BOCA GRANDE, Florida — William H. Regnery II, the heir to a family publishing fortune who was known for his quiet but influential support of extreme right-wing causes in the United States, has died at 80.
He died at his home in Boca Grande, Florida, on July 2. A person who today answered the phone at the Lemon Bay Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Englewood, Florida confirms they handled Regnery’s arrangements, but provided no additional information.
Cassie Miller, a senior research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center, says in an email that Regnery’s material contributions helped to build networks of racist activists and a large body of pseudoscientific literature that Regnery hoped would legitimize his calls to build a white ethnostate.
“Though he usually operated in the background, Regnery was an extremely influential figure in the radical right,” Miller says.
In 2016, an Associated Press review of tax records found that the National Policy Institute, founded by Regnery, and three other groups at the forefront of the white nationalist movement had registered as charities and raised more than $7.8 million in tax-deductible donations over the previous decade.
Regnery spent much of his life using his family’s money to build the institutional infrastructure that would support the so-called alt-right — an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white nationalism, antisemitism and populism — and help to propel figures like Richard Spencer into the spotlight, Miller says.
“Regnery’s real legacy is not what he built, but the immense harm that he caused,” she says.
Spencer himself tweeted about Regnery on July 12, saying he “was fortunate to have known him and learned much from him.”
In a 2017 article, BuzzFeed News said Regnery felt his ideas were redeemed by the candidacy of now former president Donald Trump.
“I think Trump was a legitimatizer,” Regnery told the publication. White nationalism “went from being conversation you could hold in a bathroom, to the front parlor.”