Infamous white supremacist, Tom Metzger, dead at 82

The victim of one of Metzger's organization's crimes was adopted by the victim's family lawyer

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Tom Metzger, notorious former Klansman and founder of the White Aryan Resistance movement (WAR), died on November 4 in California. He was 82-years-old.

Metzger gained infamy after three members of WAR were convicted for the 1988 beating death of an Ethiopian college student, Mulugetta Seraw, in Portland, Oregon. Metzger was eventually pushed into financial ruin for his organization’s role in the hate crime.

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James McElroy, the California attorney who for years made sure that Metzger made payments on the judgment for his role in the killing, ended up adopting Seraw’s son who was only 7-years-old at the time.

The judgment against Metzger came after a 1990 trial during which a recording was played of Metzger praising the killers for performing what he said was their “civic duty.”

This May 12, 1977, photo shows white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger in San Diego. At right are masks of former president Richard Nixon, top, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Metzger, has died at age 82. The Riverside County Public Health Department said Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, that Metzger died Nov. 4 of Parkinson’s disease. (The San Diego Union-Tribune via AP)

According to the Associated Press, Metzger was living in San Diego where McElroy is a civil rights attorney. McElroy volunteered to collect money from Metzger for over 20 years, and deliver the money to the slain man’s family.

After flying to Ethiopia and meeting Seraw’s family, McElroy took a liking to Seraw’s son. He asked the boy’s mother for permission to bring him to the United States for the summer.

“I already had a son, and they just clicked,” McElroy said. “They learned how to surf and be typical California kids.”

After the vacation ended, McElroy got the boy into a private school in Ethiopia. Eventually he asked to adopt the child, and the mother who was earning an equivalent of $20 per month agreed, grateful for the opportunities her son would have in the United States.

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The son graduated from Torrey Pines High School in San Diego and University of California, Santa Barbara. Today, he is married and is a pilot for a major commercial airline.

When Metzger’s organization was ordered to pay $12.5 million in damages, McElroy achieved his objective of depriving Metzger and his organization of money to spread their influence.

McElroy took particular pleasure in selling Metzger’s home to a Latino family as partial payment. He called the sale, “poetic justice.”

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