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1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide

pulled out, chartered his own National Knights, and is now in competition with his old Wizard. Like Shelton, he professes to abhor violence, and he has been heard to describe some members of the United Klans as a "bunch of wild-eyed sons of bitches." He says that he does not do much recruiting in the South. "We are working in virgin soil," he said. "We are planting the seed in the Midwest and the Far West. They are crying for us outside the South, and we are answering the call." This seems true, for Klan watchers report revival of the order in West Virginia, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and California. Though Venable deplores violence in his affable conversations with reporters, his public utterances, and those of his subordinate leaders, sometimes depart from peaceful themes. Once, when carried away by his own oratory, according to an investigation report, he told a rally at Stone Mountain that a few people, white and black, should be hanged to show that the Klan meant business, and he suggested that standing in a schoolhouse door was no way to stop Negro children from entering a white school; hanging a few Negroes on the school ground would be much more effective. His comment on the Penn murder case was blunt: "It just shows that you won't never convict a white man for killing a Negro who is encroaching on the white people of the South." Speaking at a National Knights rally in September, 1964, Grand Dragon Charlie Maddox of Savannah, a brusquely outspoken man, told his audience: "We need to do a lot to stop the liberal legislation of these national politicians. A boy down in Texas did a lot already, remember?" It seems obvious that the Klan of the middle 1960's is, as Venable likes to describe it, "the same yesterday, today and forever." It is the same armed underground, the same secret guerrilla force, mocking by its actions the teachings of the Christ it pretends to honor, striking furtively and savagely at the foundations of the democracy it purports to defend. It is potentially more dangerous than the old Klan of the '20's, which was finally destroyed by the venality and corruption of some of its leaders and by the arrogant lawlessness of its vicious hoodlum fringe. Its leaders are not interested primarily in the money, but are grimly dedicated men determined to maintain white supremacy at whatever cost. Numerically, the Klan still is weak. The best official estimates place the number of active dues-paying Klansmen in the South at fewer than 10,000, with 2,000 in Mississippi, 1,500 each in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina, 1,000 in Louisiana, 500 each in South Carolina and Tennessee. Loyal to many leaders, operating mainly in their own regions, they are less an organization than the manifestation of a state of mind—the despair of the poor white in a society in which he can find no respected place. They are, in short, an underground movement whose basic weapon is terror. There are hopeful signs. Organizations of decent citizens, as in McComb, Miss., at last are speaking out openly against the anarchy of the Klan. In many a small Southern city, schools are being integrated without violence. Merchants, ignoring Klan threats, are complying with the Civil-Rights Act, and private citizens, when warned that they must fire a Negro servant, are telling Klan tormentors to go to hell. And here and there a tough sheriff or police chief warns Klan leaders that if Klan gunmen want a showdown fight, his men are ready. "I've told Shelton if his Klansmen ever try to do anything to me or my family, I'll kill him," said an Alabama police chief. "And if they get me first, I've got some boys in my department who will kill him." Always in the past the Klan has destroyed itself by its own excesses. Events of the past few months give proof that the modern Klan has already gone far down the road to its own destruction. The recent arrests of Klansmen may result in no convictions and no punishment. But the faces of the Klansmen have been exposed. They have been seen in daylight, in the courts, glowering sullenly or grinning arrogantly at the cameras. They now are recognized, not as folk heroes, but as what they are—the misfits, the bitter rejects of society. It is impossible to believe that the millions of decent, law-abiding, truly religious citizens of the South will long permit their lives to be dominated by such as these. ❑ In Salisbury, North Carolina, cited by a national magazine as an "All-America City," Klansmen brazenly parade up the sidewalk in a daylight demonstration billed as a shore of force. Photograph by Don Sturkey 33


1965_01_30--026_SP We Got Nothing to Hide
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