Eugene Ney Terre'Blanche was born in Ventersdorp to staunchly Afrikaner nationalist parents on January 31, 1944.
The progenitor of the Terre'Blanche name was a French Huguenot refugee named Estienne Terreblanche, from Toulon (Provence) France, who arrived at the Cape in 1704 as refugees fleeing religious persecution in France along with many other Huguenot refugees to the Cape and elsewhere.
Terre'Blanche's grandfather, Etienne Terre'Blanche, fought as a Cape rebel in the Second Boer War. His father was a Lieutenant Colonel in the then South African Defence Force and also the head of the Commando of his district.
Terre'Blanche captained the first rugby team of the Potchefstroom Hoervolkskool and after matriculating served nearly five years as a policeman, some of that time in the Special Guard Unit responsible for protecting government figures including the Prime Minister.
Terre’Blanche was involved in amateur dramatics in his youth, having written several plays, had also developed an imposing public persona. He would often arrive at a meeting on horseback. Clad in khaki, flanked on stage by bodyguards from the Aquila, a special AWB unit dressed in khaki or black, with masks, he could mesmerise audiences with his powerful voice that surged and fell in, Afrikaans only.
On 3 July 1973, with six others, he founded the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging (AWB) in a garage in Heidelberg, in the then Transvaal. The AWB’s intention was to establish a homeland for the Boer ‘volk’ (people).
He left the police services to become a farmer. Terre'Blanche stood for Parliament for the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP) but was unsuccessful. In 1980 he registered a political party under the name of the Blanke Volkstaat Party, but never activated it, preferring to use the AWB as the cutting edge ofAndries Treurnicht's Conservative Party (CP) and apparently building up an AWB caucus in the CP.
Terre'Blanche's reason for starting the movement was that he believed then-Prime Minister Vorster was making dangerous concessions to blacks that would eventually endanger the survival of the white race.
The AWB functioned as a semi-secret organisation for five years. Its first public action, undertaken in 1979, was to tar and feather prominent Afrikaner theologian Floors van Jaarsveld for calling for the desanctification of the Day of the Covenant.
In the same year the AWB held its first public meeting, displaying its Nazi-like insignia and declaring its vehement opposition to Parliamentary democracy.
Terre'Blanche defended the movement's triple-seven emblem against claims that it resembled a swastika, saying it was composed of a key number in the Bible. "The number 777 stands in direct opposition to the number 666 - the number of the antichrist", he said.
Terre'Blanche viewed the end of apartheid as surrendering to communism. He threatened full scale civil war if President FW de Klerk handed power to Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. Terre'Blanche was present at Ventersdorp, his hometown, on 9 August 1991 when AWB supporters clashed with police guarding a National Party meeting addressed by President FW De Klerk. Three AWB members died in the fray, two of them from bullet wounds, one hit by a vehicle, and 58 people were injured. Five months later he and nine other AWB members were arrested on charges of public violence stemming from the Ventersdorp affair.
In December 1991, after a meeting with then Constitutional Development Minister Gerrit Viljoen, he said the AWB refused to participate in Congress for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) because its demand for a Volkstaat had not been acknowledged. He also repeated threats of war against an ANC government.
In 1983 Terre'Blanche was one of four AWB members charged under the Terrorism Act after weapons were found buried on the farm of his brother Andries. Terre'Blanche was sentenced to two years jail (suspended for five years) for illegal possession of arms.
In the same year two former members of the AWB were jailed for 15 years for conspiring to overthrow the Government and assassinate black leaders. The men had resigned from the movement shortly before the start of the trial. One of them was Jacob Viljoen, a co-accused with Terre'Blanche in an earlier trial for possession of arms which the AWB leader maintained had been planted in his car boot by leftists.
In February 1986 he announced the formation of the AWB Brandwag, a commando to protect white interests in case not enough police were available. Later the same year his brown-shirted supporters disrupted several public meetings attended by Cabinet Ministers.
In 1988 he delivered an AWB petition to President PW Botha calling for the restoration as Boer ground of the old Boer Republics of Transvaal, Orange Free State and northern Natal. Blacks would be present in this white volkstaat only as guest labourers, while non-Afrikaner whites would qualify for the vote if they became nationalised citizens and if they were Christians.
He said the AWB would take over with might in SA if the Government capitulated to the ANC. In February 1989 the Government prohibited members of the movement from wearing firearms at its meetings, prompting Terre'Blanche to complain that an unarmed white man in Africa was a dead white man.
He said he would contest the Rustenburg Parliamentary seat in the general election of September 1989 as an "independent white man" but withdrew when a right-wing election front against the NP failed to materialise.
Terre'Blanche was lampooned in the 1991 documentary The Leader, His Driver and the Driver's Wife, directed by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield. A sequel by Broomfield, His Big White Self, was first broadcast in February 2006. Terre'Blanche was also interviewed by Louis Theroux in the episode on Boer separatists in the BBC series, Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends.
In 1988, the AWB was beset by scandal when claims of an affair with journalist Jani Allan surfaced. He persisted in the denial in the face of explicit evidence to the contrary when in 1992 Allan lost a defamation claim against Channel 4 Television over a documentary which claimed there had been an affair.
In July 1989, Cornelius Lottering, a member of the breakaway AWB group "Orde van die Dood", orchestrated a failed assassination attempt on Allan's life by placing a bomb outside her Sandton apartment. Broomfield's 1991 documentary claimed that Terre'Blanche had an affair with the Sunday Times journalist; a claim she denied as well as her portrayal in the documentary. This led to Allan taking libel proceedings against the documentary broadcaster Channel 4 in 1992 in the London High Court. During the trial, several transcripts of their alleged sexual relationship appeared in the South African and British press. Terre'Blanche also submitted a sworn statement to the London court denying that he had had an affair with Allan. Although the judge found that Channel 4's allegations had not defamed Allan, he did not rule on whether or not there had been an affair. The media also had a field day after filming him falling off his horse during a parade in Pretoria.
In a lunch time address to the Pretoria Press Club on 25 February 1992 he said participation in the referendum on reform which had just been called by then President De Klerk would be a betrayal of the fatherland.
Later that day, after Treurnicht announced that the CP would participate in the poll, Terre'Blanche said the AWB would take part and work for a no vote. In March that year AWB secretary general Piet Rudolph left the movement saying the time had come for Terre'Blanche to go, and claiming there were many others in the AWB who were dissatisfied with his leadership.
The AWB was humiliated when trying to prop up the autocratic leader of the BophuthatswanaBantustan, Lucas Mangope, in 1994, and subsequently Terre'Blanche did not follow up on his earlier threats of war. Three members of the AWB were gunned down by a Bophuthatswana soldier and the AWB was routed.
In 2004, he was voted no.25 in SABC3's Great South Africans, a list of 100 of South Africa's personalities according to the public. His presence amongst others such as Hendrik Verwoerdtriggered a national debate. The controversy led to the cancellation of the SABC television series.
Following the end of apartheid, Terre'Blanche and his supporters sought amnesty at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) for the storming of the World Trade Centre, the 'Battle of Ventersdorp', and other acts. The TRC granted him amnesty for this.
On June 17, 1997 Terre'Blanche was sentenced to six years in prison for assaulting a petrol station worker and the attempted murder of a security guard. One of only three whites in the Rooigrond prison near Mafikeng, during his time in prison he became a born-again Christian and claimed that he has moderated many of his more racist views. The AWB website claimed that these court cases and other scandals involving him were fabricated by the 'Black Government and the left wing media'.
Terre'Blanche was released on June 11, 2004. Outside of his political career, Terre'Blanche has also been known for his poetry. Prior to the 1994 multi-racial elections, his Afrikaans-language works were on the state syllabus of Natal schools. He has previously released a CD of his poetry collection.
In March 2008, the AWB announced the re-activation of the party, for 'populist' reasons, citing the encouragement of the public. Reasons for the return were largely attributed to the electricity crisis, corruption across government departments and rampant crime. Throughout April 2008, Terre'Blanche was the speaker at several AWB rallies, at Vryburg, Middelburg, Mpumalanga and Pretoria. He had recently been calling for a “free Afrikaner republic” and vowed to take his campaign to the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague in a bid to secure this.
In Mid 2008, it was announced that the AWB Youth Wing would be launched; Terre'Blanche would be its founding member.
Eugene Terre'Blanche was murdered at his farm 10km outside Ventersdorp. He was married to Martie, with whom he had a daughter.