Pelley, William Dudley

   Born in Lynn, Massachusetts, William Pelley became a journalist after leaving school and wrote for such magazines as Collier’s and the Saturday Evening Post. He traveled widely in Europe, served with the YMCA during World War I, and was in Siberia with the U.S. Army in 1919. He subsequently spent time in Russia and became anticommunist and anti-Semitic. Returning to the United States in 1920, he was a successful author and scriptwriter in Hollywood until 1929. In 1928, he claimed to have had an out-of-body experience, and he began to write about spiritual matters and politics. He established Galahad College in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1932, and after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, he formed the right-wing Silver Legion with its uniformed Silver Shirts group in 1933. The Silver Legion, which had a membership of about 15,000, was briefly associated with the followers of Huey Long and Father Charles Coughlin, but in 1936 Pelley ran as the presidential candidate for the Christian Party. He received less than 1,600 votes. In 1941, after suggesting that the government had lied about the extent of the losses at Pearl Harbor, he was arrested and charged with sedition and treason. Pelley was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1942 and was not released until 1950, at which time he resumed his career as a publisher.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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