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1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide

None of the Dragons, Titans or Exalted Cyclopses wore masks. Shelton unpacks his Imperial Wizard's robes from the trunk of his automobile and dresses for a rally in Hemingway, S.C. KU KLUX KLAN decorated with Confederate and American flags, the assembled Dragons, Titans and Exalted Cyclopses of the two Carolinas sat proudly in their emerald, white and crimson robes, waiting for "His Lordship," one Robert Shelton of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc., to bring them the true and lively word. None wore a mask. "We want you to see our faces," bellowed Robert Scoggins, the Grand Dragon of South Carolina, to the crowd of some 800 men, women and barefoot children who stood before the speakers' platform in the glare of the burning cross. "We want you to know who we are and what we are doing. We got nothing to hide." As Scoggins finished his brief welcome, a Klansman dressed in a shining black military helmet, a gray-green uniform, and black paratrooper boots with white laces, swaggered back and forth across the platform, staring stonily at the crowd. He and a tall, slack-jawed companion with captain's bars on his shoulders were the "Security Guard." They were there to silence hecklers. A German reporter from West Berlin looked curiously at these glowering storm troopers. "I have seen such men before," he said. The strutting guards, the unmasked Klansmen, the public rally—all were evidence of the Klan's bold resurgence both in numbers and in spirit. The revival was furtive at first. In 1954, when the Supreme Court handed down its school decision, the fragments of the old Klan of the 1940's began quietly to regroup. In the upper rooms of old buildings on the side streets of the bigger towns, in cheap motels and highway restaurants, in abandoned barns and farmhouses deep in the woods, the "sacred altars" were set up. On them were placed the American flag, a sword, and a Bible open at the 12th chapter of Romans—St. Paul's eloquent exhortation to Godly conduct. In the glow of an electrically lighted cross, red-necked "Aliens" knelt to mumble the old Klan oath, swearing to "dedicate heart, mind and body to the preservation of Christian civilization," and to carry with them to their graves the secrets of the order. Sometimes identifying their groups as hunting-and-fishing clubs or county-improvement associations, the Klansmen collected arms and manufactured their own ammunition. Under the tutelage of ex-G.I.'s. they practiced judo and karate and crawled through swamps on "maneuvers," getting ready for the inevitable day when the Jews and the Communists would give the signal and the Negroes would rise to destroy the white race in the South. Passage of the Civil Rights Bill in June of 1964 brought the Klan boldly into the open. All over the South crosses blazed at public rallies. Fierceeyed preachers, most of them selfordained, began to shout in public the twisted' doctrine they had proclaimed in the secrecy of the Klaverns—that Jesus Christ was not a Jew, that the Pope of Rome was anti-Christ, that the Negro was a beast who must be destroyed. "Oh, God," prayed one, "please put grace and grit into the white race and let us wipe out this black-ape race. before it is too late." The ignorant and frightened men and women who join the Klan claim to be uplifted by this savage doctrine. To them the Klan is a religion, a holy crusade. In North Carolina. a robed Klansman told reporters: "I feel nearer to God at a rally than at any other time. When I put on this robe it's a grand feeling. It's white—as pure as Jesus Christ. The cross burning is not to make people stand in fear. The cross is what Christ died on." "It's better than going to church." a woman member said. At Hemingway. after a robed Klan chaplain known as "The Kludd" had prayed long and fervently for the Lord to bless the Klan and all its works, Shelton rose to speak. He is a tall, slender, hollow-cheeked man with dark, lifeless eyes, and even in his robes of royal purple topped by a gilded cape and hood, he looked withdrawn and wary—"like a man who thinks he is about to be shot at," an Alabama newspaperman said. His voice was toneless, his theme was the same old Klan refrain. Every pa- triotic white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant must be ready to give his life if need be to save the purity of his race. But there must be no violence. All must be accomplished by peaceful means—by the boycott and the ballot. Occasionally from the crowd came a deep "Amen" and a scattering of applause. Shelton told a joke. "You know how they fin'ly found them three boys that was buried in that dam near Philadel- phia, Mississippi?" he asked. "The Federal Bureau of Integration didn't find them boys. The mailman found them. He walked by there delivering welfare checks, and the nigger reached up to get his." The crowd roared with laughter and delight. Shelton droned on, paying his disrespects to the Supreme Court, to the traitors who would modify the immi- gration laws, to "Light Bulb" Johnson and "Bobby Sox" Kennedy and "Mar- tin Luther Coon." He finished, took off his robes, folded them neatly and put them in the back of his car. Then, dressed in a gray suit and dark red tie, he moved about among the crowd, chatting and shaking hands while the loudspeaker played When They Ring Those Golden Bells. Shelton's mood was somber. The presence of so many reporters and cameramen apparently had inhibited him, causing him to tone down his speech. The usual taking of a collection had been omitted, presum- ably because the sight of the plastic buckets filled with dollar bills coming back up to the platform might give the wrong impression. He seemed to be trying to appeal to a wider audience than the fewer than 1,000 who had come out to hear him. To reporters he was seeking to present the Klan as a peace-loving organization of patriots. He had brought with him from Tuscaloosa the ancient epic of the silent- movie days, D. W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation. He hadn't felt it wise to show it, though he finds it his most effective recruiting device, for it extols the glories of the Klan of Reconstruction days, and has for its dramatic climax the Klan's pursuit and punish- ment of a Negro rapist and murderer. "I killed niggers all night in my sleep after I saw that thing," said a Klans- man who had seen the film previously. By moonrise the flaming cross was sputtering out. The loudspeaker was softly droning Abide With Me. Shelton, his brow furrowed. climbed into his white Pontiac Grand Prix and set out on the long drive to Bastrop. La., and another Klan rally. Earlier, on the 600-mile drive to South Carolina from his headquarters in Tuscaloosa, Shelton had talked at length with a Post reporter. Weighing his words, he had painted a picture of 28


1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide
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