Musket-wielding reenactor a hit at conservative events

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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The Tea Party movement has a mascot, and his name is William Temple.

Temple, whose day job is preaching to an African-American congregation in Georgia, has been popping up at conservative events around the country, including the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville earlier this month and the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington this week. He’s easy to spot, no matter which of his 12 historical costumes he’s wearing, or which olde accent he’s adopted for the day.

On Friday at CPAC, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty addressed a blazers-and-khakis-clad crowd, Temple stood on a balcony in full Revolutionary garb, brandishing a Gadsden flag reading, “Don’t Tread on Me,” in one hand and a re-enactor’s musket in the other.

Over a few stray claps in response to an arousing line from Pawlenty, Temple could be heard loud and clear in a voice that recalled the British Isles of two centuries ago yelling, “Here, here!” as he thrust his antique firearm in the air.

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“I try to promote the history, the values of that time,” Temple told The Daily Caller, “to remind people that this is literally a real revolution going on right now. A second revolution.”

His re-enactor ensembles aren’t random — they recall specific historical figures, such as Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Georgian, like Temple. “My favorite is British. Don’t tell anybody,” he confided.

“It’s not about Republicans, Democrats or independents, it’s about getting people back to the Constitution, cutting the size of the federal government.”

It is at least a little bit about money, however.

The 59-year old’s passion, outfits and accents have made him a hot commodity. Nearly every day, he said, he fields calls from organizers of conservative causes asking him to attend an event somewhere in the country. And, most of the time, they offer to compensate him.

He lets them pay for his travel and his lodging, but he said he doesn’t accept any speaker’s fees, even when they are offered for his “rabble-rousing speeches.”

“Just give me a place to flop down and some food and I’ll be glad to do it,” he said.

At the Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Temple was a favorite of journalists and photographers (that time, his local Tea Party group put together a collection to help pay his way). At CPAC, during a Tea Party press conference where former Republican leader Rep. Dick Armey and South Carolina Sen. Jim Demint spoke, Temple stood just feet away, giving a few, “Here, here’s,” with his musket.

As for future engagements, he said he’ll go to a Nevada rally that Sarah Palin will attend and will return to Washington for a soon-to-be held rally at the Washington Monument.

Temple, who said he’s been the pastor of Maranatha Church in Brunswick, Ga., for the last 20 years, said he’s been doing his gig every since the Tea Party marches begun last year.

“I heard about the Tax Day tea party last February [in Washington D.C.], and so I got suited up and as a re-enactor, I thought this will be great,” he said. “I can play patriot all day.

“Then we came out and there were 20,000 people there. Angry, fired up, mad, old, young, homeschoolers, you name it. And I thought, ‘Well, this must be all right-wing Republicans.’ And so I say, ‘Are you a Republican?’ and [other protestors said] ‘No, no we’re Democrats.’ Democrats? And Independents. And I’m like ‘what in the world has happened?’ And I thought this must be the silent majority that I was hoping would wake up when I was in Vietnam.”

For all the travel his increasing popularity requires, Temple doesn’t fly.

“I drove. I rented a card and drove up,” he said of how he got to CPAC. “Brought all of this stuff. I’m not getting on airplane with a musket and swords and all of that stuff.”

A musket, he said, would set off the metal detectors.