Laird Wilcox

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Laird Wilcox

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

Early life[edit]

Wilcox was raised in a family with, as he described, "political intensity".[1] His relatives' politics ranged from socialist to membership in the far-right John Birch Society.[2] Wilcox's father was a construction accountant. His family moved frequently.[2]

Wilcox attended the University of Kansas. He joined the Students for a Democratic Society and later dropped out of college.[2]

While living in Olathe, Kansas, he worked as carpenter, investigator and writer.[3]

Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements[edit]

In 1965, after Wilcox had accumulated four file drawers of literature about radical political movements, some since his teens, the University of Kansas library bought a portion of it for $1,000. The collection, now called the Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements, is kept in the Kansas Collection of Kenneth Spencer Research Library.[1][4] It includes literature relating to, according to the university, "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."[4] From then through at least 1992, Wilcox continued sending two or three boxes each month to add to the collection.[2] In 1986 Reason magazine described the collection as among the largest archives of extremist material.[5]


In 1968, Wilcox signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[6] He has been a member of the American Civil Liberties Union since 1961 and a member of Amnesty International since 1970.[citation needed] Historian George Michael described Wilcox in 2003 as a left-wing libertarian.[7]

In his 1997 self-published book The Watchdogs, Wilcox criticized an "anti-racist industry" of groups monitoring extremism, writing that their "identity and livelihood depend upon growth and expansion of their particular kind of victimization".[8] Wilcox accused groups including the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Political Research Associates of a "massive extortion racket" to exaggerate threats from right-wing extremists, whom he estimated at 10,000 in a total US population of 270 million. In response, Mark Potok of the SPLC said that Wilcox "had an ax to grind for a great many years", and Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates said that Wilcox "is not an accurate or ethical reporter".[9] Historian George Michael noted that Wilcox's examination of memoranda indicated a close working relationship between the ADL and the FBI.[7]


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

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.[3][dead link]



  • Guide to the American Left, annual. Kansas City, Mo.: Editorial Research Service (1984–). ISSN 0894-4547. OCLC 11857054
  • Guide to the American Right, annual. Kansas City, Mo.: Editorial Research Service (1984–). ISSN 8756-0216. OCLC 11859906.[11]



  1. ^ a b Wilcox, Carrie (Mar. 22, 2009). "The Wilcox Collection." Interview with Laird Wilcox. via YouTube.
  2. ^ a b c d Staff writer (Aug. 12, 1992). "Campus Journal; Far Left and Far Right Meet in a Midwest Library." New York Times, vol. 141. p. B6. Archived from the original.
  3. ^ a b Staff writer (Oct. 12, 2005). "Wilcox Collection of Political Literature to Celebrate 40 Years at KU." KU News. University of Kansas.
  4. ^ a b Wilcox Collection of Contemporary Political Movements. In: Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. University of Kansas.
  5. ^ Cline, Andy (Jul. 1986). "Meet Laird Wilcox." Reason, vol. 18, no. 3. Archivedfrom the original on Jan. 17, 2021.
  6. ^ Staff writer (Jan. 30, 1968). "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest." New York Post.
  7. ^ a b Michael, George (2003). Confronting Right-wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA. London: Routledge. p. 245. ISBN 978-0415315005.
  8. ^ Wilcox, Laird (1997). The Watchdogs: A Close Look at Anti-Racist "Watchdog" Groups. Olathe, KS: Editorial Research Service. ISBN 978-0933592964.
  9. ^ McCain, Robert Stacy (May 9, 2000). "Researcher Says 'Watchdogs' Exaggerate Hate Group Threat." Washington Times. p. A2.
  10. ^ "KCAA Award of Excellence Recipients." University of Missouri-Kansas City. Accessed Jun. 9, 2022.
  11. ^ Kinney, Jay (Summer 1989). Review of Guide to the American Right by Laird Wilcox. Whole Earth Review, no. 63. p. 129. Full issue.
  12. ^ Collette, Lin (Oct. 1998). Review of American Extremists: Militias, Supremacists, Klansmen, Communists & Others, by Laird Wilcox and John George. Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, vol. 2, no. 1. pp. 147–148. doi:10.1525/nr.1998.2.1.147.

Further reading[edit]

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