Page 5

1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide

'When I put on this robe it's a grand feeling. It's white as Christ.' Robed Klansmen flank a helmeted member of the United Klans' burly "Security Guard," which deals with troublemakers. KU KLUX KLAN who are sympathetic to us," and he claims to have active Klaverns in 39 states. Federal agents, who keep a close eye on Shelton and have planted informers in most of his Klaverns, know that Shelton is exaggerating the United Klans' strength when he speaks of "many thousands" of members. Reliable estimates place the present active membership at under 5,000, concentrated mainly in Georgia, Alabama, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Even this small membership, however, enables the United Klans to throw its weight around politically, particularly in rural counties, with a power that far exceeds its strength in numbers. A law-enforcement officer, assigned to keep constant watch on the Klan, explains: "Suppose you have a race for sheriff or county commissioner in some country county where the civil-rights issue is hot. Klansmen will ride in from all over the South to burn a cross and hold a rally. Then they'll sneak around and put up a lot of little stickers—' The Ku Klux Klan is watching you.' The candidates get scared to death they'll lose the Klan vote, so they try to outdo each other in proving what true-blue Americans they are and how strong they are against the Negro. The fear of the Klan colors the whole election campaign, when the truth is the Klan couldn't deliver a hundred votes in the whole county." Shelton favors this kind of political leverage. "Our weapon is the ballot and the boycott," he says. "You let a man who runs a little store know how you feel about a candidate, he pretty soon gets the idea he better see it the same way or he'll lose a lot of trade. Our women members do a lot of the political work for us. They baby-sit for folks who want to go to the courthouse to register, and they drive people to the polls on election day, and during a campaign they may go from house to house, passing out literature and talking for the candidates the Klan likes. We work down in the grass roots, and in a lot of counties we can elect just about whoever we want to. We don't have to say outright who we want elected, but the word gets around." In areas where the Klan feels its strength, a Klan leader may campaign openly for a candidate, or the Klan may put up one of its own members. In Atlanta, for example, Calvin Craig, the United Klans' Grand Dragon for Georgia, ran for the state senate and loudly pledged his support to the Goldwater Miller candidacy—a startling departure from the Klan's traditional antagonism toward Jews and Catholics. Craig lost his senate race in Atlanta, but the smaller cities and the rural counties, where many share the Klan's defiant attitude toward the Civil Rights Act and school desegregation, gave Goldwater a 94,000 majority and put Georgia in the Republican column for the first time in its history. Far more dangerous than the Klan's power to influence politics by persuasion is its power to intimidate whole communities through acts of terrorism. 30


1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide
To see the actual publication please follow the link above