucker, Johnathan B., ed. (2000). Toxic Terror: Assessing Terrorist Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons. MIT Press. pp. 152 ff. ISBN 9780262700719. 

External links[edit]