William P. Gale, the self-styled minister who headed the white supremacist Posse Comitatus and other racist groups, has died of the complications of emphysema, it was learned Tuesday.
The Associated Press reported that the 71-year-old Gale died Thursday at Castle Air Force Base in Merced County. He had lived in Mariposa.
A retired Army colonel, Gale once served as an aide to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines, but he gained notoriety as head of the paramilitary Committee of the States and the racist Identity Church and Posse Comitatus.
In January he was sentenced to a year in prison for sending death threats to a judge and Internal Revenue Service agents. A federal judge in Las Vegas waived the sentence because Gale had appealed and was in poor health.
Gale was convicted with four other people last October by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas. All five belonged to the Committee of the States, a right-wing group that rejects all federal authority.
Gale became involved with the white supremacist Aryan Nations after the war while a stockbroker in Southern California. In the mid-1970s, Gale, who liked to be called Rev. Gale, established the Identity Church in a mobile home on a remote ranch near Mariposa. He delivered stinging attacks on blacks and Jews from a pulpit backed by a huge Confederate flag. Gale apparently supported himself and his wife, Roxanne, through mail order sales of his recorded sermons.
Posse Comitatus (literally, "power of the county") believes that members have the right to organize local governments without regard to state or federal laws, particularly those requiring payment of income tax.
Gale became known nationally when a series of his sermons were broadcast by a 100,000-watt radio station in Dodge City, Kan., stirring protests that produced a Federal Communications Commission investigation.