Internal conflict has intensified within the North Carolina Division Sons of Confederate Veterans Inc. since its questionable settlement with the UNC System weeks ago.
The settlement accrued the organization ownership of Silent Sam, as well as $2.5 million in UNC System money to fund the Confederate monument’s “preservation and benefit.” Kevin Stone, the state chapter’s commander, called it a “major strategic victory” for the pro-Confederate movement.
But multiple current members of the SCV chapter led by Stone, who spoke to The Daily Tar Heel and were granted anonymity based on personal safety concerns, are taking a far different tone.
‘I do not like Nazis’
The members who spoke with the DTH alleged financial improprieties among SCV leadership, referenced intermingling with gangs and hate groups, and described threats and slurs that have been issued toward members who raise questions.
One member said he joined the SCV within the last decade after learning about his family tree and gaining a newfound appreciation for his Confederate ancestors. But he described an increasingly “scary” presence within the group in the time since.
“I do not like Nazis,” he said. “My uncle and my great grandpa went over there to kill Nazis. I don’t like none of that crap, and some of these guys, for some reason, that draws them to something.”
Stone revealed to SCV members in a Nov. 27 email that months of secret dealings with members of the UNC System Board of Governors had preceded a settlement he “never dreamed we could accomplish... and all at the expense of the University itself.”
Disgruntled members are expressing desires to squash the deal and give the money back. A common fear they shared is that the current deal will empower what they see as the SCV’s most problematic wing: the mechanized cavalry, a nationwide special interest group of motorcycle-riding members which Stone has helmed for around 10 years.
The Silent Sam settlement could lead to UNC System money funding a new headquarters and museum that one member predicts will have “racist overtones” and further enable a nefarious transition.
“Kevin Stone is no more interested in Silent Sam and what it stands for than the man on the moon,” the member said. “He sees this money as a pot of gold to build himself and his biker gang a massive headquarters.”
Stone did not respond to a request for comment.
‘No idea what they’re dealing with’
Frustrations have long persisted within the SCV over whether the group focus on a message of heritage and history — one disputed by southern historians — or transition to an overtly white supremacist front.
One current member, who’s been with the North Carolina chapter for decades, said a man at the center of that radical rise decades ago, Boyd Cathey, helped align the recent UNC System settlement.
Cathey, he said, is the reason the SCV brought in Boyd Sturges, its attorney in the case.
In his Nov. 27 email to SCV members, Stone credited the group’s settlement winnings to Sturges, citing the attorney's “expertise, his good connections with and respect by all the parties involved, and his influence.”
According to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, Cathey “became a key player in the multi-year attempt by racist extremists to assume control of...” the SCV in the early 2000s. Previously, he’d held lead roles in Catholic extremist and white nationalist presidential campaigns, spent years on the editorial advisory committee of a journal published by a major Holocaust denial organization and served as a North Carolina state archivist.
His ascent to top roles in the SCV coincided with the purging of hundreds of members who protested “growing racial extremism” in the group, according to the SPLC.
“Most of the people who were anti-racist got kicked out of the group 10 years ago,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the SPLC’s intelligence project.
While Cathey holds a less public role with the SCV today, he is still an active member, according to multiple members who spoke to the DTH. Cathey declined a request for comment.
Sturges told the DTH he couldn’t discuss much beyond the fact that he was hired by the SCV to help negotiate the settlement. He added that he is not the group’s general counsel but served as its outside counsel. He said he has met Cathey before, but declined to describe the circumstances.
When asked about the number of outside hate group affiliates within the SCV, the member who suggested Cathey’s involvement in the settlement's backdoor dealings said “people like that are infiltrating the mechanized cavalry.”
The motorcyclist subgroup has “taken over” the SCV’s state chapter, he said, something he thinks the UNC Board of Governors members who negotiated the settlement aren’t aware of.
“They have no idea what they’re dealing with here,” he said.
‘More fun if you’re on a motorcycle’
Stone’s current role — leader of SCV's North Carolina chapter and the nationwide motorcycle subgroup — is one he hopes to expand, multiple members said, by running for election as commander of the group’s “Army of Northern Virginia.” That would yield him control of SCV operations in numerous other states, including South Carolina, Virginia and Maryland.
Members described suspicions about the mechanized cavalry, one concern being its rising exchange of members and activity with the Hells Angels and the Outlaws, two globally-present “outlaw motorcycle gangs,” a term designated by the SPLC, with a rivaling presence in North and South Carolina. SCV members said the mechanized cavalry has become a back-and-forth recruiting ground with the two motorcycle clubs.
“In order for the clubs to survive, other than to do the illegal stuff that they do... they need members to join that can’t do that kind of work to keep paying their membership dues,” he said.
In a Facebook post responding to SCV member criticism, Bill Starnes, a mechanized cavalry member and close affiliate of Stone, responded, “We do have some Outlaws in the SCV. We also have some Hell’s Angels in the SCV. Nobody is pissed about it... They know us, they know who we are, they know what we stand for. They support us.”
In emails to members, Starnes has defended the interactions — calling critics “cowards,” “chicken shit” as well as homophobic slurs.
Starnes told the DTH that criticism within the group is just the result of a few upset members complaining, something any organization faces.
Regarding concerns over radicalization in the SCV, Starnes said the group doesn’t support the Ku Klux Klan or its use of the Confederate flag, calling the group “a pain in our ass." He said the organization does nothing out of hate or malice, and is not engaged in any criminal activity.
“The mechanized cavalry is made up strictly of members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans who have combined their love of riding motorcycles with their love of history, and their willingness and dedication to go out and work in cemeteries, clean cemeteries..." Starnes said. "and if you’ve got to drive some distance to do it, it’s a lot more fun if you’re on a motorcycle.”
Starnes said he engages with biker groups for positive reasons, like organizing toy and clothing drives for on-site delivery to children of all races. He listed a number of groups, including Christian and police motorcycle groups.
“These motherfuckers that’s telling you other shit, they’re heading into a brick wall,” Starnes said. “They are driving full speed ahead into a brick wall, and it’s going to cost them dearly. They will pay for this shit. Now that’s not a violent threat, but you don’t act like that.”
Members told the DTH that SCV meetings are now conducted with people openly-carrying guns. One member said it seems like an intimidation tactic. Another suggested that armed members of the Outlaws have been present at such meetings.
Two members, one of whom said he was in the room at the time, described an incident at an SCV meeting in August where Starnes pulled a gun on a member who was criticizing Stone, threatening the man until being disarmed and walked out by other members. Another member said in a Facebook post they had heard Starnes was stopped before unholstering the gun, which they called "the same as drawing your weapon in my book."
Starnes called the story a lie created by one person in the room at the time.
Members said they are concerned about the leadership’s use of funds, something they said nobody knows about and is responded to with humiliation when brought up. They raised the idea that funds are being transferred in the background to outside groups.
In an email last April, Starnes responded to concerns over how the mechanized cavalry’s leadership was using money raised by the group, particularly the additional $100 fee cavalry members pay on top of their traditional SCV membership.
Starnes told them the cavalry has never held a bank account. Instead, he said he gives some of the cavalry money to the broader SCV and keeps the rest on behalf of the cavalry.
“We tend to have the cigar box in the gun safe approach,” Starnes wrote. “So the checks are made out to the Captain, ie, Bill Starnes, so they can be cashed.”
Starnes said anyone who suggests the cavalry has engaged in financial transactions with the Outlaws or Hells Angels is “a dumbass.”
One member said he worries about improper financial activities in the group, which would potentially complicate its nonprofit status and operation of a political action committee if true. One of the primary breaking points for many members, he said, is the feeling that their money is being taken.
“I don’t see the SCV as being a white supremacist group. I see it as the best Ponzi scheme ever made, man.”
Reporting contributed by Senior Writer Preston Lennon
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.