Americanism in action: JBS members come from a variety of backgrounds, but they all share a zeal to preserve freedom through responsible activism.
Dr. Paul Leithart attended his first meeting of The John Birch Society in 1960. He would have joined that very night, he says, except that he was called away to deliver a baby. He joined the next week, however, and has been active ever since, serving 43 years as a chapter leader. Dr. Leithart has also been a longtime leader in the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, opposing socialized medicine and other efforts to inject federal interference into the practice of medicine.
"As a doctor, I was always busy," he says. "l received tons of mail, but when my JBS Bulletin came I always dropped everything to read it. Robert Welch had such a wonderful way of writing and was so incredibly knowledgeable about history and all the vital issues of the day. I learned over the years that the Society was the place to go for reliable, credible information." And, he notes, they are usually "years ahead" of others in projecting the lines concerning where the crucial battles will be fought.
"I may be the one in the limelight," says Mrs. Ann Turner with characteristic modesty, "but without God's help and all of the hard work and active support of so many good Birch members, I would not be able to get the message out, as we've done on some very key issues." As a section leader and Northern Utah Get US out! committee chairman, Ann has succeeded greatly in getting the message out. In 2001, she helped spearhead the effort to rescind Utah's petition for a constitutional convention. It was a tremendous victory against what were said to be impossible odds. In 2003, Ann led the effort in the state legislature to pass House Resolution 7 urging Congress to withdraw the United States from the United Nations. Although the resolution died in the closing moments of a hectic legislative session, the effort garnered considerable media coverage and focused statewide attention on the many important reasons for severing our nation's relationship with the UN. It also established good relations between Birch Society members and many legislators. Several legislators even wrote letters of endorsement for the Society's video on the UN, which was distributed to all members of the legislature.
Experience Pays Off
Mrs. Katherine Frazier notes that 40 years as a wife, mother, and grandmother prepared her for her current "job" as volunteer chapter leader and "Get US out!" committee chairman in Boise, Idaho. Although she joined the Society in 1978, she was inactive for many years because of family responsibilities. In 2000 she got active again. In 2002, Katherine played a key role at the Idaho Republican State Convention in getting the Idaho GOP to adopt a resolution to withdraw U.S. membership from the UN.
"It's easy for me to be enthusiastic because I have such confidence in the Birch Society," she says. "I have complete confidence in the accuracy of our publications, I know that our speakers will always be first rate, and our members exhibit an integrity and responsibility that is a credit to the organization and to our country."
For Andrew Dlinn, being a Bircher means being proactive, especially as it concerns widespread exposure of the Birch Society's freedom message. As a financial adviser with a strong public relations background, Andy knows the importance of public image. "I urge all of our members to be as proactive as possible," he says. "I'm so proud of the record and accomplishments of the Society, the beliefs and principles it stands for, and what we are trying to do--save our country and preserve freedom--that I want everyone to know about it." He does that in myriad ways: letters to congressmen, letters to the editor, manning JBS booths at fairs, placing billboards, handing out literature, contacting local opinion molders, handing out TRIM Bulletins, appearing on local radio, and many other activities.
As an Orthodox Jew, Andy is particularly exercised whenever false accusations are made that the Society is anti-Semitic. "It's such a baseless charge he says, "It is simply a smear to keep people from listening to our message." Andy joined the Society in 1985 in Columbia, South Carolina, where he became a volunteer chapter leader. In 1993 he relocated to Pittsburgh, Pa., bringing new, dynamic leadership to the Keystone State.
"In 1961 I was enjoying life, very happily playing bridge and teaching bridge, oblivious to what was happening politically," Mrs. Virginia Lavan recalls. "When my husband went to a Birch Society meeting, I was upset. I thought the Birchers were Communists," she now laughs. Before long, both she and her husband were very actively involved.
During the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment, Ginny became president of the "Stop the ERA" in New York State, and soon found herself debating Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, and similar radical feminist icons. "Their side had all the money and the media," she notes. "Norman Lear and others poured millions of dollars into their campaign. We had only $5,000. But we also had the moms, the dads, and the churches. And thanks to the JBS, we had organization. Everyone predicted we would lose." But they didn't lose; they sent the ERA down to a crashing defeat that stunned everyone. Camera crews and reporters from across the nation and around the world beat a path to Ginny Lavan's door. "That battle proved to me and many others that with faith, preparation, hard work, and proper organization, David really can defeat Goliath," she says.
In the 1970s, the Lavans moved to Orange County, California, where Ginny has served as a chapter leader, section leader, and speaker committee chairman. To help pay for the education of their 12 kids, four of whom were adopted, Ginny began a second career as a realtor. She has excelled in that endeavor as well. She was also honored as the "Woman of the Year" for the California Assembly in 1993. This past summer, amongst all her other activities, Ginny served as a camp counselor and speaker at the California Robert Welch University summer camp.
Solid on the Constitution
Born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Jim Lightner graduated from the University of Iowa in 1944 with a degree in mechanical engineering. After working for Goodyear Rubber & Tire and Collins Radio Co., he launched his own company, Electrospace Systems, Inc. Based in Dallas, Texas, Electrospace soon became an important contractor in military electronics, working with all branches of the armed services and NASA. In 1988, Jim sold Electrospace to Chrysler Corporation. "I was always conservative," says Jim, "Senator Joe McCarthy was one of my heroes. My parents were good citizens, patriotic people, who tried to be informed on important issues."
Jim was introduced to The John Birch Society in the early 1960s by fellow Dallas businessman Nelson Bunker Hunt. "I know a lot of politicians and have helped a few of them," Jim says. "Most of them talk about the Constitution, but then they go to Washington and vote unconstitutionally. The Birch Society is solid on the Constitution. You can depend on them, and they've had a good impact on some members of Congress. We obviously need to expand that impact." Jim is an active member of the Society's Dallas business chapter and was a major financial sponsor of THE NEW AMERICAN'S extensive investigation into the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Independent Elector
Dr. Lloyd Bailey, a practicing ophthalmologist since 1960, holds a distinctive place in American history as "the independent elector." In the 1968 presidential election, Dr. Bailey served as a North Carolina elector. As a Republican it was expected that he would vote in the Electoral College for Richard Nixon. He cast his vote, however, for Alabama Governor George Wallace, the American Independent Party candidate. "It was the right thing to do," legally, constitutionally, and morally, he says. Although Wallace did not carry North Carolina, he did carry Dr. Bailey's congressional district.
Dr. Bailey's vote focused national attention on the Electoral College, which Bailey says is too little appreciated. "The Electoral College is the last vestige of state sovereignty over the federal government," he notes. "State electors elect the president of the United States." That is an important state check on the central government that our Founders put in the Constitution for an important reason. When the controversy over the Bush-Gore 2000 elections put the Electoral College in the spotlight, Dr. Bailey was sought by CNN, NBC, and ABC for commentary.
Dr. Bailey joined The John Birch Society in 1961, at the first JBS meeting he attended. "I was already a Bircher before the Society was founded," he says. "Robert Welch provided the leadership, the organization and the plan that was needed by concerned citizens like myself to be effective." More than four decades later, Dr. Bailey is still active in the local Birch Society chapter, which recently placed a Get US out! of the United Nations sign on a large, commercial billboard on the I-95 freeway near Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
Soldier, Businessman, Bircher
Professional soldier, decorated combat veteran, businessman, researcher, writer. Command Sergeant Major Fred D. Marshall Jr. has been there, done that--and more. His service in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1976 included nearly three tours in Vietnam between 1967 and 1972. He participated in eight of the war's 15 campaigns. His military awards include two Legions of Merit, four Bronze Star Medals, Master Parachutist Badge with 714 certified parachute jumps, and three Presidential Unit Citations. In December, 2001, CSM Marshall became the 248th recipient of the Primicerius Degree of the Infantry's coveted Order of Saint Maurice. From 1978 until his final retirement in 1997, he was owner and principal broker of a successful real estate brokerage firm in Columbus, Georgia.
"Throughout most of my active duty military career," says Marshall, "I had been led to believe that the John Birch Society was considered a subversive and racist organization, although I didn't look into it until after I left the service. What I found, to my surprise, was almost exactly the opposite. The JBS, in fact, is one of the very few forces which is dedicated to restoring the Constitution and the American way of life to United States citizens. Membership is open to people, from all walks of life, who want to live in a society free of government interference in their daily lives. I urge every red-blooded American to join us in the fight to save America--before it gets too late to save it."
From JBS Camper to Legislator
Mike Coan's passion for liberty was sparked by Birch Society Chapter Leader Jack Brown. "I came from a broken home; my dad left my mom with seven kids," says Rep. Coan. "Jack Brown gave me a job and launched my love of reading. I was 14 years old. He gave me a copy of the Declaration of Independence and said he'd pay me a dollar if I'd read it. Then he paid me to read the Constitution, Frederic Bastiat's The Law, Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson, Gary Allen's None Dare Call It Conspiracy, and many other conservative classics. After a while, I didn't want the money anymore, I just wanted more books. I read everything he'd give me: books, THE NEW AMERICAN, The John Birch Society Bulletin."
Mike's rapidly growing interest in politics, economics, and the freedom fight was bolstered by his attendance at the Society's summer camp in Georgia. "It was such a fantastic experience," he recalls. "I met kids there who had fled the Communist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, and I learned so much about our American heritage, constitutional principles, history, and contemporary issues--both foreign and domestic. It was so exciting and interesting. It was so amazing to me that I had never heard these things in school--fundamental principles, such as the fact that our rights come from God, not government. That rights cannot exist without morality, without responsibility. It was inspiring to have the camp start and end each day with prayer and a devotional reading and to be with people of all different backgrounds who take their freedom and their religious faith seriously. I'd get goose bumps when the bugle played 'Taps' each night when we lowered the flag."
Mike received his degree in business from West Georgia College and started his own company in commercial and residential construction. In 1996, at 27, Mike ran for the state legislature against entrenched 22-year incumbent. "The press said I had no chance," Mike told the THE NEW AMERICAN. "But I went door-to-door with the Birch message of 'lower taxes through less government.' And I won with 58 percent of the vote." He is now serving his forth term representing the people of Gwinnett County, outside of Atlanta. He is assisstannt minority whip.
Cattle Ranching and Birching
The western rancher is an American icon embodying the virtues of self-reliance, strength, thrift, and hard work. The McIrvin clan and the Diamond "M" Ranch of Laurier, Washington, provide proof that those virtues still endure on family ranches that continue to provide quality meat to the American consumer. The Diamond "M" is a family partnership started by Harry and Edith McIrvin during World War II. Their sons Clive and Robert joined them in the ranching business when they returned home from the war, after serving in Europe. Clive's son, Len, now runs the ranch, along with his wife, Pat, and son Bill. The McIrvin ranch is home to many trophies for award-winning Hereford cattle. It is also home to staunch patriots and longtime, proud members of The John Birch Society. "Meaning no disrespect to anyone else," says Len McIrvin, "cattle ranchers are probably the most independent Americans left. There are still some independent farmers left, but the federal government has turned so many farmers into welfare farmers with federal subsidies, set-asides, and other programs. The cattlemen--those of us who actually raise the cattle--are not subsidized, and don't want to be."
Cattle ranching and Birching are a natural fit, says Len, who, along with his wife Pat and other members of the family, joined the Society in the 1960s. They later became Life Members, and Clive and Len became chapter leaders. "We could see personally that government regulation and taxation were driving family farms and ranches out of business, while subsidies were corrupting those that remained," Len told THE NEW AMERICAN. "Of course, we want to preserve the ranching way of life," he says, noting that continuing government policies are making it increasingly less likely that his five children and 12 grandchildren will be able to continue the ranching tradition.
Birching Is Fun
Over the past 38 years, Al Foreman has held virtually every volunteer leadership position in The John Birch Society. When he retired as vice president and general manager of the Elkhart, Indiana, division of National Corporation in 1995, Al stepped up his already very active schedule of Birch activities. Al speaks regularly at schools, churches, and civic organizations and heads the Society's Business and Professional Chapter in Elkhart. Over the past four decades, he has had over 400 letters and op-eds printed in area daily newspapers. "Birching is not only one of the most important things anyone can do," says Al, "if you're doing it right, it's also fun and tremendously rewarding."
Getting to the Heart of It
Born in Alabama, Cedric Crawley grew up primarily in Texas. While attending Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, he became active in the Republican Party and in conservative, pro-life, pro-family campaigns. He also was introduced to The John Birch Society and THE NEW AMERICAN. Upon graduating, he moved to Colorado, where he joined the Society. "I found that many of the best informed, most committed activists in the causes I believed in were Birchers," says Cedric. "The more I read and became involved, the more I appreciated the fact that on all the important issues the Society had been calling the shots right for decades, both about the causes of our problems and the solutions. They recognized the deadly seriousness of our situation and were going to the heart of the problem in a very principle-based, organized, moral, intelligent way, with a long-term vision and commitment, not the shallow, media-driven hoopla so typical of political campaigns."
Cedric became a volunteer chapter leader and section leader in Colorado. In January of this year, he joined the Society's field staff as a full-time Coordinator for the state of Michigan, where he has been enthusiastically recruiting new leaders and organizing new chapters.