Dec. 8, 2000
[pictures added by
Lawyer Gives To Hate Groups
By Theo Emery
Associated Press Writer
Richard J. Cotter Jr.
seemed to be a member in good standing of the
Boston establishment: Phillips Exeter, Harvard and
then Harvard Law, service in World War II, a stint
as an assistant state attorney general, then
At his death, though, it became clear that his
politics were way out on the fringe.
Shocking some of those who knew him, the lawyer
left more than $650,000 of his $5.4 million estate
to white supremacist and anti-Semitic causes and
figures, including the author of the book
The Hitler We Loved and
Robert Leikind, executive director of the
League in Boston, called the will "a startling
legacy." "These are not groups to be trifled with.
They can be extreme, and they can be not only
dangerous, but inspire people in the most
fundamentally undemocratic principles," he
Cotter's executor, friend and legal colleague,
Donald O. Smith, said he was amazed.
"I think Cotter's concerns, perhaps with regard
to communism, may have led him into a position
sympathetic to people with an affiliation for the
Nazi regime. Having never discussed any of this
with Mr. Cotter, you should probably understand
that I'm just speculating," Smith said.
Kathleen Pyle, who cared for Cotter's
beloved horses for 23 years, said she cannot square
his bequests with the man she knew. "He very much
loved nature, and animals, and that's where he got
most of his happiness. He kept a lot to himself,"
Cotter's niece, Diana Moran Chabrier,
said, however, she was not surprised.
"He was a person who is perhaps an extreme
example of a person who showed different faces to
different parts of his life. He kept extreme
right-wing propaganda on the bookshelves of his
house. It was not something he tried to keep
secret," Chabrier said.
Cotter was 81 when he died in March 1999. His
only marriage ended in divorce, and he had no
The son of a prominent insurance lawyer, Cotter
moved comfortably in Boston society. At Harvard he
was a friend of John F. Kennedy. He had an
unremarkable career in private practice, mostly as
a trial lawyer litigating business matters.
made a secret of nothing in his will.
He left money to care for his horses, to
friends, to his niece, to a group that promotes the
legacy of a children's author and to a nursing care
But also among the beneficiaries was William
L. Pierce, the white-supremacist author of
The Turner Diaries, a
novel that prosecutors said inspired Timothy
McVeigh's 1995 bombing
of the Oklahoma City federal building.
Pierce, who got $25,000 in the will, said he
knew Cotter for about 30 years but would give no
other details. "Mr. Cotter was a gentleman and a
friend, and that's all I really have to say,"
Pierce said in a telephone interview from his West
Cotter left about half a million dollars to
James K. Warner, leader of the
Louisiana-based New Christian Crusade Church.
Warner is a founding member of the American Nazi
Party who calls Jews "sons of the Devil" and is a
close friend of former KKK leader David
Duke, according to the Anti-Defamation
Warner said Cotter joined his group in the
mid-1980s. The two held meetings in Massachusetts.
He said the millionaire knew what he was doing in
supporting the organizations he did.
"He didn't pick our names out of a phone
directory," Warner said.
Cotter also left $100,000 to Ernst
(picture), a Canadian
who in the early 1970s wrote pro-Nazi materials
under the name Christof Friedrich, including the
book The Hitler We Loved and
Why. Zündel did not return a call to
his Toronto office.© Copyright 2001