Williams’ reign is over
What Went Wrong with the ICA?
JC Smith, MA, DC
The recent editorial by Don Petersen, Jr. concerning the declining membership in the ICA under the reign of Drs. $id Williams and DD Humber failed to mention how this regime of intellectual and political terror actually began. Just as the downfall of Life University took years to happen, the rise and fall of the ICA also has an interesting history that younger DCs are mostly unaware. In fact, our profession was on the brink of unity in the early 1980s before these radicals sabotaged this effort. It’s an interesting story that rarely makes the chiropractic journals despite its historic value because it opens old wounds and recalls bitter memories. But it’s an issue that just won’t die, and rightfully so because until we are united, this wound will continue to bleed this profession.
The Rest of the Story
Although the birth child of BJ Palmer himself, the once respectable ICA has fallen far from grace since its takeover by a fringe group of right-wing radicals in 1982. Rather than representing progressive straight (is that an oxymoron?) chiropractic on the international scene, the ICA has now become the political machination of an extremist group of entrepreneurial DCs more concerned about making money and keeping the ol’ time BJ chirovangelism faith alive than making progress in our profession. Rather than true missionaries carrying the cross for their cause, they more closely resemble televangelists shucking, crying, and jiving for big bucks.
What went wrong with the ICA, and continues today, is that a group of ultra-right wing conservatives headed by Dr. Sid Williams was able to stage a coup to overtake the ICA. Let’s clear the smokescreen for younger DCs to understand what really has happened to the ICA the last few decades since its overthrow by Dr. Williams and his DE Dudes, a radical group of chirovangelists who are not to be confused as a rational voice in conservative chiropractic politics—that would be equivalent to confusing David Duke with Jerry Falwell, while both are right-wing conservatives, Duke is a renowned off-the-wall radical who flies in the face of rational thought.
Unbeknownst to many of the younger DCs who weren’t in the profession in the early 1980s, Dr. Sid Williams rose to power in a very unique way—a literal political coup, if you will. The ICA election was held in Atlanta in 1982, so Williams cleverly arranged to have his DE meeting at the same time in the same hotel. Supposedly, he even offered to fly for free his many supporters in from Michigan in exchange for their votes, adding to his throng of DE Dudes, Life faculty members (who Williams were forced to join the ICA or else lose their jobs) and recent grads mesmerized by Williams.
Of course, with his many supporters summoned there to vote, combined with the requirement at that time of the ICA members to actually be present on site to vote, he won the election in his own backyard. Afterwards the ICA delegates voted to allow mail voting to avoid similar sham elections in the future, but the damage was already done as Dr. Williams walked away with his presidential election, much to the chagrin of moderate ICA members. As luck would have it, when it came time to pay the Michigan DE cronies for their travel expenses, Williams reneged on his deal and stuck them all with the bill.
What is not known is that many good ICA moderates quit the ICA after Dr. Williams gained control. Drs. Joe Mazzarelli and Jerry McAndrews, ICA Board members, asked those in the Representatives Assembly who did not feel comfortable in the ICA with the new Williams administration to simply leave and several hundred did so. The purge of intellectual and political dissidents had begun, much to the delight of Williams.
After Dr. McAndrews went back to PCC as its president, later some 53 officers and former officers, including him, left and joined the ACA in protest of the new ICA leadership, knowing full well the ultra-conservative leanings of Dr. Williams were opposed to the progressive agenda many felt chiropractic should be taking.
After Dr. Williams’ reign as president ended in 1985, he remained in control for the next ten years as Chairman of the ICA. Much to Williams’ surprise, the next ICA election for president saw Dr. Mike Pedigo upset Williams’ choice, Dr. Bob Hulsebus, to succeed him. Pedigo even won the state of Georgia by the slim margin of just four votes, showing the dissatisfaction of Williams’ leadership in his home state.
Dr. Williams actively politicked against Dr. Pedigo before and during his reign as president of the ICA because Pedigo, a progressive moderate, made it known that he wanted a merger between the ICA and ACA to strengthen our profession’s political strength with one voice on Capitol Hill as well as to consolidate duplicated administrative and overhead expenses. Apparently political pragmatism had no place in Williams’ vision for the ICA if his continued resistance to unity was any indication.
The merger effort started shortly after Dr. Pedigo was elected ICA president in 1985. Twice the ICA took it to the membership for a vote and both times more than 50% voted in favor, but it required a 2/3rds approval to pass. The leadership of both ICA and ACA met many times over his term as president, and they created ten draft documents before getting a document that both ACA and ICA Boards approved to send to their respective voting bodies.
“It failed pure and simply because of fear of the unknown,” said one former player who wishes to remain anonymous. “Dr. Williams and his friends like Gerry Clum and Jimmie Gregg spread lies about what merger would mean. They ran ads with big pictures of hypodermic needles saying ‘if merger happens it won’t be long until we would be doing drugs and surgery.’ This misinformation occurred in spite of the fact that the merger document clearly stated that drugs and surgery were not a part of chiropractic.”
Dr. Clum, currently president of Life-West, also wrote lengthy articles likening this split as equivalent to a two-party system and a pluralistic profession, not wanting to be “homogenized” into one party. Dr. Clum also wrote that the ICA soundly defeated the proposal when, in fact, over 50% of the ICA members did vote for merger. The ICA hyperbole continues to this day with misrepresentation of the popularity for the merger issue.
Those who left the ICA afterwards believed merger was right and that the ACA was the only way to go after merger failed. Several hundreds of other ICA people dropped their ICA membership, but some just could not bring themselves to join the ACA; old habits are hard to break, and peer pressure was strong to resist the so-called secular ACA.
Plus, when the former board leadership resigned from the ICA, unfortunately it left Dr. Williams with complete control of ICA. Some reports say that eventually over 4,000 members left after Williams’ coup and his efforts in the failure of the merger issue. Not only did this purge regrettably see many good ICA members leave, but also Dr. Sid Williams’ attack dog, Bob Braille, sent a hate-filled letter to the ICA membership demanding that Mike Pedigo be banned from the ICA forever for his effort to merge the associations.
As most know, Braille was later appointed as the ICA president and recently recommended himself as a replacement for $id as the president of Life U., while Dr. Pedigo later became president of the ACA, the only man to ever be president of both major chiropractic associations!
The reign of right-wing conservatism by Dr. Williams continues to this day with a string of DE Dudes who have followed him in succession to the ICA presidency—Bob Braille, Robert Hoffman and now with the recent election of DD Humber. Incredulously, Dr. Williams and Terry Ronderg, two archrivals in the hate-straight sect, combined their forces to circumvent the election of Dr. Tom Klapp, a moderate candidate and COCSA president, who they feared was too friendly with the ACA and other moderates. Despite Ronderg’s admitted dislike of Dr. Williams, he encouraged his WCA members to join the ICA for one purpose—to defeat the election of Klapp.
The sham election and purge of progressive moderates in the ICA left Dr. Williams and his cronies in sole charge of the once esteemed ICA. The takeover was done, the purge was finished, and the coup was complete! The exodus of respectable ICA members who disliked Dr. Williams’ egomania and his hate-straight agenda played right into his hands by eliminating any meaningful dissent among the rank and file of the ICA.
Adding to this dilemma is the fact that his Life College has fueled his ICA coffers and kept his support strong within the ICA ranks, as small as it may actually be when you factor out the Life students and faculty members. With the college generating over $73 million in revenues at its height and graduating over 12,000 DCs in its 28-year existence, Williams had been able to fuel the ICA with new blood and new money.
This ICA coup by the ultra-right wing conservatives can be likened to the KKK taking over all of Texas by staging a sham election, and then propagating their ideology of hate fueled by money from the oil industry. Then imagine if the KKK were perceived by the world to represent all Americans and all of Christendom; this is exactly how Williams has been able to keep control of the ICA as well as capable of tainting the entire chiropractic profession by posing as the leader of an once-respectable chiropractic organization. Little does the public, press and legislators know of this infamous coup, and the charade continues to this day.
It’s Our Choice
As the ACA’s legal counsel, the incomparable George McAndrews, once said, “5% of you are freaks, 5% of you are cultists, and the rest of you keep your mouths shut!” Truer words were never spoken by a man powerful enough to be heard and respected by all DCs. Although Dr. Williams’ once gave himself a moniker as the “Defender of Chiropractic,” in fact, George McAndrews is the real knight in shinning armor for the vast majority of rational DCs. Indeed, if anyone has best championed chiropractic’s cause, it’s been Mr. McAndrews, certainly not $id E.Williams.
Perhaps the declining ICA membership that editor Petersen noted is a signal that many DCs and students finally realize the ICA had been taken over by a minority group of self-serving radicals hiding behind hot-air rhetoric. Their obstructionism, dogmatism, and greedy acts have shown the profession that the Williams’ regime in the ICA is corrupt, just as we’ve learned about the academic corruption that led to the loss of accreditation at Life that ruined the academic careers of thousands of students and hundreds of faculty members.
Indeed, no one will ever accuse the Williams’ regime of seeking excellence in academics or in practice, nor can anyone suggest the ICA has sought peace, progress, or unity in our profession. Don’t be fooled by his raps on Innate, the slick videos, the metaphysical monologues, or the illusions of grandeur in practice—their smokescreens for success. Actions speak louder than words, and the Williams reign of terror has finally come to a speechless end.
Time to Get Involved
Just as the ethical ICA leaders and members left the ICA and joined the ACA back in the 1980s, I urge the few remaining 1,800 ICA members and the thousands of non-members to consider joining the new ACA that is on the vanguard of progress in our profession. As George McAndrews said, it’s time for the 90% of DCs to speak up and get involved in the only progressive and democratic political organization in our profession.
Come to the next National Chiropractic Legislative Convention in Washington DC in March to learn of the enormous success the ACA has accomplished in the past few years. If you want a motivational seminar to feel good about chiropractic, forget the chirovangelism and rah-rah seminars. Come learn of the pragmatic progress of the ACA leadership—Chairman Jim Edwards, President Daryl Wills, and Executive Committeeman GB McClelland—that has lead to real success for our profession.
It’s time for the profession to turn over a new leaf in its history with the downfall of Life and the ICA, and there’s no better place to learn of the fruits of revolution than in our Capitol city. See the wonderful sites in an historic town that will strengthen your patriotism, hear our national reps and senators extol the benefits of chiropractic, and learn what plans the real leaders in this profession have in mind for our collective future. I hope to see y’all there!