James Stern, a black civil rights leader who tricked a neo-Nazi organization into making him its president, died last month, his lawyer announced Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Stern, 55, died Oct. 11 in Moreno Valley, Calif., after receiving hospice care for cancer, according to his friend Arne Edward List and his attorney Bob Ross.
“He fought with such courage in everything he did,” List said. “James was very clear that this fight isn’t going to die with him.”
Stern made headlines earlier in the year after he told the press that he had persuaded Jeff Schoep, the former leader of the National Socialist Movement, to give him control of the organization, with Michigan corporate records indicating that the transition occurred in January.
Schoep later signed corporate papers naming a different president, prompting Stern, who had vowed to dismantle the group, to sue and file a complaint with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel (D), although Nessel’s office did not find sufficient evidence to file charges, according to the AP.
Stern’s civil suit was still pending in California court at the time of his death, according to William Daniels, another of his attorneys. "it’s just not clear to me now how it’s going to unfold," Daniels told the AP.
Schoep told the AP earlier this year that Stern had tricked him into transferring the presidency while the group, a participant in the deadly 2017 Unite the Right white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., faced a federal lawsuit relating to the violence.
He said Stern had told him transferring leadership could help the group beat the lawsuit. “He has that piece of paper, but he is absolutely not recognized as the leader of the National Socialist Movement,” Schoep said in February.
Schoep’s lawyer said in a court filing last month that his client left the group this March, and Schoep himself has told press he has renounced racism and intends to speak out against the movement.