Revilo Pendleton Oliver was born near Corpus Christi, Texas on 7 July 1908. He attended two years of high school in Illinois. Disliking the severe winters, and once requiring hospitalization “for one of the first mastoidectomies performed as more than a daring experiment,” he moved to California. He began the study of Sanskrit, using Max Müller’s handbooks and Monier Williams’ grammar, later finding a Hindu missionary to provide tuition. As an adolescent, he found amusement in going to watch evangelists “pitch the woo at the simple-minded”, attending performances of Aimee Semple McPherson and Katherine Tingley. He entered Pomona College in Claremont, California, when he was sixteen.
In 1930, Oliver married Grace Needham. He began attending the University of Illinois and studied under William Abbott Oldfather. His first book was an annotated translation, from the Sanskrit, of Mricchakatika (The Little Clay Cart) published by the University of Illinois in 1938. He received the degree of Philosophiae Doctor in 1940. That same year, the University published his Ph.D. thesis: Niccolò Perotti’s translations of the Enchiridion (republished in 1954 as Niccolo Perotti’s Version of the Enchiridion of Epictetus, with an Introduction and List of Perotti’s Writings). He began teaching graduate classes immediately after receiving the degree. For a number of years he also gave graduate courses in the Renaissance, which put him also in the Department of Spanish and Italian.
During the Second World War, Oliver worked with distinction at the U.S. Army Signal Corps installation, Arlington Hall, in crypt analysis. From 1942 until the autumn of 1945, he came to be in charge of a rapidly expanding department, and advanced from Analyst to Director of Research (eventually responsible for the work of about 175 persons). He claimed that in his privileged position, he learned what he called “the ultimate secret of Pearl Harbor” (that Franklin Roosevelt had incited the Japanese into the attack).
Oliver left Washington D.C. (which he called the “District of Corruption”) in 1945. He was convinced that within a few years, the facts of pro-Soviet actions and other operations would become known, and the American people would react with a violent “housecleaning” of the government. Confident that the future popular reaction was inevitable, Oliver returned to the University as an Assistant Professor, became an Associate Professor in 1947, and Professor in 1953. He held a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1946-7, and a Fulbright (Italy), 1953-4.
In 1955 Oliver’s friend, Professor Willmore Kendall, discussed plans for the journal which was eventually called National Review. Kendall “desiderated a conservative antidote to the New Republic, etc.,” and had among his pupils at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr.. Kendall convinced Oliver to write on political subjects for the journal.
In 1958, Oliver joined Robert Welch in being one of the founding members of the anti-Communist John Birch Society. Oliver wrote frequently for the Birch Society magazine American Opinion, his most widely-noted piece being a two-part article called “Marxmanship in Dallas” that asserted that Lee Harvey Oswald had carried out the assassination of President Kennedy as part of a Communist conspiracy. In Oliver’s view, the Communists wished to eliminate Kennedy as a puppet who had outlived his usefulness. Oliver testified before the Warren Commission on the basis for his assertions, but was not taken particularly seriously. He was reprimanded over his remarks by the University of Illinois’ Board of Trustees, but they did not try to unseat him.
In the 1960s Oliver broke with conventional American conservatism, having become convinced that Welch had either cozened him from the start or sold out later, and severed his connections with what he called “the Birch hoax.” He thus came to openly embrace an essentially Nazi worldview, and eventually to assist William Luther Pierce in forming the National Alliance. He retired as Emeritus in 1977.
Oliver believed that religion was one of the major weaknesses of his nation and civilization. An atheist and materialist, he characterized Christianity as “a spiritual syphilis,” which “has rotted the minds of our race and induced paralysis of our will to live.”
He also used the pen names “Ralph Perier” (for The Jews Love Christianity and Religion and Race) and “Paul Knutson” (for Aryan Asses). It is claimed that Oliver was the actual author of the Introduction (credited to Willis Carto) to Francis Parker Yockey’s Imperium.