Richard G. Butler, 86, the notorious white supremacist who founded the Aryan Nations and who once was called the "elder statesman of American hate," was found dead Sept. 8 at his home in Hayden, Idaho.
Officials with the Kootenai County sheriff's department in Idaho said in a statement that Mr. Butler apparently died in his sleep. No cause of death was reported.
The Aryan Nations lost its church and 20-acre compound in northern Idaho in 2000 after a $6 million civil judgment led to a bankruptcy filing. Butler moved into a house bought by a supporter in nearby Hayden.
Because of failing health, he had made few public appearances in recent years. In July, however, he rode in the back of a pickup truck that was dragging the flag of Israel during a parade of about 40 of his followers through downtown Coeur d'Alene, 30 miles east of Spokane, Wash.
Mr. Butler, an admirer of Adolf Hitler's and of white supremacist religious teaching, moved to Idaho in the early 1970s, claiming later that he was impressed by its high percentage of white residents. To the dismay of many residents, the region became known as a place hospitable to white supremacist groups.
Mr. Butler's church believed that whites are the true children of God, that Jews are the offspring of Satan and that blacks and other minorities are inferior.
The compound drew skinheads, ex-convicts and others from the fringes of society. Over the years, Mr. Butler's disciples included some of the most notorious figures in the white supremacist movement.
In the 1980s, followers who called themselves the Order committed a series of armored-car robberies and bombings and killed Denver talk radio host Alan Berg. In 1985, 10 Order members were convicted in the murder.
Other followers included Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were killed in a 1992 shootout in which a deputy U.S. marshal also was killed; and Buford Furrow, a former Aryan Nations security guard who killed an Asian American postal carrier and shot up a Jewish day-care center in Los Angeles in 1999.
In a 1999 report, the FBI said the goal of Aryan Nations was to forcibly take five states -- Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Montana -- and form an Aryan homeland.
Mr. Butler's undoing began in 1998, when Aryan Nations security guards chased a car they thought had fired a gun at them. It was apparently a backfire or firecracker.
The guards fired repeatedly at the car, shooting out a tire and forcing it into a ditch. One of them grabbed the driver, local resident Victoria Keenan, jabbed her ribs with a rifle butt and put a gun to her head.
Keenan and her son, Jason, sued Mr. Butler, arguing that his organization had been negligent in its supervision of the guards. In 2000, they won a $6.3 million judgment. They were aided by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called Mr. Butler the "elder statesman of American hate."
"They cannot run me out of northern Idaho with my tail between my legs," Mr. Butler said after the judgment was announced.
Mr. Butler filed for bankruptcy and the Keenans gained possession of the compound. They sold it to the Carr Foundation, a human rights group that demolished the buildings and donated the property to a college.
Richard Girnt Butler was born in Colorado and trained as an aeronautical engineer. He said he became an admirer of Hitler's while serving the Army Air Forces during World War II. He said Hitler "led a nation, a division of our race, to fight for the life of our race."
For years, law enforcement officers tried but failed to tie Mr. Butler to crimes by his supporters. In 1987, an Arkansas grand jury indicted Mr. Butler and others on charges of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the government by acts of violence. But the defense contended that a key prosecution witness made up his story and everyone charged was acquitted.