David Duke (born July 1, 1950) is an activist on behalf of white supremacy, a writer and a former state representative (Republican) for Louisiana. Duke ran as a candidate for the Democratic presidential primary in 1988 and again as a candidate for the Republican presidential primary in 1992. The politician and activist lost bids for the Louisiana State Senate, governor of Louisiana, the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, Duke is a former Grand Dragon (state leader) in the Knights of the Ku KIux Klan.
The product of an absentee father and an alcoholic mother, Duke was a loner who spent most of his after-school time reading, until the 1964-1965 school year. That year, Duke discovered the segregationist group known as the Citizen's Council. The council was created to resist attempts at integration through the use of education and other legal means. Duke began to read segregationist literature and found it persuasive.
Later, Duke attended an integrated public school, the John F. Kennedy High School. A classmate at this school introduced Duke to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Duke became a member of the Klan at the age of seventeen.
Duke joined the student body of Louisiana State University in 1968. A Catholic priest and staunch anti-Semite, Father Lawrence J. Toups, became Duke's mentor so that Duke became an anti-Semite as well as a segregationist. During his sophomore year at LSU, Duke joined the National Socialist Liberation Front (NSLF), affiliated with the National Socialist White People's Party (NSWPP), which in turn was created as an American branch of the Nazi party.
By 1969, Duke was publicizing his views at every opportunity. That year, he told a crowd of students at LSU, "I am a National Socialist. You can call me a Nazi if you want to." At one point, Duke chastised a professor for his negative characterization of Mein Kampf, which Duke regarded as "the greatest piece of literature of the twentieth century."
Throughout the formative years of his racial and religious prejudices, Duke maintained he was a moderate. In a letter he wrote to the editor of the LSU campus newspaper, The Daily Reveille, Duke insisted he only meant to open dialogue and help create leaders: "Our first goal is to break through the communication barrier in this country and to let the people know exactly what we stand for instead of what certain people say we stand for. Then we will express to them why we believe as we do. Once the people hear both sides, we are confident that they will choose ours; then we can proceed to build the leadership we need to liberate our people so that they can determine their own destiny."
On July 23, 1970, Duke picketed a speech by attorney William Kunstler at Tulane University while dressed in a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika armband. Duke carried a sign that read "Gas the Chicago 7" and "Kunstler is a Communist Jew." The activist later blamed his behavior on youth and inexperience.
In 1971, Duke formed an organization in New Orleans he called the National Party. He also published a magazine called The Nationalist which disseminated anti-Semitic propaganda that spoke of Jewish domination of money, power and the media. Within a month, Duke claimed 600 followers. The party worked on behalf of George Wallace's 1972 presidential campaign. That year, Duke became Louisiana Grand Dragon as well as the national information director for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1975, Duke became Grand Wizard of the Louisiana Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and appeared on several local and national television talk shows. He became a popular lecturer on the college circuit. In 1980, Duke severed his ties with the Klan and created a new organization called the National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) in an effort to dissociate himself from the Klan.
David Duke was elected to the state legislature in 1989, running from the New Orleans suburb known as Metairie. The media seized on this fact and explained to the public that Louisiana politics were an exotic breed that held no relevance for those in the other 49 States of the Union. Duke's racist supremacist ideas embarrassed most Americans.
Duke ran for several other elected offices, including the American presidency. In one presidential primary, Duke ran as a Democrat. During a second presidential primary, the would-be president ran as a Republican. All of Duke's electoral bids since his one success in 1989 have met with failure.