Joe McWilliams

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Joseph Elsberry "Joe" McWilliams (March 23, 1904 - June 30, 1996) was one of the leading New York City nationalist activists and organizers in the early 1940s. Founding the Christian Mobilizers and American Destiny Party, McWilliams staged daily demonstrations and speeches warning the people of the Jewish and Communist threat to America. In 1944 he and 29 others were indicted and tried in United States v. McWilliams in what became known as the Great Sedition Trial.

Early life

Joe McWilliams was born in Hitchcock, Oklahoma and was of Irish and Cherokee stock. He moved to New York City in 1925 and became successful at selling a number of mechanical inventions.[1] In the 1920s and 1930s McWilliams had Communist leanings and had many Jewish friends. He attended the Communist Workers School in 1933 and became a Trotskyite. In early 1939 McWilliams became an American Nationalist and began his association with the Christian Front.[2]

Christian Mobilizers and American Destiny Party

He formed his own group the Christian Mobilizers with its weekly newspaper of the same name. Within a year the Christian Moblizers was replaced with the formation of the American Destiny Party. He was the party’s candidate for Congress in the German American community of Yorkville, New York in the fall of 1940.[3] He was once described as the “handsomest and meanest-talking man ever to run for a public office.”[4]

McWilliams picked as his party’s symbol the covered wagon which he described as a "symbol of America’s greatness, symbol of Washington and Lincoln, symbol of our peerless American heritage."[5] In his campaign he traveled the streets of New York in a covered wagon and gave speeches from the rear platform receiving nationwide attention.

In and around New York his group placed "Buy Christian" stickers everywhere and passed out a "Christian Consumers Guide." He was a daily activist and would hold twenty or more street meetings a week with invited speakers under a variety of organizational names such as the American Nationalist Party, Crusaders for Americanism, German American Bund, Christian Front, Christian Mobilizers, and the American First Committee.[6]

Joe McWilliams ceased his running for political office in the fall of 1941.[7]

Serviceman’s Reconstruction Plan

In 1943 McWilliams moved from New York to Chicago and began publishing the The Post-War Bulletin with the help of wealthy backer Alice de Tarnowsky. McWilliams advocated a Serviceman’s Reconstruction Plan whereas each member of the United States Armed Forces upon his honorable discharge be paid $ 7,500.

Great Sedition Trial

In 1944 Joe McWilliams and 29 other were indicted and charged with conspiracy to aid in establishment of a National Socialist form of government within the United States and attempting to demoralize its armed forces. In what became known as the Great Sedition Trial, the Justice Department headlined Joe McWilliams by designating the entire case as the United States v. McWilliams. The judge suddenly died during the trial and all charges against the defendants were dropped. The Justice Department declined to retry the case. After charges were dropped at the trial he became a representative of Senator Robert R. Reynolds’s American Nationalist Party.

Joe McWilliams died in 1996 in Glenview, Illinois.


  • The Serviceman's Reconstruction Plan (1942) 40 pages

See also


  1. Under Cover, p. 84, by John Roy Carlson, (1943)
  2. Under Cover, p. 85, by John Roy Carlson, (1943)
  3. "NEW YORK: Mr. McNazi", Time, Sept. 23, 1940
  4. "The Kampf of Joe McWilliams", The New Yorker, August 24, 1940
  5. Under Cover, p. 83, by John Roy Carlson, (1943)
  6. Under Cover, p. 82, by John Roy Carlson, (1943)
  7. A Trial on Trial, by Lawrence Dennis and Maximilian St.George, page 229