Sniper: The True Story of Anti-Abortion Killer James Kopp

Sniper: The True Story of Anti-Abortion Killer James Kopp by Jon Wells Read Free Book Online

Book: Sniper: The True Story of Anti-Abortion Killer James Kopp by Jon Wells Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jon Wells
was a family of survivors in a country founded by survivors—the disenfranchised, mavericks who had either fled or been kicked out of the Old World. His mother, Nancy, had Irish heritage—but Jim liked to stress that her background was “Black Irish” (Irish who had dark hair and eyes as descendants, according to legend, of Spaniards who landed on the Western seaboard of Ireland in 1588, after surviving the defeat of the Spanish Armada.). He would talk of how a grandmother on his mother’s side survived the great earthquake of 1906 as an eight-year-old. His paternal grandfather, Charles Sr., survived a gas attack in France during the First World War. He had come to America from Austria to escape anti-Semitic pogroms and, upon arrival at Ellis Island in New York Harbor, he shortened the family name from Koppensteiner to Kopp. Jim liked to claim that his grandfather spoke “every continental language” and worked as a translator in Alsace-Lorraine interrogating POWs for the allies during the war. He died young, at 42, from chronic health defects due to the gas attack.
    Jim admired his father greatly—the doctor of laws, corporate lawyer, former Marine. Chuck Kopp had won the Award of Merit from the San Francisco Bar Association, was a leader of the Boy Scouts of America. With his political connections and influence, Jim believed his dad to be a “maker of kings.”
    Politically he had conservative roots. His parents were solid Nixon people. Jim said that his father had worked to help put Richard Nixon in the White House and, later, helped Ronald Reagan get elected governor of California. In the living room hung a photo of Chuck Kopp with Reagan at a reception. Jim said his dad was offered a post as a cabinet aide in the first Nixon administration, but turned down the offer because moving the family from California to Washington was too big a move. Later in his life Jim believed that he could contact former Nixon administration officials for advice, or to vet potential enemies.
    It was a fact that in December 1969 Nixon appointed a man named Jesse Steinfeld as his surgeon general, and that Steinfeld had lived across the street from the Kopps back in South Pasadena when Jim was a boy. Jim told the story that his dad helped smooth the way for Jesse to land the surgeon general’s position by putting in a good word for his old neighbor. Many years later, reached on the telephone, 76-year-old Jesse Steinfeld said that the story was possible, but he could not remember it specifically.
    Jim’s mother was active in her church and also with work, a home care service she founded called Nancy’s Nurses, running it out of the house on Via Lerida. She was also active in politics, working for local Republicans, and a member of the John Birch Society, a fiercely anticommunist organization led by Robert Welch, inaugurated in 1958. It became known as a looney-right movement, most often cited for its contention that Dwight Eisenhower, five-star American general, D-Day commander, and two-term president, was himself a communist.
    The John Birch Society became, one of the most powerful post-war groups in America, with 100,000 members. One-quarter of those members lived in California. Charitably, Birchers were mostly conservatives holding Washington accountable for defending freedom in the face of Soviet expansion. Less charitably, the society capitalized on a McCarthyist ethos of conspiracy, grand schemes and secret government plots that appealed to base paranoia. This sense of mission, fighting a moral battle against a powerful, ubiquitous, left-wing enemy allied to the federal government, harmonized well with Jim Kopp’s sense of personal destiny. ***
    Given his background it was an odd choice for Jim to enroll at the ultra-liberal University of California at Santa Cruz, which was just 10 years old, an invention of the sixties. The campus was gorgeous but unconventional. UC Santa Cruz sprawled, laid out over farmland and forests of

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