One example of how a liberal lawyer became part of the pro-Trump mob
W. McCall Calhoun Jr., who ran for office in Georgia as a Democrat, personifies the inconsistencies in Georgia politics.
W. McCall Calhoun Jr. remained an articulate and unwavering liberal as the state around him became increasingly strongly Republican. He financially supported the Democratic Party, stood for office as a Democrat, and enthusiastically promoted Democratic policies in social circles that were unlikely to support him. Trump could explode if he figured out that his buddies had voted for him.
There is no question about it; he was “hard core,” said Dr. Michael Busman, a physician who has known Mr. Calhoun for many years. He did not want to speak to you even though you were a Republican.
However, last year, when the state of Georgia was on the verge of electing its first Democratic governor in over 100 years, Mr. Calhoun, a small-town lawyer who had family ties to the state for many decades, backed out of the Democratic Party. In addition, he pledged to murder them.
Three months before storming the U.S., Mr. Calhoun posted on Twitter: “I have an immense amount of ammunition.” Capitol building overrun by a pro-Trump crowd. I plan on using it at the range and on Democratic Socialist Marxists. “Well, make my day.”
It was shocking to many that Mr. Calhoun, who is now in federal custody, had agreed to convert. In reality, Calhoun's tale was reflective of Georgia's greatest contradictions. It shows how a multiracial, multi-ethnic bloc of voters in the state sent two Democrats — a Black preacher and a Jewish millennial — to the Senate in January, but also showcases how thousands of voters elected Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a political crusader representing an explosive brand of hard-right politics.
Many Blacks in Americus, Mr. Calhoun's hometown, did not respond to the fact that a worldly individual might become a serial killer. The Rev. Mathis Kearse Wright Jr., the president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., told us about the Jekyll and Hyde effect. He was acquainted with Mr. Calhoun, who contributed money and often purchased tickets to the group's annual banquet. However, Rev. Wright argues that prejudice remained very much alive even though some whites, particularly those who regarded themselves as progressives, declined to accept it. He claimed that President Trump allowed it to sprout and expand. Many people who had been suppressing it found that they no longer had to.
The ancestry of Mr. Calhoun's radical whiteness was homegrown and steeped in Georgia's culture, countercultural currents, and the state's higher education system. He gave a sermon on criminal justice reform and publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton.
And after that came his unexpected twist, which descended him into some of the most horrible places in Georgia's history. On social media, he regularly used racial slurs and referred to the vice president, Kamala Harris, as a “fake black person.” He even claimed to want a civil war.
Not being a poorly educated man, Mr. Calhoun had written a paper on the historiography of Napoleon's peninsular war and attended a seminar in Belgium on the law. According to some of the other Georgians who invaded the United States, his profile — a well-educated, white-collar white man — fits. Capitol on January 6, with leftists of the establishment on the side of the establishment, with a crisis in the state's political identity.
There were 53-year-old investment portfolio manager and 65-year-old accountant visitors who came from Georgia. Also arrested with guns, hundreds of rounds of ammo, and a phone full of messages about “putting a bullet” in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's head was Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., 51, who graduated from a prestigious Atlanta prep school.
Mr. Calhoun, who was 58 years old, was the grandson of a lawyer and the son of a doctor, with ancestors that include 19th-century congressman John C. Calhoun. As a boy, he lived in Americus, Georgia, where he went to Southland Academy, one of the many private all-white schools that opened throughout the South as a result of court-ordered integration.
In Athens, Georgia, at the University of Georgia, Calhoun found his niche in the Greek culture, which was mainly segregated and featured columns, fraternities, sororities, parties, and privilege. The Phi Delta Theta fraternity, which was still very successful, created two state governors for the state of Georgia.
Additionally, he also discovered a setting in the distinctly Southern college town bohemia that had originated in the 1980s in Athens, which offered a breeding ground for idiosyncratic rock bands like the B-52s and R.E.M. While always politically radical, the Athens scene exposed many Southerners to new ideas and ways of living. Mr. Calhoun was a member of this group, and he subsequently gained recognition in Athens as the bass player for a band named Fashion Battery, and later, as the Kilkenny Cats.
He then pursued a career in law, which took him to Americus, a town located in Sumter County, roughly 140 miles south of Atlanta. For millennia, Sumter has had a deep impact on the liberal people of Georgia's sense of possibility. Koinonia Farm, a multiracial Christian commune, was established in that area in the 1940s. Jimmy Carter is a native of the small town of Plains, Georgia, and the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, created by a Koinonia family, is headquartered in Americus, Georgia.
According to a local, blacks comprise a reliable Democratic base in Sumter, while whites are mostly split between liberal “come here,” like Habitat workers, and traditional, locally raised “been here.”
Mr. Calhoun was a democrat, and he wasn't denying it. He tried to run for district attorney, but lost. They could all tell his politics from the article he published in The Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2004, in which he expressed admiration for a Black state Supreme Court justice in a tough re-election bid and lambasted her rival for running a "rather contemptuous and somewhat racist campaign."
He also lamented how difficult our legal system is on the public, according to Bruce Harkness, a lawyer in the northern Georgia mountains where Mr. Calhoun worked as a public defender. He rejected the idea that drug crimes should be regarded as criminal offenses.
Mr. Calhoun was now part of a hippie-influenced community, regularly performed in bands, and partook in music festivals. Many of his clients had little to no income when he returned to private practice. Payment was acknowledged in tie-dye clothing by him from one.
Bob Fortin recalls Mr. Calhoun angrily chastising him during the 2016 election for voting for Mr. Trump. Mr. Fortin, who felt regretful after voting for Torgersen, said, “He cussed me out in his kitchen.” He treated me like total garbage.
The Calhoun's political realignment occurred about a year ago. Mr. Fortin told me that he thought his Facebook had been hacked.
It seemed that the cause was gun control. Friends claimed that Mr. Calhoun had not always been fascinated with weapons. However, a small group of Progressive lawmakers started to speak about ambitious new gun legislation in the fall of 2019, and it appeared to turn a switch. Mr. Calhoun, to put it plainly, said as much himself.
In a recent social media post, he wrote: “I was a Democrat for 30 years.” As a result, he clarified, the recent gun control laws changed that. He noted that people called him a “white supremacist” and a “racist” for his support of the 2nd Amendment. Taking into account everything he did in his defense of “justice,” he commented, “That felt like an insult to me. I helped Trump during this time.
His change of heart was complete. In 2020 he was writing about “the impending domestic communist problem” and the “rioting BLM-Antifa crime wave.” About Joe Biden, he said, “Take him down.”
Some friends grew uncomfortable because of the strange behavior displayed by their old friends. Mr. Calhoun tweeted, “I'll be tossing enough burning lead to stack you Commies like cordwood,” in October. And then, a few days later: “Ready and waiting, millions of heavily armed, outraged patriots are preparing to come to Washington if Trump decides to do something.”
After the election, Mr. Calhoun had a small gun rights rally in town, and the violent posts continued, with talk of civil war, mounting heads on pikes, and showing Democratic congresswoman Ilhan Omar “what the bottom of the river looks like.” Mr. Calhoun told the reporter, “This is about independence and freedom,” in justifying Trumpism and Southern secession as two separate but equally justified battles against tyranny.
Mr. Calhoun's posts indicated that he had breached the U.S. on January 6th. Capitol buildings surrounded by crowds. One of the first of us who got upstairs did so, knocking down Nancy Pelosi's office door, as he explained in one of his blogs. “Crazy Nancy may well have been shredded to pieces, but she was missing.”
The FBI's investigator told the court that they found at his sister's house in Macon, Georgia, that he had concealed two AR-15-style assault rifles, two handguns, a revolver, brass knuckles, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
An old friend and former client, David Lankford, claimed that Mr. Calhoun, whose federal public defender refused to comment, had always been very angry when talking for his convictions. According to Mr. Lankford, a Republican, the two had been sparring for years, so he was shocked when Mr. Calhoun, a Democrat, approached him last year and started complaining about the Democratic Party's “betrayal” about gun policy and other topics. However, Mr. Calhoun's political views had altered radically, although his attitude had not.
Mr. Lankford commented that “he's the same old banty rooster, just on the other side of the fence,”
Federal magistrate judge Charles H. Weigle determined that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Calhoun had committed crimes when he stormed the Capitol.
He did not consent to set Mr. Calhoun free on bail.
In deciding on the man's risk to the nation, the judge described him as someone who had displayed excessive brutality, who felt that it was his patriotic duty to pick up arms and enter the new civil war.
The judge ordered Mr. Calhoun to serve out his remaining prison time.