Robert Jay Mathews
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|Robert Jay Mathews|
January 16, 1953|
|Died||December 8, 1984
Whidbey Island, near Freeland, Washington
|Cause of death||Smoke inhalation, gunshot wounds, fire|
|Organization||Sons of Liberty and The Order|
|Children||one son (adopted with McGarrity), one daughter with Zillah Craig.|
|Parent(s)||Johnny and Una Mathews|
Robert Mathews was born in Marfa, Texas, January 16, 1953, the youngest of three boys born to Johnny and Una Mathews. His father, of Scottish descent, was mayor of the town, and the Chamber of Commerce's President, as well as a businessman and leader for the local Methodist church. His mother was the town's den mother.
The family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Though he was an average student in grade school, history and politics interested him. At age eleven, he joined the John Birch Society. Matthews was baptized into the Mormon faith as a high schooler.
He formed the "Sons of Liberty," an anti-communist militia mostly made up of Mormon survivalists. At its peak, it had approximately thirty members. After filling out his employer's W-4 Form claiming ten dependents (reportedly as an act of tax resistance), he was arrested for tax fraud, tried, and placed on probation for six months. After a falling out between the Mormon and non-Mormon members, the Sons of Liberty became moribund and Mathews withdrew.
After the probation ended in 1974, he decided to move to Metaline Falls, Washington. Mathews and his father purchased sixty wooded acres for their new home.
Mathews and Debbie McGarrity were married in 1976. He raised Scottish Galloway cattle. The couple adopted a son in 1981. Mathews later had a daughter with a woman named Zillah Craig.
Mathews read history and politics. William Gayley Simpson's book Which Way Western Man? profoundly affected him. Mathews believed that the White race was in danger, and in 1982 he made an effort to attract White families to the Pacific Northwest, or the "White American Bastion." He visited the Aryan Nations compound many times and began to have friends and followers.
In 1983, Mathews made a speech at a National Alliance convention, which was a report on his efforts to recruit on behalf of the National Alliance, especially among "the yeoman farmers and independent truckers," around his "White American Bastion" group, and a call to action to the convention's only standing ovation. Mathews took to heart the 1978 novel The Turner Diaries written by National Alliance founder William Pierce.
In late September of that year, at a barracks he constructed on his property in Metaline, Mathews founded, along with eight other men, the group that would be known as The Order, which he thought of as the "Silent Brotherhood." They included his friend and neighbor, Ken Loff, and others from the Aryan Nations: Dan Bauer, Randy Duey, Denver Parmenter, and Bruce Pierce. David Lane, and the National Alliance: Richie Kemp and Bill Soderquist. Recent recruits rounded out the group. None had ever committed a violent crime, or served prison time.
The first order of business, according to Mathews' plan, was to obtain money to support white separatism. Their activities began to parallel events in the novel The Turner Diaries. They robbed an adult bookstore in Spokane, which netted $369.10. They agreed that was too risky, and turned to robbing armored cars and counterfeiting. They printed up some phony $50 notes and 28-year-old Pierce was quickly arrested after passing a few.
To raise Pierce's bail, Mathews, acting alone, robbed a bank just north of Seattle. He stole around $26,000. Some of The Order's members, along with a new recruit, Gary Yarborough, carried out more robberies and burglaries, which netted them over $43,000. A subsequent robbery yielded several hundred thousand dollars. Another recruit, Tom Martinez, was caught and charged for passing more counterfeit currency. Then in July, 1984, they deployed approximately a dozen men in a successful effort to rob a Brink's truck of $3,600,000.
Prior to his death, Mathews wrote a long letter declaring war on the federal government and justifying his group's actions. In it, he describes threats made to members of his family by federal agents of the FBI, including threats made to his young son while he was away from his house, as well as a number of attempts on his life by other government agents. He told the reasons for his decision to "quit being the hunted and become the hunter," and closed by stating, "I am not going into hiding, rather I will press the FBI and let them know what it is like to become the hunted. Doing so it is only logical to assume that my days on this planet are rapidly drawing to a close. Even so, I have no fear. For the reality of my life is death, and the worst the enemy can do to me is shorten my tour of duty in this world. I will leave knowing that I have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the future of my children." 
Mathews and the other members of the Order were eventually given up by Martinez, who was under pressure after the counterfeiting arrest. After he revealed information regarding Mathews' activities to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, agents moved to capture Mathews and his associates leading to one of the largest manhunts in FBI history. By the time they could set up the operation, all of Mathews' accomplices and friends had decided to move again to other safe houses. The government's agents surrounded Mathews in a house near Freeland, Washington on Whidbey Island on December 7, 1984. Mathews refused to come out and negotiations continued until December 8, when Mathews refused to talk anymore. The FBI then fired dozens of smoke grenades and a stun grenade into the house in an attempt to force Mathews out, but were thwarted by his use of a gas mask. Mathews opened fire on several agents who attempted to enter the house, and a long standoff began. When a helicopter appeared at nightfall, Mathews opened fire on it from an upstairs window (the helicopter's crew was unhurt) and then once again exchanged gunfire with federal agents. An FBI agent then fired three M-79 Starburst flares inside the house, setting off a box of hand grenades and a stockpile of ammunition. Mathews continued to fire an assault rifle at agents as the house burned, but then suddenly stopped. After the wreckage had cooled enough to be searched, agents found the burned remains of 31-year-old Mathews' body next to a charred bathtub, pistol still in hand. An autopsy concluded that Mathews had died from a combination of burns and smoke inhalation. His "Bruders Schweigen" medallion, which Mathews always wore, was found melted into his chest cavity.
Eventually over 75 people were convicted of crimes connected to The Order in eight trials on charges that included racketeering, conspiracy, counterfeiting, transporting stolen money, armored car robbery, and violation of civil rights. Later, ten people connected to the case, including Butler, Lane, and Pierce, were tried for sedition, but were acquitted by a jury.
- McClary, Daryl C. (December 6, 2006). "Robert Jay Mathews, founder of the white-supremacist group The Order, is killed during an FBI siege on Whidbey Island on December 8, 1984". HistoryLink.org: The Free Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- "Brotherhood of Murder (1999)". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- "A Call to Arms, Part One of Two". WNTube.net. Retrieved January 13, 2009.
- Martinez, Thomas; Guinther, John (1988). Brotherhood of Murder. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-040699-5.
- Cashman, John R. (2000). Emergency Response to Chemical and Biological Agents. CRC Press. p. 5. ISBN 1-56670-355-7.
- "Extremist Ex-Cons Back on the Street: A fresh batch of extremist ex-cons hits the streets". Intelligence Report (Southern Poverty Law Center) (116). Winter 2004. Retrieved October 12, 2012.
- "Robert Jay Mathews' Last Letter (archive.org)". Supreme White Alliance. Retrieved January 13, 2009.