John A. Stormer, a religious leader and right-wing activist whose self-published Cold War tract “None Dare Call it Treason” became a grassroots sensation in 1964 and a rallying point for the emerging conservative movement, has died at 90.
Stormer died July 10 after an unspecified yearlong illness, according to an obituary posted on the website of the McCoy-Blossom Funeral Home in Troy, Mo. A spokeswoman for the funeral home confirmed the details from the website.
A native of Pennsylvania who moved to Missouri in his 20s, Stormer was chair of the state's Federation of Young Republicans when through his own Liberty Bell Press he released “None Dare Call it Treason.” He warned that the U.S. was losing to the Soviet Union and was menaced by a “communist-socialist conspiracy to enslave America.”
“Recognize that those who refuse to work politically to protect their freedom may someday face a choice between fighting with guns or becoming slaves,” he wrote.
Initially ignored by the mainstream press, “None Dare Call it Treason” was a word-of-mouth success believed to have sold at least 1 million copies in its first year, some of those sales generated by millionaires who purchased copies in bulk and distributed them.
Along with Phyllis Schlafly's “A Choice Not An Echo,” it was among a handful of bestsellers that coincided with conservative Republican Barry Goldwater's campaign for the 1964 presidential election, for which Stormer served as a party convention delegate.
Goldwater was easily defeated by the Democratic incumbent, Lyndon Johnson, but the success of “None Dare Call it Treason” and other books signaled a thriving political network that became increasingly powerful over the following decades.
“At rallies they were handed out like party favors,” Rick Perlstein wrote of the conservative books in his prize-winning history “Before the Storm,” published in 2001. “In some areas copies disappeared from bookstore shelves as fast as murder mysteries.”
“None Dare Call It Treason” alarmed some readers enough to contact the FBI and ask whether a communist takeover was indeed imminent. The bureau's standard reply was to decline comment, while an internal review noted that Stormer was a member of the far-right John Birch Society and that “None Dare Call It Treason” was “extreme” in some ways, although not an “extremist document.”
“He has interpreted many of the facets of the American scene both domestically and externally along the lines of a sincere conservative,” according to the report.
In 1965, Stormer had a religious reawakening. He eventually became pastor of the Heritage Baptist Church in Florissant, Mo., and president of the Missouri Assn. of Christian Schools.
He also wrote occasional updates to “None Dare Call It Treason” and completed other works that alleged the country was threatened by its own institutions, including “None Dare Call It Education” and “Betrayed By the Bench,” about the judicial system. For years, he ran weekly Bible study sessions for Missouri state legislators.
He was born in Altoona, Penn., attended Pennsylvania State University and San Jose State University, and served as an editor and historian in the Air Force during the Korean War. He would recall growing increasingly frustrated with mainstream politicians and by the early 1960s leaving his job as an electronics magazine editor to “begin an intensive study of communism.”
“A program for victory over communism cannot be achieved until Americans elect a President and a Congress with the will to win and the courage to ‘cleanse’ the policy-making agencies of communist influence,” he advised readers in 1964. “To accomplish this, conservative Americans must make their voices heard in the political parties.”