Earlier this year James Stern, a black California pastor and activist, "outsmarted" a neo-Nazi group, became its director and president, and ultimately planned to "destroy it." But Stern died before that happened, CNN reports. Stern's attorney and a friend say the 55-year-old died at home, where he was in hospice care for cancer, on Oct. 11, USA Today reports. The National Socialist Movement, one of the country's biggest neo-Nazi groups, turned over leadership to Stern in January, and its former president later said Stern had "deceived" him in order to take control. The move "completely blindsided" members, the Southern Poverty Law Center says.
"His vision, which we talked about many times, wasn't to just take control of the website but to use it as a platform to re-educate racists about the truth of the Holocaust, the history of slavery," a friend says. When he died, Stern had a pending lawsuit against NSM members he claimed were attempting to take back control of the group, which is known for its racist views; those proceedings will be suspended until his estate is settled, though another of Stern's attorneys says it's not clear how that fight is "going to unfold" now that Stern has passed. His friend says the fight is not over: He says Stern told him before he died, "I'm looking for you to keep this going. It's not going to die with me." (More on Stern's story here and here.)