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1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide

• Even in Mississippi, groups of decent citizens are speaking out openly against the Klan. Klansmen's daughters Frances Bolt and Lynn Spires sit on a truck bed which is decorated with inverted American flags. KU KLUX KLAN Shelton has publicly appealed to law officers and other public officials to join his ranks, promising them super-secret new Klaverns in which they would be required to wear no robes, march in no parades, and endure the long Klan ritual only once a month instead of weekly. Though most North Carolina peace officers have ignored Shelton's blandishments, his success at organizing regular Klaverns in the Tarheel State has startled federal officials. A little more than a year ago the Klan there was dead. It had been an object of derision since 1958, when a sometime preacher named the Reverend "Catfish" Cole attempted to hold a cross-burning in a cornfield near the little town of Maxton, an area heavily inhabited by Lumbee Indians. As the robed preacher began his invocation, there came a wild shouting from the surrounding woods and a band of Lumbees, some in war paint and feathers, swarmed into the clearing firing pistols and shotguns. Led by the Reverend Catfish, the assembled Klansmen hoisted their bed sheets up around their hips and took off through the thorny yaupon scrub, uttering mindless cries of terror. The story made all the papers, and the Klan became a laughingstock. Today, under the ambitious proselyting of the United Klans' Grand Dragon, J. Robert Jones, onetime sailor, bricklayer and lightning-rod salesman, the Klan has made a fantastic comeback. In a series of articles in the Charlotte Observer, reporters J. K. Batten and Dwayne Walls estimated that the state now has some 25 active Klaverns, with a membership of 2,500 paying members. Batten and Walls, in their reports, vividly depicted a typical Klansman. "He was coarse, unshaven and loud," they wrote. "He chomped an unlighted cigar and profanity came as regular as breathing. Yet for an instant tears streamed down his whiskered cheeks. 'My country is going to hell,' he blurted brokenly. 'I hate to see that. These crooked, corrupt politicians are doing it . . . by raising up the niggers. The white man is God's servant, and the nigger is the white man's servant. That's the way it was meant to be. That's the way it's going to be, by God." They quoted another Klansman, a filling-station operator, "his hands caked with grease, his arms blue with tattoos" : —The Jews have got the B'nai B'rith. The Catholics have got the Knights of Columbus. The niggers have got the N.A.A.C.P. Tell me what in hell the white man's got, besides the Klan? What has the white Protestant American Gentile got except the Klan? It's the poor bastard like me who pays the taxes. He keeps the wheels turning."' These vignettes point up the deep angers and frustrations that motivate the rank-and-file Klansman in North Carolina and throughout the South. He is rebelling against his own ignorance, ignorance that restricts him to the hard and poorly paid jobs that are becoming scarcer every day. He is angered by the knowledge that the world is passing him by, that he is sinking lower and lower in the social order. The Negro is his scapegoat, for he knows that so long as the Negro can be kept "in his place," there will be somebody on the social and economic scale who is lower than he. In the Klavern, in his robes, repeating the ancient ritual, he finds the status that is denied him on the outside. Despite the rush to join its ranks, the Klan in North Carolina so far has proved to be a feckless organization. An unsuccessful attempt was made to prevent volunteer workers from the North from painting a weatherbeaten Negro schoolhouse; an effort to prevent Negroes from integrating a restaurant by squirting them with hoses resulted in the arrest of two Klansmen; and a few crosses have been burned, one on the lawn of the governor's mansion. Otherwise the Tarheel Klansmen have seemed content to meet in their Klaverns and make angry speeches. Even there they do not conduct themselves as seriously as their grimmer brethren to the south. In one Klavern, Batten and Walls reported, initiation rituals are enlivened with a prank. The neophyte is required to watch while a piece of iron is heated white-hot and thrust, sizzling, against a piece of raw meat. The iron is then reheated, the quaking candidate is blindfolded, his trousers are lowered, and a piece of Dry Ice is pressed against his backside. With a piercing scream the victim leaps galvanically while the assembled Knights guffaw. Attorney James Venable of Atlanta, who is Shelton's prime competitor in the Klan business, would probably look with scorn upon such desecration of the ancient ritual. Venable is head of a group called the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Inc., and of another that embraces 19 small, independent Klans in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and North Carolina. and he looks upon himself as the robed prophet and spiritual heir of the original Klan of the 1860's. A florid, blue-eyed man in his middle 50's, his eyes grow moist and his voice breaks when he speaks of how the Klansmen of that day saved the South from carpetbaggers and renegade freedmen. He refers with great nostalgia to the 1920's, when the Klan was at its peak of four million members and was so potent in politics it could elect governors, congressmen and senators in half a dozen states. Venable, a Klansman since he reached man's estate, was attorney for the United Klans until 1963. He then 32


1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide
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