Opposition to the Ku Klux Klan in the Early 1920s: The Beginnings of Disaffection in Richmond, Indiana

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by J. Bryan Carpenter and James C. Sellman, 1978.



Opposition to the Ku Klux Klan in the Early 1920's:
The BeF,i nnings of r isaffection in Richmond, Indiana
To Americans of the latter-twentieth century, ideas of cultural pluralism
and minority rights are familiar and, generally
accepted. In such an atmos-
phere the Ku Klux Klan constitutes but a minor irruption of the
vative fringe. Many acknowledge the past power of the Invisible Empire, but
understand this as no more than an aberration. The group receives scant at-
tention today. "Ignore it and maybe it will go away" apparently dominates
sentiment among Americans, white and black.
Yet as Richmond, Indiana, attorney George Sawyer declared, "Of course the
power of the Klan diminished. But yet the Klan is still here. It is with us.
• , • Not long ago, after the civil rights   over, after Martin
luther King, Jr . .. been killed, after things are supposed to be • • • on
an even keel, the •Black Robes,' ••• the execution arm of the Klan, had a
meeting- right down in Libertyeome fourteen miles south of Richmond and long
a center of Klan activiti] •••• That was 1976-•••• tfiey have these ritual-
istic stay sharp, and when it comes time to get rid of somebody,
they get rid of them -- still. .. i Sawyer's undisclosed sources reported that
membership in Wayne County totalled 2.56 Klansmen last year.
More important than the continuing, attenuated existence of this group
is the underlying mentality which nurtures intolerance. This mentality fos-
ters the growth of movements generally described as the "radical right."
Examples of contemporary significance can be found in the anti-libertarian
appeals of segregationist George Wallace, governor of Alabama and former in-
dependent presidential candidate, Anita Bryant, .who directs a powerful move-
ment to deny civil rights to homosexuals, or the bitterly anti-communist,
ti-liberal John Birch Society.
In some respects, the twentieth-century Klan proves an important fore-
runner of many subsequent movements in terms of ideology rather than spe-
cific tactics or organization. Preying on common fears and antagonisms, the
Invisible Empire perfected an ideology of hate admirable only for its thorough
inclusiveness. '"The Klan • • • almost ran the gamut of modern bigotry.
ing the 1920 's,. actual membership may have reached four to five million, but
many sympathizers undoubtedly gave it even greater s±rength. It became a ma-
jor political power in several states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Geor-
gia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin
and others. Unquestionably however, the Invisible Empire achieved its great-
est political success in Indiana, virtually controlling the dominant Republi-
can party for several years.
Yet by the close of the decade, Klan strength had dropped precipitously.
Although returning briefly to prominence during the civil rights era, in the
North it regained neither the influence nor the infamy achieved quring the
'twenties. What accounted for this burgeoning growth and equally sudden de-
cline? Was the Klan leadership responsible? Did the newspapers destroy it?
Could the Klan's very activitiesJ'.promoted the collapse? Why did its appeals
prove so beguiling in this era? What type of person comprised its rank and
After a brief consideration of the original, or Reconstruction, Klan and,
iil6re :t:u:l.lY• ':.the :-KJQ{ revival and growth during the twentieth century, this in-
quiry will concentrate on the activities of the KKK in· and aroWld Richmond.
Emphasis will be placed on the initial period of the Klan's presence, from
1922 to 1924, the time of 1 ts greatest successes, which also clearly exposed
those factors, internal and external, which would prove its doom.
The Ku Klux Klan originally was foWlded as a fraternal organization by
six ex-Confederate officers in the small central Tennessee town of Pulaski,
during December, 1865. The foWlders chose the name Ku IG.ux, a corruption of
. 4
"kyklos," Greek f.or circle, or cycle. They also devised elaborate rituals
and ghostlike   for the organization. Originally intended to be strict-
ly fraternal, the club soon focused on the problem of maintaining traditional
Southern society> and Southern white ascendancy, in the face of Northern "car-
" 5
petba.ggers" and Southern scalawags."
The men sought to prevent blacks from attaining political or social equal-
ity. The 1G.ansmen found that their mystic rituals and regalia had a te:ITify-
ing effect on blacks, especially late at night. The group's main funtion be-
came intimidation, and it developed into a clandestine vigilante force. "It
drove out Northern schoolteachers and Yankee storekeepers and politicians,
and 'took care of' Negroes who gained land and prospered, or ma.de inflammat-
ory speeches or talked about equal rights."
.The organization spread quickly throughout the South with the initiation
of radical Reconstruction by Republicans in Congress during 1867. But the lack
of central control prompted a meeting of local Klans in April of that year in
Nashville, which created a constitution and national leadership. The organ-
ization divided the South into "realms," based on state boundaries, composed
of local sections called dens. The Klan created a strict hierarchy of officers,
including Grand Dragons, Titans, Giants and Cyclopses. Ex-Confederate General
Nathan Bedford Forrest was elected as the first "Grand Wizard" of the Ku Klux
For the next decade the Klan rode throughout the South enforcing its brand
of "justice." other organizations such as the Knights of the White Camella
also advocated white supremacy, but none were as brutal and undisciplined as
the Klan. Many states organized anti-Klan militias, and Grand Wizard Forrest
grew increasingly troubled by the excesses performed in the group's name. In
' 8
January, 1869, Forrest ordered the Klan disbanded and its records burned.
By 1877 President Rutherford B. Hayes withdi:ew the last forces of military
occupation from the South, and Reconstruction officially ended. Although lo-
cal Klan activities had contlliued after the organization's official dissolution,
with the end of Reconstruction, the Klan seemed to have died a natural death.
But many years later, on a cold Thanksgiving night in 1915, atop Stone
Mountain (near Atlanta, Georgia), "Colonel" William Joseph Simmons disinter-
red the Ku Klux Klan. Simmons, formerly a Methodist preacher, was a sales-
man and enthusiastic joiner of fraternal orders. His title of colonel stem-
med, not from service as a private in the Spanish-American War, but from his
rank in the Wocd:men of the World. He claimed to be a "fraternalist" by pro-
fession. 9
In reviving the body, Simmons realized an old ambition. He described an
earlier vision, "'On horseback in their white robes they rode across the wall
in front of me. As the picture faded out I got down on my knees and swore
that I would found a fraternal organization that would be a memorial to the
Ku Klux Klan. ' .. t O
The country had been well prepared for a return of the Klan. A .. decade
earlier Thomas Dixon, Jr. had published an immensely successful novel,
Clansman: An Historic Romance of the Ku Klux Klan. The enthusiastic re-
ception moved Dixon to adapt.   book for the stage. Several touring com-
panies resulted. Some ten years later, Biograph 's talented young director
D.W. 'Griffith proposed to make a film version of The Clansman. Griffith
set out to create· a and utilized a broad range of cinema.tic tech-
niques. The result, "The Birth of a Nation," was a monumental contribution
to creative cinematography, and a sympathetic and drama.tic portrayal of the
glory of the Reconstruction Klan. After its release in 1915, "The Birth of
a Nation" attracted large audiences and drew condemnation in much of the North
and enthusiastic affirmation throughout the South. Detractors of Colonel Simmons
iilsinuate . that this film was the source of Simmons' mystical visions.
That night a top Stone Mountair\ Simmons and fifteen other hardy souls
braved the cold, and '"under a .' blazing, fiery torch the Invisible Empire
was ca.lleo from its slumber of ha)f a cer.tury to take up a new task and to
call back to mortal habitation the good angel of practical fraternity among
men • .., Simmons' advertisement announcing the revival of the Klan, "The World's
Greatest Secret, Social, Patriotic, Fraternal, Beneficiary Order, ••• (a]HIGH
cided with the opening of "The Birth of a Nation" in Atlanta. Initially in-
tended to be s   m   l ~ to,._ Elks , the }iasons and the Odd Fellows , the Klan drew
. . 12
solid)middle class members, despite the crudeness of its early advertising.
Based on tenets of "100 per-cent Americanism," Protestantism and white
supremacy, the Klan attracted several thousand members by 1919. In a fateful
meeting in 1920, Simmons entered a contractual agreement with two publicists
and organizational profiteers, Edward Young Clarke and Elizabeth Tyler. These
two were destined to transform the small club into one of the most powerful
and feared secret organizations in the twentieth-century United States.
Clarke and Tyler created the Southern Publicity Association. Previously,
Clarke had run a .Harvest Home Festival in Atlanta, and Tyler a "Better Babies
Parade." Joining forces, the pair had handled drives for the Anti-Saloon
League, the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fund and Near East Relief. In the
Ku Klux Klan, Clarke and Tyler detected the sweet scent of potential profits.
Under the terms of the agreement reached that June, Clarke and Tyler were to
receive eight of every ten-dollar membership fee they brought in.
The pair developed an "ideology," if the antagonistic appeals to common
prejudices can be so graced with the term, which shifted the Klan from giving
lip-service to traditional racial values of the white South, to" ••• a pyro-
technically agressive defense of 100 per-cent Americanism."
5 The organization
eml:arked upon a period of phenomenal growth,. and suddenly attracted the attention
of the press. Contemporary observers' forebodings heightened as the Klan resor-
ted to night-riding" and violence. Yet more ominously, as Robert L. Duffus
observed in a 1923 series of articles in The World's Work, "Th& candid observer
must admit t hat some of the ~   m e porti ons of our population which followed
in Mr. Roosevelt's train in his great days, and which have contributed many
a progressive measure to the national programme, have also proved susceptible,
in certain pivotal Northern states, to the Klan's siren song of hate."
ruffus attended a huge KKK demonstration at Val:pa.ra.iso, Indiana, in May,
1922, which attracted some 10,000 to 20,000 Klansmen and may have been the
first public appearance of the legions of the Invisible Empire sans masks.
Here, he asserted:
A closer inspection afforded opportunity for making, or rather
for confirming, certain generalizations. The rank and file of the
Klan at Valparaiso were sharply divided into city members and coun-
try members. The farmers·; who arrived in automobiles, usually with
their families, would have seemed perfectly at home eleven years ago
in a Progressive party rally -- bronzed, homely, good-natured persons
who might have been selected at random from the farming populations
of Indiana, Ohio , Illinois, Kansas, or Nebraska. No group of men,
seemingly, could be further from· the savagries of which the Ku JG.we
Klan has been guilty in Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and
Oklahoma, and it was a little difficult to believe that they were
taking seriously the mummery they had come to witness • A more s tri-
king evidence of the Klan's ability tp
be -- or seem -- all things
to all men could not have been found.
The Klan, under the tutelage of Clarke and Tyler, varied its appeal to
suit the particular characteristics of each region. In the Southlit contin-
ued to be pimarily anti-black, but also fought union organization in the steel
and textile industr)e5• In the North, blacks, Catholics, Jews and foreigners
dominated the Klan's propaganda. On the Pacific Coast.it capitalized on fears
of Japanese, Chinese and Hindu minorities, as well as the Industrial Workers
of the World and other radical organizations. In the Southwest,. Mexicans and
American Indians proved importan1sources of Klan· antagonism. In rural areas,
the Klan decried the seething degeneTii.cy of the cities. In the cities, the
Invisible Empire proposed to "clean up" the government. Everywhere the JG.an
promoted its interpretation of moral decency, courted the favorable opinion
of Protestant denominations. with public donations by robed Klansmen, and
combatted "radicalism," or unorthodoxy of any kind. "To the Negro, Jew, Oriental,
Roman Catholic, and alien, were added dope, bootlegging, graft, night clubs
and road houses, violation of the Sabbath, unfair business dealings, sex,
marital     and scandalous behavior, as the proper concern of the
one-hundred per-cent American. The Klan organizer was told to find out
what was worrying a community ar.d to offer the Klan as a solution."
By the summer of 1921, the Invisible Empire had drawn nearly one hun-
dred thousand new "citizens." The high-pressure sales campaign offered finan-
cial incentives to all. A new cut of the '°klectoken,'" or initiation fee, pro-
vided that of the initial ten dollars, four went to the Kleagle, or recruiter,
who enrolled the new member; one went to the King Kleagle, recruiting director
of the realm, or state; the Grand Goblin, or head of one of the larger sales
districts received fifty cents; two dollars and fifty cents constituted Imperial
Kleagle Clarke and Mrs. Tyler's share; the remaining two dollars represented
Simmons' cut.·19
However, of discontent soon developed in the organization; eddies
betraying a powerful undercurrent of factionalism and greed. Still, these
seemed but minor lapses in the fraternal harmony within the Klan. A more ob-
vious threat was posed by the growing hostility in the press. In 1921, the
Klan's recruiting activities in Emporia. . Kansas, provoked that a.ble guardian of
the nation's conscience, Emporia Gazette editor W ill1am Allen White i
An organizer of the Ku Klux Klan was in Emporia the other day and
the men whom he invited to join his band at ten dollars per join
ned him down •••• To make a case against a birthplace, a religion,
or a r_ace, is wicked, un-American . and cowardly. The Ku Klux Klan is
based upon such deep foolishness that it is bound to be a menace to
good government in any community •••• For a self-constitut:ed body
of moral idiots who would substitute the findings of the Ku Klux Klan
for the processes of law, to try to better conditions, would be a
most un-Arnerican outrage which every good citizen should resent. • •••
It is to the everlasting credit of Emporia . that the organizer found
no suckers with $10 each to squander -here.20
Also in that year, the New York World launched a Pulitzer Prize-winning
series exposing the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Syndicated throughout
the nation, the crusade climaxed with an impressive tabulation of Klan vio-
lence. Somewhat to their surprise, Klan leaders discovered, as the editor
of the Imperial Knight Hawk, the KKK newspaper for the Southern jurisdiction,
gloated, "The press of the country has, more than any one agency, increased
the membership of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to what it is today. From
the press the Klan has received gratis, and is still receiving daily, adver-
tisement that is worth millions in cold cash.
The efforts of White and the World seemed but to fanthe flames of the
fiery cross •. By: 1924; Emporia had a Ku Kl'i.lx mayor, and in the primary elec-
tions both Republicans and I'emocrats had nominated Klan-endorsed candidates.
White, in disgust, announced his independent candidacy in the gubernatorial
race, as an alternative to the Klan. With some reluctance, !le .eritered'= his· ·
first· and only political campaign with. the firm resolve to "laugh the Klan
out of Kansas." The Republican candidate, Ben Paulen, won the election, but
White, al.m:>st singlehandedly, gained about 150,000 votes, approximately the
same number as the Democratic candid.ate .22
While this journalistic opposition proved beneficial to the Klan in the
short term, it ultimately destroyed the power of the Invisible Empire. The .. po1iti-
cal, figures, federal, state and local, failed to become principal agents of
opposition to the order until events had created a tide of public outrage.
The Klan's phenomenal growth and entry into local and state politics did not
make Klan membership necessary for electoral success, but did make outright
condemnation politically inadvisable. The churches likewise do :.not deserve
credit for informing the reaction to the Klan in the latter 'twenties. Many lead-
ers of the Protestant denominations belonged to the KKK: Klan strategy in •any com-
munity sought the silent consent, if not the direct approval, of the local
Protestant clergy. Ca t holic, Jewish and other minority-group spokesmer only
reached t he majority of Americans through their newspapers.
The newspapers became the public forums, pulpits and courts by which the
Invisible was tried. before the nation. However, if the press represented
the of its destrtiction, the Klan itself proved the source of that de-
struction. Journalists emphasized the contradictions within the order: between
its professed i deals of patriotism, law and order and norality; and
its violation of Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to freedom of speech .and re-
ligion, . lawless political manipulation and personal intimidation, and pa.tent
most basic
disregard for thef\.tenets of Christianity. Newspapers chronicled the various
nationwide activities of the   the readers to resolve the incon-
sistencies between the sinister national intrigties of · the · hooded order,. · . .
and the of times · benign functions of the local lG.avern.
Although the activities of the Klan yielded suggestive evidence of the
contradictory nature of the order, due to its secrecy, the JG.an could claim
that . any given incident represented the work of its opponents; it was a "frame."
Or, if the deed could be traced to Klansmen, .Klan' leaders could· deny that it.
had official sanction. Another .common defense showed the guilty person had
been previously "banished" from the Invisible. Empire. The most important
source of conclusive anti-Klan news of the organization. These
individuals were of.ten ·highly visible, and seemed amazingly prone to public
scandals, and internal factional disputes, which publicized private scandals.
In late 1921, four of the top Northern regional sales managers decided
that certain "irregularities" in the personal lives of Clarke and Mrs. Tyler
demanded their removal from the JG.an. When Imperial Wizard Simmons failed to
act, the dissatisfied Goblins informed the papers. The scandal seldom left
the front pages for the next month. Tyler left the organization, but Clarke
remained. rissatisfaction with Clarke and Simmons mounted again late the fol-
lowing year, and a coup lead by Dallas dentist Hiram Wesley Evans, ousted the pair.
Among the handful of insurgents who ousted Simmons was ravid Curtis Ste-
phenson, Grand Dragon of Indiana. Stephenson received control of twenty-two
Northern states for his pa.rt in placing Evans in control of the Klan. Simmons
struggled to regain control and initiated a suit against Evans. The story
reached its ghastly climax when Evan's chief public-relations officer, Phil
Fox, shot and killed Simmon's attorney, William S. Coburn. Not until Febru-
ary, 1924, was a final settlement reached, and Simmons entered a bitter retire-
ment with a lump sum of $146,500 from the Evans-controlled Klan coffers.
Indiana's Grand Dragon Stephenson, meanwhile, ' had grown immensely power-
ful in the state , Stephenson resigned as Grand Dragon late in 1923, to be re-
placed .. by Walter Bossert, soml""time Republican Sixth District chairman i of
Liberty, Yet in the campaign of 1 924 , Stephenson had assumed the dominant
role, Friction increased between Evans and Stephenson, culminating w1 th Ste-
phenson's banishment by a Klan tribunal ln Evansville, Indiana, on June 23,
Eighty per-cent of the Indiara Klahsmen ·broke · and followed Stephenson.
The extent of Stephenson's power in Indiana justified his claim that "I
am the law!" Yet by April of the following year Stephenson was tried and con-
victed of second-degree murder in the abduction and sexual assault of Madge
Oberholtzer. Sent to prison with a life sentence, Stephenson expected to be
granted a pardon by the Klan's governor Ed Jackson. Instead, he languished
in the state penitentiary in Michigan City. In July of 1927, Stephenson ful-
filled his threat to "tell all." Thus emerged the biggest and messiest IQan
scandal of all. The Richmond Palladium editor, Rudolph G. Leeds, declared,
"What the people of Indiana are interested in today is the purging of their
State from the ·disgrace which attaches to it. No1fnly should these 11\en be
brought to the bar of · justice w1 thout delay, but if impeachment proceedings
. 26
can be brought against the Governor, that step should be ta.ken at once."
Stephenson's revelations led to the removal of Gov. Jackson, Indianapolis'
Mayor John L. Duvall, the sheriff of Marion County and other officials. A
score of prominent went to jail.
The scandal broke the back·
of the Invisible F:mpire in Indiana. The Klan .boasted 500,000 members in
1924. "It was estimated that there were fewer than 7,000 paid-up members
in the state on February 22, 1928, when, by decree of Imperial Wizard Hi-
ram W. Evans, the Klan was unmasked and dis banded • • • • "
The universal condemnation of the hooded the Stephenson
scandals of 1925 and 1927 was hardly surprising. Of much greater importance
were tqe responses it found during the early period of its greatest sue-
cesses, from 1922 to 1924. Considering the dynamic of community and news- ·"
paper reactions in Richmond, Indiana, allows a fuller understanding of the
ultimate fate of the Klan.
The Ku Klux Klan first entered the state late in 1920, crossing the
Ohio River to establish its first Klavern in the river town of Evansville.
Spreading throughout the state, the ordensoon appeared in the Whitewater River
Valley, in the east-central portion of Indiana, and it proved especially
strong in the rural areas and small towns like Liberty . Grant Spears, cur-
rently   trustee and a resident in the area since his birth in
1904, recounted . ·the local · importance of the Invisible Empire, "The Ku Klux
Klan was not only present here, but they dominated the political structure.
• • • Klan activities dornina ted the Republican party • .,JO
Republican opposition to the KKK remained minimal during the period; men,
ordinarily unsympathetic_ to: i ts,_appeals ' joined because of its importance as ·
a source of loeal business trade and, especially, political success. Spears
I was speaking to a man • ·. • ·• in the .1 940 's , who was at that
time head of the Republican county committee. And he said .
• • • , 'I had a shoe store up in Hagerstown, Indiana (Jefferson
Township), and I wanted to get into politics .••• And I had to
join them.' And I said, 'Join what?' He said, 'Well, the Ku Klux
Klan.' And I said, 'I didn't believe in it when you joined it,
but if you were going to get any place in politi:31., you had to
be a member of the Klan.: That's the way it was.'
(1 2)
While Wayne _County De mocrats condemned the 1.'1.an, this apparently yielded
little advantage. Traditionally Republican, the county evidenced no great con-
version. to the r emocra tic ranks. An exception to this generalization proves
particularly suggestive. In the 1922 Senatorial election, Democrat Samuel M.
Ralston defeated the G.O.P. candidate, Albert J. Beveridge. · Ralston outdis-
tanced his opponent even in such Republican strongholds as Wayne, Marion and
Putnam counties.3
But in this instance, Beveridge had attacked the robed le-
gion; Ralston remained quiet; and the Klan had supported the Democrat.
The response of the clergy can only be traced through the newspapers.
Although no positive information was found, certain observations again seem
suggestive. No firm public condemnations of the Klan by the local clergy
were noted in the pages examined. In three instances, robed Klansmen visited
Protestant churches; undoubtedly other instances could be found. On July 3,
1922, the Palladium and Sun-Telegram reported that eight Klansmen had presen-
ted Rev. A.L. Stamper of the First Christian Church with a donation of $100.
On October 3, 1923, the Item described a visit by thirty Klansmen to the
Second Presbyterian Church. "They were dressed in full uniform and created
quite an impression ... 33 Rev. George Mitchell received an envelope containing
money which he said would be applied to the church treasury. A story in the
October 19th issue of the Item mentioned a contribution· of ten dollars by
thirteen robed Klanswomen at the United Brethren service. On none of these
occasions·: were the contributions refused.· Elsewhere such .. donations .had :some-
. times been' thro:wn back., in ·the faces of too. surpi:'ised ' Klansmen :
, .Initial responses of - the community   newspapers mixed surprise
and curiosity •. On June J0,-:1922, the Palladium reported, "A crowd tl:at threat-
ened to block the roadway on the Richmond-Liberty pike made an effort to
ness the initiation held by the Ku Klux Klan Thursday night on the Smith Mit-·
cheli farm, about three-quarters of a mile north of Liberty •• . •• · Passers-by
were able to discern a large gathering of men in the center of the lighted area
and above them a flaming white cross and an American flag. An estimate places
(1 J)
the number present at approximately 1,000, and it is stated that a large num-
ber of candidates were inducted
were Richmond citizens ... 34
•• It is unknown how many of the number
In a story _announcing a lecture to given by Dr. C. Lewis Fowler, founder
of lanier University and a national speaker for the Ku .Klux Klan, the Palladi-
E!!! noted on July 12th, "Frequent activities of the !Qan in this section of the
state indicate that the membership in this body is increasing. The public dem-
ons:trations to date have been largely in the form of the presentation of money
to churches and needy parties. Outdoor initiations at night also have been
. . . .
Two days later, the Palladium report estimated that 1,500 people had been
present for Fowler's address. One wonders if perhaps   ~ i U. Johnson, sev-
enty-two year-old Richmond attorney and former U.S. congressman, attended the
program, to hear Fowler's declaration, "'We are the instruments of a movement
rather than members of an organization and have secretly banded ourselves to-
gether to support the tenets of the Protestant Christian religion, to uphold
the constitution of the United States, to protect the chastity of our pure Am-
erican womanhood, to maintain the separation of church and state and to support
the free public school system •••• We don't have any tar or use any feathers
but we mean business. You might just as well try to stop the flow of Niagra as
to endeavor to check us in our purpose. ' .. 3
Could one have detected the concerned expression on Johnson's face among
the throng of people leaving the Richmond Coliseum that cool Thursday evening?
Or perhaps noted. a silent frown as he read a page-five report 1n ·S;a.turday's··.Pal-
ladium, describing yet another large local Klan initiation? Seven days later,
July 22nd, the Palladium published Johnson's impassioned plea for condemnation
of the Invisible Empire. "Do the citizens of Richmond who are joining an or-
ganiza.tion known as the Ku !Qux Klan realize just what they are doing? . . .
The Ku Klux Klan is an organization which is founded in race prejudice and un-
just discrimination; it is undoubtedly antagonizing and is aimed at certain
citizens of a particular religion. This is indeed but a small part of its of-
fending, but ''tis enough, 'twill serve • .,,37
Continuing, .he asserted:
The delivery by men with masked faces and white garments of pet-
ty contributions and letters replete with high sounding moral sent-
iments, to a pastor, in the uresence of his wondering congregation,
will not atone for the needless and cruel blow dealt to the peace
and happiness of a whole community, nor will a beast of one hundred
per-cent Americanism by men who use the national flag for a night-
shirt and claim a monopoly of patriotism, blind the eyes of intel-
ligent and just citizens to the iniquities and unpatriotic purposes
of this night-veiled organization. • • • ·
And where in this juncture of local affairs is the voice and con-
science of the Christian ministry of Richmond? .And what is the view
entertained by the newspapers of this city • • • • Assuredly the time
has come for men of all conditions in the community to speak out and
to speak out fearlessly and emphatically, against this order, which,
despite its loud protestations of virtue, religion and patriotism,
is really defying all of these qualities, and is seeking to discre-
dit both in
aetter and in spirit, the noblest and holiest American
Richmond supported two rlaily newspapers during this period. The morning
Item, published by F.S. I'od.d, did not print regular editorials; in fact, an
editorial comment on current local affairs proved so rare as to 1:e extremely
notable and Sun-Telegram, owne.cr by.  
fered daily editorials ,.,: commenting on salient topics at the national and state,
as well as local levels. Four days after Johnson's letter, Leeds attacked the
nan in his editorial column. The another anti-Klan editorial
in the Palladium. From this point, Leeds' policy can 100.- :cle.arly :discerned.
The paper downplayed the nan activities, publicized opposition to the
Klan and printed national stories on the Klan's meaner activities.
For example, on August 2nd, the paper reported, "Anti-KU,,.Klux candidate
leading in Oklahoma • • • ',' .

On the seventh, a page-one item neted, -1
A4opt Resolution Opposing Ku Klux Klan." The following day a first-page
story declared, "Johnson Flays Klan in Kiwanis Address; Urges Brotherhood."
The ptesenrta ti.on· and editorial policy proved cons is tent.
What consequences stemmed from the courageous opposition of men like
Johnson and Leeds? Their standing and popularity i n the community
could have accounted for the apparent absence of any Klan retaliation.
This cursory analysis determined_ that paid Klan advertising, of rallies
or presentations, appeared only in the Item, which had taken no stand on
the KKK. This feeble sanction may have been accompanied by more intense
efforts; this appears unlikely, due to the character of the Klan•s
following in Richmond.
As Grant Spears explained:
There were no instances of violence at all -- not really.
They just made themselves highly noticeable -- to attract at- -
tention. They marched up and down the street on occasion, to
show their ' strength. They did a great deal of political
strength, and they were, as theLhead of the Republican county
. commit tee j_n the 1 940 's la tei/   me , • • • leaders in the
community. This was quite true.
However, in areas where the Klan was more aggressive, the price of
condemnation could be high indeed. George R. Dale founded The Post-Demo-
crat in Muncie, Indiana, in 1921, after concluding that it was the most
iniquitous town south of Chicago ,and that the Ku Klux Klan not only con-
trolled the city' · but held most of the important offices in the county as
well. He gained sufficient evidence by 1922 to launch his campaign for
reform. He openly charged that the Klansmen had full control, that the
police fostered crime, that prostitutes driven from other cities were un-
hindered in plying their trade and that gamblers shared their profits with
city officials.
When it apparent that Dale intended to his accusations,
the Klan approached local businessmen, and soon The Post-remocrat found it-
self without the benefit of a line of pa.id advertising -- save for an occasion-
al legal notice from the few local officials free from Klan control. In five
years, rale lost $15,000, his home and controlling interest in. the pa.per.
When his life was threatened, he began carrying a handgun for protection.
This lead to his arrest for carrying a concealed weapon. A Klan jury convicted
the editor. Next, he was arrested on a trumped-up liquor charge. He pouiltered,
in The Post-remocrat, that the charge was a "frame," that the Klan was respon-
sible and that the judge, prosecutor, sheriff, grand jury, jury commissioners
and police department belonged to that body. Charged with contempt, Dale re-
ceived a $500 fine and a sentence to ninety days in the state penal farm from
Judge, and rousing Klan orator, Clarence W. rearth.
Upon his release, Tale resumed the attack. When he published information
suggesting that Dearth had acted as his own lawmaker in selecting juries and
conducting some trials, the judge ordered ·the newspaper suppressed. A peti-
tion of two hundred and fifty Muncie citizens provoked the state legislature
to bring articles of impeachment against rearth in March, 1927. Even in this
era of waning IQan strength, the seven articles of impeachment could not be
sustained -- although on five separate counts a majority of the legislators
. .
voted for conviction. With sufficient provocation, the Klan proved a ven-
omous enemy . indeed. But among Richmond Klansmen, greater restraint prevailec.
During 1923, two issues consistently"-·dominated· the pa.ges.,of the press:
prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan. Few other topics equalled . these in their
sensationalism, or wove so intricate a pattern of local,   and national
significance. Thi'ee· of, many major Klan scandals, representative of the general
coverage accorded the Invisible Empire, were: the Simmons-Evans factional dis-
pute, culininating'··with Phil Fox!. s ' murderrof Simmons' lawyer in November and,
.on December 22nd, the report of his sentence to life imprisonment: second, the
lively battle in Oklahoma between the agressively anti-Klan governor, Jack Wal-
ton, and the lawless, night-riding Klansmen, intensifying with Gov. Walton's
of martial law in several centers of Klan violence and his eventual
impeachment and removal from office on November 20th by a Klan-controlled leg-
islature: and finally
the sinister Mer Rouge murders. Mer Rouge   in the
northern bayous of Louis iana. On August 24, 1922, masked members of the Ku
Klux Klan had whipped several men in a woods near the town. When one of the
men, Watt I'aniels, a young , white ex-serviceman, managed to escape his bonds
and pull off one of his assailants masks, he and his friend Tom Eichards, who
also had glimpsed the face behind the mask, were tortured ,and rUII._ ove:t wi.th a
road grader. Then the Klansmen mutilated and dismembered the pulped bodies,
finally dumping them in the lake. Late in the fall of 1922, a company of
infantrymen.ordered in by the governor, found the hideously mangled torsoes
floating on Lake Lafourche; ironically, the corpses were dislodged by a dynamite
charge someone exploded in the hope of destroying the evidence.
Needless to say such national controversy seriously affected the Invisible
Empire. Al though it continued to burgeon, a in the
Klan's membership. In general, the quality of its membership, and leadership,
declined. First, the group sheltered a growing "roueh element." Second, unsus-
pecting rank and file members questioned the profit-making which motivated its
leaders, as successive '. in. the press revealed the Empire's financial
structure. 'Ibe · leaders often gave but lip service to the professed ideals of
the order. This tendency can be observed on the local level as well:
The two gentlemen down ih Liberty, Indiana, who were lawyers,
who benefi tted{the most from the Klari/were cynical. were
in it for the money •••• That was Walter Bossert and£his youn-
ge!Jbrother named Elmer Bossert •••• {rhe Klai/was a secret or-
. '
ganization, like the Masonry, ••• based on a little different
sort of ideal, but ••• the reason their name was mentioned in
connection with it because they had . the commercial end of it.
They sold the regalia the big deal ••••
The{local organization of th!lUnited Negro Improvement Assoc-
iation,£1:.he Garvey movemeniJ .•• han been approached by falter
Bosser-g. • • • He
ing black figure in town and said, "After all, look at these peo-
ple. They are against you •••• We can organize the blacks a-
gainst them and we '11 call them the Lincoln.• Instead
of white robes, they'll have black robes and be counter to the
Klan. You {poulaJ defend yourselves.,.
Well, they never got to first base with it. . Even though at
that time while   the KlarC°and buy the cos-
tumi/, the organization was just half price for the Negroes;
they didn't have · qui47 as much money •••• There was a charter
issued by the state.
(1 8)
The Richmond . press offered a confusing assortment of stories on the Ku
Klux •Klan. The Item covered Klan activities locally as it would any social
organization. The Pallai:lium maintained, in general, a sense of irri ta.tea
fisdain towarc the antics of the f ichmond-area Klansmen. Both included the
major scandals mentioned above, and such state events as inaugur-
ation as Grand Iragon, before a crowd of over 100,000 at Kokomo's Melfalfa Park
on July 4 923: the Klan's unsuccessful attempt to purchase Valparaiso Uni ver-
sity for a Klan college: and the great Hoosier schism in the Invisible Empire
I · 48
between Stephenson's dissidents and the loyalists under Bossert.
The pages also chronicled a growing list of organizations publicly condem-
ning the Klan, and those courageous individuals such as • • U,
Johnson, Rudolph G. Leeds, George R. rale, and Indiapolis' mayor Lou Shank,
who personally challenged the order. The American Legion, American Fed-
eration of Labor, Indiana's state Episcopal church conference and the Federal
Council of Churches all denounced the Klan.during 1923.
In October, Richmond witnessed a memorable Klan rally. This proved too
big an event for the Palladium to ignore, or, apparently, for the Item to ac-
cept. The  

  impact of the com.mi tted ,
l'l.ewspa.per.'t. UP<>rl tbe .·.oullgct±ve:·.awa:reness of_· the community.
The Item for the morning of October 4th ,announced the event in a first-page
story entitled, "Ki.an Will Stage Big Celebration; J0,000 Members Expected to
Attend Meeting; Four Bands in Mammoth Parade." In glowing terms the story
Five thousand robed men and womPn members of the organization
will be in the line which, it is expected, will attain a length
of a mile and a half •••• The parade will include 50 horses
and 25 floats, the latter intended to give in symbolic fashion
the tenets and aims of the Klan. The parade which t is assured,
will assume every phase of the thrilling an.d spectacular as ·well
as the awe-inspiring , will be dotted with a number of bands ••.•
Concluding the program will be a beautiful display of fireworks
and as an additional novel feature, an airplane from Day58n will
circle the city after night bearing aloft a fiery cross.
The characteristically buried their report on page sixteen of that
evening's issue. ·The item avoids any me ntion of t he numbers of people expected.
Its restained ·description ··revealed a heal thy skepticism. "The conclusion of
the celebration will consist of a dispiay of fireworks and the flight over
the grounds of an airplane bearing a 'fiery cross!'"5i · The story concluded
with the pointed observation that, "The police department will have a large
force out to handle traffic and exercise supervision over the park and the down-
town district during the parade. Ten special officers will supplement the reg-
ular. force.1152
After the parade, the paper's reports further evidenced  
attitudes towards·' the Invisible Empire. The Item headlined the first-page
story, "Spectacular Array Presented by Klan in Mamoth Parade; Over
30,000 Persons Witness Ku Klux Klan remonstrationt City Traffic Is Suspended
I'uring Parade • " It. declared ,, l'Fuily: · 6 , 000 · inem be rs .. tjle '.. Klan .:.par ti ci pa.ted Un
the. ·monster parade: • · '' which in magnitude and impressiveness has had few
equals in this city. The best of order was preserved by police and special
. "\)Dl\c..e,
details of • and nothing occurred to disturb any phase of the
evenings program.
on the evening of the sixth, the Palladium's account
the ninth pa.ge and significantly its interpretation. "A parade through
the business district 6f. between 1,000 and 1,100 .Klansmen • • • was the chief
('. -
public feature of the Ku Klux Klan ceremonial held at Glen Miller and Exhibi-
tion Parks Friday night.". Pointedly, the article concluded, "An attempt to
rope off one of the roads and . keep automobiles from passing through was made
early in the evening by a Richmond Klansmen who 'deputized' several others as
'special officers!' The chief of police was notified of this action and im-
" .54
mediately pa.id a visit to the park and ordered the ropes removed.
Something about the parade, or perhaps merely the general course of Klan
activities reaching the news, must have proved unsettling to Item owner F.S.
Dodd. For only one week later he printed an editorial, which he signed. In
bold-face type on the first page, Dodd sadly observed, "Yesterday we celebra-
ted Armistice Day -- not hilariously, but with solemnity. • . • Catholic, . Jew
and Protestant, white or black, were brothers in   but in the brief space of
five years, strife and enmity has arisen among these same brothers. Organizations
have been formed, there have been attacks and counter-attacks, only to widen the
breach •••• We have forgotten that the Constitution of the United Stated gives
each of us the privilege to exercise our chosen religion and equal rights to
alL To be 100% Americans, we must believe and follow our Cons ti tu ti on. ,.55
Thus clearly can be seen, in this community and in the nation, growing op-
position to the Ku Klux Klan. As early as 1923, the seeds of the hooded order's
subsequent, virtual destruction had been sown. The source of the decline can be
found in the inherent contradictions of the Klan: first   and actions;
and, second, between its conniving leadership and the rank and file. By bring-
ing these contradictions forcibly before the eyes of the American public, journal-
ists and a few courageous individuals informed a growing tide of opposition among
white Protestants whose approval, ... or silence, permj.tted the Invisible Empire's
growth. Yet at this time, the greatest Klan successes still lay ahead.
As was ironically apparent in the Palladium's pages, the rising star of
Klan fortunes had not ,yet reached its zenith. In early November, 1924, a Demo-
cratic speaker made a final i fruitless appeal for Democratic victory in the com-
ing election before an assembly of the city's black voters, "Hell would be a pie-
nic beside America if the Ku Klux Klan gained control, for down there you are
only punished for your sins while here· it would be a punishment for your creed
and color as well."5
But the '24 elections gave the Klan greatest power
in Indiana. And five days later, an advertisement heralded the arrival of "
A Picture Every Real American Should See -- 'The Birth of a Na ti on. ' .. 57
1. L•Jith Geo r gs 30, 1978 by J. J . Carpenter
and C. Sellman. Tape avalible from auth ors.
2. Bell, Oanie_l. Th e Rad ic a l Right.
Doubleday & Company Inc. Garden City, Jersey. 196 4, P• - 270
3. Mowry, George E. The Twenties: Fords, f1appers & Fana_tics.!.
Prentice-Hall, Clif f s, NeLu Jersoy. 1963. ifil•' 136.
4. The American Colleoe Dictionary.
Kaiidom House, Inc. fJe w York, f-Je1>J York. 1964. p.427.
S. David m. Hooded Americanism.
Doubleday & Com?a ny, Inc. Garden New Jersey. pp. 8-21.
6. Oo. cit. p. ' 10.
cit • pp. 8-21.
a. Ibid.
9. Qp_. cit. pp. 20-38.
10. Q.e.. cit. p. 28.
11 • .Q.£. cit. pp. 22-27.
12. ·.0p. cit. p. 30. ,
13 • .Q.£. cit. P. 31.
14 • .Q.£. cit. P?• 33-34.
16. The Work. V.46, .
"The Ku Klux Lan in the flliddle   by
Robert L. Duffus.
/ ';
17. Q£. cit. p.528 .
18 Chal mers PD 2
8-38·, Duffus, p.363.
. , ' .
190 Cha l mers, pp. 33-34.
20. White, Allen. Th e   of L\Jilliam Allen White.
The macmillian Company. Ne w York, New York. 1946. p. 3 6 0.
21 • oar e , Samu e l Tay 1 or • A K 1 a n King d om C o 11 a p s e s •
The Indedende nt. V. 113, 19 24. P• 47 4.
2 2 o h it e , p • 6 3 1 •
23. Chal.mers, Pl'>• 100-108.
2a, Ibid.
25. Chal mers, pp. 168 -169; Harrison, filorton. "Gentle men from
Indiana." Atlantic ·monthly. V/. 141, 1928. p. 677.
26 •.• Richmo rrd P- a llad.i. um. From t bhe Lit e rary
V-.!.. 95, October 1, 1927. p. 14.
27 •. Chalmers, p. 174.
28. marten, p. 584.
29. Chalmers, p. 163.
30. Interview with Grant Spears, may 30, 1978 . by J.B. Carpenter
and J.C. Sellman. Tape avali ble from authors.
31 • . Ibid.
32. Chalmers,. p •. 167 . ,
33. Richmond Item. October 3, 1923, p. 2 c. 4.
34. Richmond PaLl..adium, June 30, 1922. p. 7. c. 2.
Q.Q.. cit. July
1 2'
192 . • p. 3 • c. 2.
36. Cl.;:L. ci...t_. Ju i y
1922. p . 2 c. 1 •
37. D.,a.. c.il.. July 22, 1922. p. 1 c . 4 ; p.5 c. J-4.
38. lb;i.d,,,
39 •. Richmond August 2, 1922., p.4 c.1 ..
40. QE._• cit. August 7, 1922 •. p. 1 c. 5.
41 • .Q_e. C it • A U g 8 st 8 , 1 9 2 2 • p • 1 C' • 4 t o p • 8 C' . 4 •
420 Interview ·with ·Grant .
43. The Literary Digest. V. 90 (August 14, 1925.) 9.
44. Ibid.
45. Ib$dj Harrison, QE.. cit. pp. 683-684.
46. Richmond Item; ao9 Palladium, 1923; Chalmers pp. 100-108,
47. Interview with Grant
Richmond Palladium; R:ichmond Item, 1923.
49, Ibid.
50, Richmond Item. October 4, 1923. p.
1 c.5; · p. 2 c. 1 •
51. Richmond Palladium, October 4, 1923. p. 16 c. 1 •
52. Ibid ..
. ' .... • .·· • •i
' .
53. Richmond Item. Octob e r 6, 1923. p. 1 c. 2-4. p. 2 c. 4.
54. Rich mond Pa ll ad ium. October 6,   p. 9    
It em. October 13, 1923. p. 1 c. 4-5.
56. Richmond Palladium. Novgmber 4, 1924. p. • ·c. 1 •
57 • .Q.£. cit. November 1, 1924. p. 18 c. 1-4.
. .
ff I
Bohn, Franko "The Ku Klux <lan Interpreted"
The American Journal of Sociology. V. 30, n '.J. 30, January, 1925
pp. 3 85- 4U6 •
. Chalmers, David m. Hooded Americanism.
Doubleday & Company, Inc. New York, New York. 1i:J_65.
This book is probably the finest work ov 9 r done on the Klan.
As t he reader will see, this wor k is quoted from often.·
Du Bois, Lil. E. B. "The Shape of Fear"
North l\ merican Review •. V. 223, rna rch-l!l ay, 1926 •. pp . 291-308.
Duff us, Robert L. "The Ku Klux Klan in The fl1 idd le West"
  lllork. v,·. 46, ffi ay-October, 1923 .. pp. 363-372 ..
Evans, Hira ri "The Ballots Behind The Ku Klux Klan"
  d ork. V. ·60, no 3. January, 1928. pp. 243-252.
Evans, H:iram Wesley. "The Klan's Fight For Americanism'!
North American Review. V •. 223. ( March-April-rnay, 1926.) pp. 33-63.
Harrison, fllorton·. "Gentlemen From Indiana"
Atlantic Monthly. V. 141. (1928) pp •. 676-636 ..
Literary Digest, The •. V. 78 •. September 15, 1923. pp. 12-14.
The Klan "Backs·" A College.'
Op. cit. V·. 90. August 14,. 1926. p •. 9 •.
"A r i g h t F or Freed om of The p·r e s s "
.9£.• cit •. V.· •• 94 •. August 13,. 1927. p. 10.
"Indiana's Political Scandal "
.Q.e • c it • V • . 9 5 • O c t o b e r 1 ,. 1 9 2 7 • p • 1 4 •.
"Indiana's Political House Clean,;ng"
Op .. cit. V. 97 • . April 28,. 1928 •. pp •. 8-9 •.
"A"- J.udicial Spanking For The Klan"
Op. cit.: v·. 124. October 9,. 1937 •. pp. 15-17.
Loucks, Emerson H •. The Ku Klux Klan in Pennsylvania •.
The Telegraph Press:-Harrisburg-;--pB"nnsylvania. 1936 ..
OriQinally written as a doctoral this book is
.an in-deoth study of the Klan's activl't1es in Pennsylvania
during the 1920's •.

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