William Shearer Dies

William Shearer died on March 3, at the age of 75. He had been fighting cancer for over a year. Shearer’s entire life from the age of 36 until his death was devoted to the founding, fostering and protection of California’s American Independent Party. He was also an attorney, an author, and an amateur historian, as well as a husband and a father. But it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say he was also the father of the American Independent Party of California. His daughter Nancy Spirkoff was the party’s state chair from 2004 to 2006.

Shearer was intensely interested in helping ease ballot access laws all over the U.S. In 1973, he willingly submitted a very helpful affidavit in the lawsuit Socialist Workers Party v Eu, which challenged California’s procedures for qualifying new parties. One might have thought that an official of the party founded to get George Wallace on the California ballot in 1968 would not have been interested in helping the Socialist Workers Party. But that was not the case. He did help; he understood that when any minor party (no matter which one) wins a constitutional ballot access case, that helps all voters and all parties.

After the 1972 presidential election, the party founded to help George Wallace get on the ballot in the 1968 election split into two factions, which came to be named the American Party and the American Independent Party. In the 1976 presidential election, each of these two parties had its own presidential candidate. The American Party ran Thomas Anderson of the John Birch Society, and the American Independent Party ran former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox. Shearer handled ballot access for the Maddox campaign, all over the U.S. In the early 1980’s, Shearer led the American Independent Party into the Populist Party, which ran former Olympics star Bob Richards for president. But in 1986, Shearer and the American Independent Party left the Populist Party, which went on to run David Duke for president in 1988. When the Constitution Party was formed in 1990 (then called the U.S. Taxpayers Party), Shearer led the American Independent Party into an alliance with the Constitution Party, where it has remained ever since.


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  1. I was able to meet William Shearer in 1992, when the AIP State Committee met in Riverside. I also have read many articles by him in The California Statesman and elsewhere. He was a committed opponent of big government, and also a committed antiwar conservative.

    He had to deal with many disruptive elements in his party, and with the attempts by the establishment politicians to keep his party from functioning. Throughout it all he kept a sense of proportion and a sense of humor. May he inspire all of us working to build alternative parties.

  2. Thanks Richard. He was a most unique, capable and unforgettable person. I am thankful that I was able to work with him for nearly 36 years.

    As you mentioned, he championed the cause of opening up ballot access for new parties and for the people and he truly appreciated your great work in this area.

    He will be sorely missed!

  3. Bill Shearer will be missed in the Third Party Movement. I knew Bill and Eileen from my work in the American Independent Party of California.
    I hope the AIP and this work will go on.

  4. Bill Shearer had a great impact on me as a political activist and a writer — I just learned of his passing. I met with Bill, interviewed him, only 2 weeks before his death for an article I planned on writing about him and his unique role in California and national politics. He leaves a wonderful legacy as an inspiring organizer and tireless patriot. He worked hard right up to the end.

    Peter Gemma

  5. I know this is a late “after the fact” post, but I had the opportunity to meet Bill Shearer many years ago. I believe it was his goal for the American Independent Party of California to be a party of the common people. It is too bad that such a party did not spread to the remaining states of the Union.

    It is sad, that as of this date, the party leadership in California, appears to not be doing anything to carry on those ideals reflected in Mr. Shearer. His life was the party, and the party was his life.

    He will be missed by those of the 3rd party and Independent movement. He recognized what both of the major parties in this country are. I hope, those of us who are left behind, will do our best to bring to our respective state, a party built on the general philosophy of Bill Shearer.

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