Racist leader dies in Knox

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Craig Spaulding at a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020 in Knoxville. Note the pistol in his right hand as he and other white nationalists drive through a crowd of civil rights activists. Photo submitted.

A Knoxville man who earned widespread notoriety as a leader in the violent white nationalist movement died last week after he was shot in the head in South Knox County.

Craig Spaulding, age 33, was rushed to the hospital from a residence near Maryville Pike about 8:14 p.m. Thursday, according to a report from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. 

Spaulding was suffering from what appeared to be an accidental gunshot wound to the head fired from a Beretta 950 handgun, the report indicates. He later died at the University of Tennessee Medical Center and the investigation is ongoing.

Other than the fact that Spaulding left behind a wife and three children, few details of his private life are known. He was something of a celebrity in far-Right political circles and was being monitored by civil rights groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Spaulding was a self-described white nationalist, which means he was a member of a group of militant white men and women who espouse white supremacy and advocate enforced racial segregation. 

Spaulding’s first brush with notoriety came in 2015 when he allegedly shot and killed a neighbor’s dog and then claimed he was protecting his pet rabbits, according to contemporary news reports.

Spaulding’s involvement in various hate groups has been extensively documented by the SPLC and Idavox, a website that publishes information about right wing organizations and their members. 

His last known group affiliation was with NSC-131 (the “NSC” stands for “Nationalist Social Club” while “131” is an alphanumeric code word for “anti-communist action”), a street gang that frequently travels to left-wing rallies both in and out of East Tennessee to cause mayhem in the camps of their political opponents.

Spaulding would often show up as a counter protester at gay pride and anti-racist events and demonstrations. He would yell anti-gay and racist insults, sometimes using violent rhetoric that alarmed activists and led to him being escorted away from several events by police. 

Craig Spaulding after his 2020 arrest in Rogersville.

Spaulding was among eight white supremacists who were arrested in the summer of 2020 during a Black Lives Matter protest in Rogersville.  

 In a statement published on white supremacist Telegram channels, NSC-New England and Radio Free Indiana, Craig was praised in a post attributed to Matt Parrott as a man who “lived a passionate life dedicated to his Christian faith, his beautiful family, and his Appalachian folk.” Parrot went on to say that Spaulding “embodied the ideal of the ‘cultured thug’ more than any man I’ve known; philosophically, metapolitically, and strategically—with heart.”   

Social media commentators on the opposite side of the political spectrum had different things to say about him. 

“Craig has been an openly violent neo-Nazi for years and has consistently attempted to terrorize communities around Appalachia and the Mid-west,” said Garfield But Antifascist, a Twitter user with almost 6,600 followers. “We apologize to all Craig’s non-Nazi family members, but for the sake of the wider community, his loss will not be mourned.”  

Local activists have expressed concerns that with Spaulding’s death there may be an influx of white nationalists into the Knoxville area for his funeral, details of which haven’t been made public. They are concerned NSC-131 members may seek out violent confrontations with minority groups or deface buildings, vehicles and statues in the the downtown area with racist graffiti, stickers and fliers.

Jennifer Stambaugh can be reached at news@hardknoxwire.com.

Published on April 13, 2021

Craig Spaulding as a counter-protester at a LGBTQ Pride event. Photo submitted.