Laird Wilcox

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Laird Wilcox

Laird Maurice Wilcox is an American researcher specializing in the study of political fringe movements. He is the founder of the "Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements,"[1] housed in the Kenneth Spencer Research Library at the University of Kansas.[2]

Early life[edit]

Wilcox was raised in a family with, as he describes, a high level of "political intensity" and discussion.[3] His aunts, uncles, and grandparents were highly polarized politically, either conservative or very liberal.[3] As a child he would listen to debate and discussion about political issues that grew very heated, often to the point of name-calling, and these experiences created an early desire to understand why political ideologies lead to such conflict, and at times grow to greater importance than relationships with friends and family.[3]

In his teens he began to collect literature and read about radical political movements across the spectrum, from communist groups to the John Birch Society.[3] He continued to pursue this interest when he entered the University of Kansas at twenty years old and won an award for his collection of books on political movements.[3] A few years later he had accumulated roughly four file drawers of material, and the University library reached out to him with a desire to acquire a portion of his collection.[3] An agreement was reached in 1965, and the library paid Wilcox $1000 for the material that would go on to constitute the foundation of the Wilcox Collection as it is known today.[3][2]

While living in Olathe, Kansas, he worked as carpenter, investigator and writer.[4]

Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements[edit]

The Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, in the Kansas Collection of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, includes coverage of "more than 10,000 individuals and organizations. The bulk of the collection covers 1960 to the present and comprises nearly 10,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, 800 audio tapes, 73 feet (22 m) of manuscript materials and more than 100,000 pieces of ephemera including flyers, brochures, mailings, clippings and bumper stickers." Wilcox continues to make regular donations.[5]

Criticism of "Watchdog" groups[edit]

In his 1997 self-published book, The Watchdogs,[6] Wilcox criticized an "industry" of such groups "whose identity and livelihood depend upon growth and expansion of their particular kind of victimization." He holds such groups use "links and ties" to imply connections between individuals and groups. And they collect millions of dollars by greatly exaggerating the size and danger of such groups, becoming "a massive extortion racket."

He names groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, Political Research Associates, and the Center for Democratic Renewal. Mark Potok of Southern Poverty Law Center told a reporter that Wilcox "had an ax to grind for a great many years" and engaged in name calling against others doing anti-racist work. Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates told a reporter that "Laird Wilcox is not an accurate or ethical reporter… He simply can't tolerate people who are his competition in this field."[7]

Discussing Wilcox's coverage of the relationship of the Anti-Defamation League to the FBI in particular, historian George Michael calls the effort "thoroughly examined" and notes, "My examination of Wilcox's archives on this subject confirms his assertion [regarding this relationship]".[8]


In 1968, Wilcox signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[9]

He has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1961 and a member of Amnesty International since 1970.[citation needed]

Awards and honors[edit]

In 1989, Wilcox received the "Kansas City Area Archivists Award of Excellence" for his role in founding and maintaining the Wilcox Collection.[10] In 1993, he was awarded the Myers Center Award for the Study of Human Rights in the United States. In 1994, he was awarded the Freedom of Information Award of the Kansas Library Association/SIRS "For outstanding commitment to intellectual freedom."

In 1995, he received the Mencken Award of the Free Press Association "For outstanding journalism in defense of liberty."[citation needed] In 2005, the University of Kansas honored Wilcox, then 63, in the Spencer library's North Gallery for his role in founding the Wilcox Collection.[4]

Published works[edit]


  • Guide to the American Right (annual). Kansas City: Editorial Research Service, 1984-.[11]


  • Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe, with John George. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1992. ISBN 0879756802 / ISBN 978-0879756802.
An examination of political extremism of both the far left and far right in the United States.[12]
"Included are documented instances of illegal spying, theft of police files, fund-raising irregularities, questionable 'hate crime' statistics, irresponsible and fraudulent claims, perjury, harassment and stalking, violence, and deep and longstanding involvements with Marxist–Leninist extremists."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilcox, Laird (August 1987). Watner, Carl (ed.). "What Is Political Extremism?". Vol. 27. Gramling, South Carolina: The Voluntaryists. pp. 3–4. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 10, 2003. Retrieved December 2, 2016. {{cite magazine}}: Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  2. ^ a b Free Speech and the Wilcox Collection: Forty Years of Collecting Political Documents Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "The Wilcox Collection." Laird briefly discusses the history of his collection. Video interview created by Laird's daughter Carrie Wilcox and uploaded to YouTube on March 22, 2009.
  4. ^ a b KU News Release article Wilcox Collection of political literature to celebrate 40 years at KU. University of Kansas. October 12, 2005.
  5. ^ University of Kansas Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
  6. ^ a b The Watchdogs, self-published through "Editorial Research Service," available at; extensively footnoted. (ISBN 0-933592-89-2)
  7. ^ McCain, Robert Stacy. "Researcher Says 'Watchdogs' Exaggerate Hate Group Threat", The Washington Times, May 9, 2000.
  8. ^ Michael, George (2003). Confronting right-wing extremism and terrorism in the USA. London: Routledge. p. 245. ISBN 9780415315005.
  9. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post
  10. ^ KCAA Award of Excellence Recipient.
  11. ^ Kinney, Jay. Review of Guide to the American Right by Laird Wilcox. Whole Earth Review, No. 63, Summer 1989, p. 129.
  12. ^ Published by Prometheus Books in 1992 (ISBN 0-87975-680-2), republished in 1996 as a paperback under the title American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists and Others(ISBN 1573920584)
  13. ^ The text of 1994 edition is also available online.
  14. ^ Review of American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others by Laird Wilcox and John George. Nova Religio, Vol. 2, No. 1, October 1, 1998; 2 (1), pp. 147–148. doi:10.1525/nr.1998.2.1.147.

Further reading[edit]

"Part-time Commie, part-time Klansman, full-time observer of the far-out."

External links[edit]