By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
According to testimony presented before a federal jury in 1990, the Confederate Hammerskins, which came into being around 1987 or 1988, had no formal leaders, though a few people claimed to be the organization's founders. There was nothing formal about the group, nothing to bind it, except hatred and the devout belief that white Christians would someday again rule a nation that had fallen into the hands of blacks, Jews, Mexicans, and other so-called inferior races.
The Confederate Hammerskins set up housekeeping in a house in Garland on Nash Street that became known as The Nash House. They held meetings every Friday night, welcomed in any stray dogs with offers of shelter and comfort, and held mixers, of sorts, with visiting skinheads from around the country. "It was like belonging to a big club," Mouse says. A fraternity house for skinheads.
During the summer of 1988, several members of the local Confederate Hammerskins traveled to Oklahoma for one of the White Power movement's Aryan Fests, annual gatherings of skins, Klansmen, Aryans, and other white separatists and supremacists from around the country. White Power leaders spoke at the gathering--preaching the gospel of white pride, denouncing race-mixing, and promising to reclaim their land.
At that meeting, several of the Confederate Hammerskins were particularly taken with a speech by Tom Metzger, the California-based leader of the White Aryan Resistance and one of the linchpins of the white-separatist movement. According to several of the skinheads in attendance that summer, Metzger delivered a fiery speech encouraging skinhead participation in a movement that would lead to the liberation of white, Christian America.
Skinheads, Metzger said, would be the "foot soldiers" of the White Power movement, and they would lead the march to victory.
In the late 1980s, the Confederate Hammerskins ruled Deep Ellum with fists and bald heads--at least this was the portrait of violence painted by the local papers and nightclub owners who desperately sought police help.
And indeed, they often wreaked havoc in such nightclubs as the Theater Gallery, the Twilight Room, and the Honest Place. They went to those clubs in large groups, about 10 to 20 people at a time, looking to start fights and usually succeeding. They intimidated club patrons, frightened club owners, and frustrated Dallas police. During 1987 and 1988, when Deep Ellum was taking its baby steps as a club scene and haven for struggling musicians and artists, The Dallas Morning News and Dallas Times Herald portrayed the area as a war zone.
"In the last three months," the Morning News reported in May 1987, "105 criminal incidents were reported in an area estimated to have 35 to 100 residents." The following year, the paper relented somewhat, running the headline, "Nightlife abounds in area despite 'skinhead' aggression."
Jeff Liles, who ran the Theater Gallery with partner and friend Russell Hobbs during Deep Ellum's early days as a burgeoning Boho asylum, recalls skinheads would occasionally show up for punk shows and start fights. But he dismisses them, in retrospect, as a nuisance more than anything else.
"They hadn't taken over the whole area," Liles says. "They were like a roving tumor. It was like, 'Aw, fuck, there's the skinheads again.' I wasn't scared of them. They were cowards more than anything else."
Though Mouse would later depend on Deep Ellum's nightclubs for work, he recalls that he and his Confederate Hammerskins pals would pile into vans and trucks and go to shows and pick fights, then head to Lee Park near Turtle Creek to chase blacks and gays off the property--their property, the Hammerskins believed, so named for their beloved Civil War hero Robert E. Lee, whose controversial statue towers above the park.
"We would go out and start fights out of boredom, because, first of all, we were on alcohol, and second, there was absolutely nothing else to do," Mouse recalls. "So going down to Cedar Springs to the Confederate Park, or whatever it was, and chasing all the gay people out of there was the thing to do--'Aw, that's our park. That's Robert E. Lee Park, and we can't have that.'
"I'm not proud we went and chased gays out of a park. We've all done things we're not proud of, but we also don't regret it. I think it was an important time of what I did, and I did it."
But by the summer of 1988, the beer-and-boredom-driven mischief was getting out of control. That July, a brawl between the Confederate Hammerskins, other so-called independent skins, and a few Deep Ellum patrons escalated into a shooting.
According to police reports and court testimony, a group of Confederate Hammerskins went down to the now-defunct Honest Place on Commerce Street to see a show by the U.K. Subs, a British punk band that, ironically, stood for everything to which the skins were opposed. But the music was loud and angry and the lyrics spoke of racism and gangs.
That night at the Honest Place, a fight erupted, according to police reports, when a Confederate skin jumped out of a van that contained 11 other Confederates and told one of the independent skins to take off his boots, which he refused to do. When a scuffle broke out, club owner Greg Winslow pulled out a .22-caliber rifle and fired nine shots toward the van.