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.