Get a haircut, help a family: Former skinhead, tolerance activist T.J. Leyden, mounting medical costs

T.J. Leyden | Photo courtesy of T.J. Battle's Cancer page on GoFundMe.com

WASHINGTON CITY – A former neo-Nazi white supremacist activist and recruiter who, in a rare move, left the movement and turned his life and message around to reach local and national audiences with a message of hope against hate, T.J. Leyden, now a Southern Utah resident, finds himself a speaker without a voice due to a stroke and brain tumor discovered this year.  Medical expenses and needs are crippling him and his family and local businesses are stepping up to help, with the public’s participation.

One community member who met T.J. Leyden while he was speaking to local youth is the owner of Dollar Cuts in Washington City and has organized a Dollar Cuts fundraiser for the Leyden family Tuesday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Details follow below.

T.J. Leyden background

At the age of 14, after his parents divorced, T.J. Leyden was an angry and violent youth who found community among skinheads, partying, drinking, fighting. By the time he was 15, he had formed his own group, later joined the military for three years until he received a “less than honorable” discharge. His involvement in the white power movement – separatism, Naziism, or national socialism – increased unabated over 15 years. His primary job, he said in a Question-and-Answer forum, was propaganda and recruiting although he served in every capacity from soldier to leadership during his participation in the separatist movement.

Until he left.

T.J. Leyden had a change of heart, in part as he considered his children whom he did not want immersed in a hateful lifestyle. He wanted them to “be children,” he said in one video interview. As he turned, he became an activist for anti-hate, for tolerance. His goal, he said, is that everyone can be a “former,” to take the name “former and make it cool.”

Raised Irish Catholic, T.J. Leyden was baptized into the Mormon church in 2002 after leaving the separatist movement; a choice for which he said in a testimony on MormonConverts.com he has been judged more harshly than for any tattoos.

Since becoming a “former,” T.J. Leyden has been a keynote speaker and educator about the separatist movement and an advocate for tolerance, T. J. Leyden has been featured in Time Magazine and in episodes of the History Channel’s “Gangland” series. He was the guest speaker at a White House Conference on Hate under President Bill Clinton.  He has worked with local and national law enforcement agencies, the Pentagon and FBI and, according to one website, is “one of the nation’s most powerful spokespersons for tolerance.”

Now, due to a stroke experienced during surgery to remove a brain tumor, T.J. Leyden is a speaker without a voice.

Story continues below

SAVE: Leaving the Skinhead, a T.J. Leyden interview via YouTube.com

Health problems 2013

Julie Leyden, T.J. Leyden’s wife, said the brain tumor was discovered around Easter of this year. Surgery was scheduled, undertaken, then stopped due to complications triggered by the stroke. T.J. Leyden was left paralyzed on his right side and unable to speak.

T.J. Leyden, date and location unknown | Photo courtesy of T.J. Battle's Cancer page on GoFundMe.com
T.J. Leyden, date and location unspecified | Photo courtesy of T.J. Battles Cancer page on GoFundMe.com

Another surgery was held in September and successfully removed 90-95 percent of the tumor. However, for the time being, T.J. Leyden remains unable to speak.

Due to medical expenses, Julie Leyden said her family lost their home and has moved in with relatives.

“Its been a pretty horrible year,” Julie Leyden said.

Still, there is hope. Friends of the Leydens have begun to organize fundraisers to help pay for the mounting medical expenses.

Donations and fundraisers

From its business proceeds Oct. 15, Dollar Cuts will donate $5 from every haircut and all proceeds from the sale of glitter tattoos to T.J. Leyden and his family.

Payless Shoes and Zion Harley Davidson have also donated door prizes for the fundraiser.

“We truly know we are blessed by the out-pouring of friends, co-workers and family willing and wanting to help,” Julie Leyden posted on the event’s Facebook page. “I don’t know how to explain the tremendous impact all of this is having on our families lives both financially and spiritually.”

Event details and donation options

Related posts

St. George News Editor-in-Chief Joyce Kuzmanic contributed to this report.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

T.J. Leyden | Photo courtesy of T.J. Battle's Cancer page on GoFundMe.com
T.J. Leyden | Photo courtesy of T.J. Battle’s Cancer page on GoFundMe.com

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5 Comments

  • Dan Lester October 15, 2013 at 10:16 am

    This was posted today, the 15th, but the story says the fundraiser was YESTERDAY, the 14th. Day late and a dollar short?

    • Mori Kessler October 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

      The fundraiser is being held today at Dollar Cuts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • San October 15, 2013 at 11:44 am

    Maybe Dan needs to see a doctor…What a shame you can’t remove that erroneous comment…worried it might confuse peeps into not going!

    • Dan Lester October 15, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Well, I HAVE (really) had 12 eye operations. But my bad. Sorry. No clue how I misread that.

  • Sid Vicious September 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Im guessing ‘Sons of Anarchy’ tech advice doesnt pay out so well:(, so now we all gotta not only donate a buck to this sensationalist prick but get a hairdo too?

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