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As election day over Mountain Home High School’s millage election nears, both sides of the bitter debate are scrambling to uncover political dirt on each other.
On the no side, opponents against the millage have focused on allegations of misconduct by Mountain Home Superintendent Jake Long and the Mountain Home Public School Board. That side recently celebrated a victory after it was uncovered that members of the board violated the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act by meeting secretly in a text group run by Long.
On the yes side, proponents of the millage have focused on allegations of extremism surrounding groups like Traditional Mountain Home, The Ozark Patriots, MH Watchdogs and the Baxter County Citizens Watch.
Allegations of white supremacy have been thrown around with ease, with even members of the press writing opinion pieces stating that opponents against the millage should move to Boone County to be closer to un-named far rightwing groups. Boone County is historically known for being the national headquarters for various white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan.
One of the most recent allegations involving white supremacy, surrounds Baxter County Republican Committee Chairman Chris Chamberlin, who has been accused of being “a Klucker” and having ties to a sovereign citizen group in an email that is making the rounds.
Chamberlin was recently picked to become the committee chairman for the Republican Party after the party’s former chairman, Rick Peglar, lost his seat following a political scandal involving the Baxter County Election Commission. His victory was ultimately locked in with help from the Ozark Patriots, whose growing membership helped to out many of the county’s mainstream Republicans in February.
Chamberlin is not a member of the Ozark Patriots but is close friends with many of its members by his own admission.
The new committee chairman has also been one of the most outspoken critics of Mountain Home Public Schools’ Board of Education’s attempts at increasing the districts millage, stating that the millage increase is too big of an ask given the current state of the economy. Chamberlin most recently participated in an hour long debate over the school millage on KTLO.
Chamberlin said he was in the process of suing the individual that sent out the defamatory email calling him a member of the Klan.
While the allegations of Chamberlin having ties to the Klan appear to be unfounded, a look into his past does reveal ties to various Neo-Confederate members and groups that have espoused white supremacist viewpoints in the past.
“I think this is a way to tear me down,” Chamberlin said in an interview with the Observer. “It’s typical liberal politics. No one has really debated me on my ideas. It all boils down to this, which is a shame.”
Ties to the League of the South
Not much is known about Chamberlin’s early pre-internet history outside of a few documents linking him to several Neo-Confederate groups in the late 90s and early 2000s.
In 2000, while living in Louisiana, Chamberlin and his wife appear to have formed the Louisiana Sovereignty Party, which was originally supposed to be named the Louisiana Party before it was discovered that the name was already taken, alongside known Neo-Confederate Walter Donald Kennedy.
Kennedy, who is a former anesthesia nurse turned Confederate author, has written books alongside his twin brother James Ronald Kennedy such as The South was Right!, Myths of American Slavery, Why Not Freedom!, and Was Jefferson Davis Right?. He is listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) watch list for Confederate hate groups.
Kennedy’s most popular book, The South was Right!, is regularly hailed in white supremacist and neo-Confederate circles as a classic. In that book, Kennedy calls for a new Southern secession to escape the “overgrown and unresponsive” federal government, while also calling for reparations to white Southerners who had their slaves forcefully removed from them.
Alongside his brother, Kennedy also has deeper ties to another neo-Confederate group, The League of the South, that has also espoused white supremacist viewpoints in the past. The brothers, who are referred to as the “Good Kennedys,” helped found the League in 1994 alongside Michael Hill, one of the South’s most well-known racist and neo-Confederate leaders.
Hill dubbed the brothers the “Good Kennedys” in some of his earlier writings praising the two for their work during the 1990s. The League of the South is listed as a hate group by the SPLC.
While the League of the South was originally founded to revive Southern heritage, Hill pushed the group heavily into becoming increasingly racist and militant in the late 1990s, going so far as to call for a “race war” and forming a paramilitary unit.
“So, if negroes think a ‘race war’ in modern America would be to their advantage, they had better prepare themselves for a very rude awakening. White people may be patient, but our patience does have a limit. You do not want to test that limit,” wrote Hill in 2015 in a letter called “A few notes on an American race war.”
Kennedy is currently listed as a board member for the national League of the South organization.
For Chamberlin, his ties to Kennedy appear to have sprung out of his membership in the Louisiana chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans but there is no evidence of Chamberlin ever being a member in the League of the South.
During a discussion with the Observer, Chamberlin admitted to being a former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group, while stating that he was proud of his Southern heritage.
A disclaimer at the bottom of the group’s website reads, ”We are not a hate group, nor are we elitists. We are non-partisan in every nature. The main goals of the Sons of Confederate Veterans are to vindicate the Cause for which our Confederate ancestors so bravely fought more than a century ago, the feats that they proudly accomplished, and last but not least, our ancestors will never be forgotten. And that is what we hope to accomplish with this web page.”
The group also disavows any known hate group.
Yet, a look back through history reveals that there was a split within the Sons of Confederate Veterans back in 1996. According to research from the SPLC, Kennedy split from the group after the then-commander in chief banned all discussion of secession from its main email discussion list.
“If it was ‘Right’ in 1861,” Kennedy wrote of secession in his resignation letter, “why is it ‘Wrong’ today?”
It remains unclear when exactly that Chamberlin first met Kennedy in Louisiana. When speaking about Kennedy, Chamberlin said, “Back in those days, I don’t know when they wrote The South was Right! It was a very popular book. I don’t know if I was introduced to him by our attorney, or our camp. He may have come to speak. I don’t even remember how we had to sign the paperwork. That was before the days of docusign, but I don’t even remember how it happened.”
He said Kennedy’s book was not viewed as racist at the time.
Chamberlin went on to say that his attempt at starting a new party in Louisiana ultimately went nowhere. At the time, he claimed, the Republican Party in Louisiana was in disarray and was not living up to his standards.
Chamberlin is a long time member of the Republican Party, becoming involved in the Young Republicans while in college, and even helped with Republican Steve Scalise’s campaign in Louisiana. He also served in the Republican State Central Committee of Louisiana.
“We thought this would be a good thing to do during the Clinton years,” Chamberlin said. “And to be honest, I don’t know who ‘we’ is anymore.”
While it would be easy to dismiss Chamberlin’s formation of the Louisianan Sovereignty Party with Kennedy as a one off, documents with the Mississippi Secretary of State show that Chamberlin had another tie to the League of the South.
In late 2000, after his new party plan stalled, Chamberlin moved his family to Mississippi, where he would join The Southern League of Mississippi, which was started in 1993 by John T. Cripps, a reverend and neo-Confederate who served as chairman for the League of the South’s Mississippi chapter. Chamberlin became a registered agent with the group in 2002.
Cripps is a well known neo-Confederate and was highly outspoken during the debate to change Mississippi’s flag in 2020 and 2021. Cripps was added to the SPLC’s watchlist in 2003. He would split from the League of the South in 2000 to form Free Mississippi, which would ultimately morph into Free South. Cripps also operated the Confederate States Research Center, a bookstore operating out of a run-down storefront in Wiggins, Mississippi, in 2000.
Cripps was accused of calling black spring breakers “a group of animals” back in 2000, in a Facebook post from a group called “We Changed the Mississippi Flag” in 2015.
Both Cripps and Chamberlin are listed in another document to form FREESOUTH.ORG in 2003. Chamberlin admitted to knowing Cripps and said the group spun out of the Mississippi chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in an attempt to prevent Confederate monuments from being taken down throughout the state.
“Heritage, not hate,” said Chamberlin on the theme of the group.
While Chamberlin noted that there are outliers in every group, he said that most everyone he met through the The Southern League of Mississippi was a good person. He further said that any allegations of racism by Cripps would have to be addressed by Cripps himself.
Chamberlin left the Sons of Confederate Veterans and The Southern League of Mississippi sometime in 2003 to focus more on his family. Chamberlin has not been a part of any Southern themed group since leaving his last one 20 years ago.
Addressing the allegations
When asked if Chamberlin held any secessionist or neo-Confederate views in the past, he said, “the questions you’ve asked are intensely complex. So, I’m not going to give you a Twitter soundbite. I know that sounds like an evasive answer, but I hate it when someone asks for an answer to a very complex question. It is a very complex question. Even legally, there’s a question of ‘was the question of the secession, settled during the Civil War?’ Some scholars say it is, some say it isn’t. Here’s what I’ll tell you now, I don’t really give a shit of what I believed back then because it doesn’t matter.”
He further stated, “Let me tell you what I believe right now, I believe that we are the best country on the face of the earth. I think we’re stronger as a single unit. I despise this talk coming out of Marjorie Taylor Green about a national divorce. I think we have to work together, just like we do here in Mountain Home. We have to work together to solve our problems. So, that’s what we have to do.”
Chamberlin then said the Baxter County Republican Committee was planning a Lincoln day dinner for the party, stating, “If I didn’t believe in Lincoln, I wouldn’t do that.”
“People change. Things change. I’ve changed. I mean, I got married, I had five babies, I raised one to adulthood. I lost my parents. No one is the same person they were after 25 years. If they are, I’d say they’re a pretty dull individual,” Chamberlin said.