Reading in the Oklahoma Chronicles this morning, that the Oklahoma Ku Klux Klan was a savage and violent organization that many times whipped innocent people for groundless reasons.
Am I naive to have thought that the Klan served a purpose in that era? Was the klan really a threat to law and order?
The klan has always been a threat to "law and order" because it was not about law or order. We, in America, live by the "rule of law," meaning we elect people to make laws and then we abide by them. There is a process for amending the laws. The klan, like the survivalists and other anti-government groups, insists that the punishment end of law should be carried out by "right thinking folk," which the Klan insists it represents.
The klan was operational in most communities in Oklahoma and was especially strong between Statehood and the Depression. Hundreds of men were beaten, whipped, tarred and lynched. Excuses offered were the same as you hear today: the courts are too lienient, it's too easy to get off. And, for every case when a well deserved hanging was pulled off by the Klan, there were dozens more where the evidence simply did not justify hanging. Vigilantes, which is what the klan is, in general do not conduct reasoned actions they are governed by heat of the moment decisions and prejudices. The klan was very much governed by racial prejudice and a white man committing the same crime as a black was not punished equally by the klan.
Law enforcement is charged with investigation and catching of criminals and the court system with prosecuting them. Both systems have the sanction of the public. The klan was not sanctioned by the public; it was a secret organization. And, its members committed murder and assault against a select few hiding behind a philosophy that they were a benevolent society.
Lee Cruse, the 2nd Governor of the State, refused to sign a death warrant and some historians have tried to blame this on the dramatic increase of lynching of prisoners, but if you examine who got lynched, you'll find that 90 percent were black.
The assassin, Jim Miller, got lynched in Ada, supposedly because the criminal attorney Moman Pruiett got Jim Stevenson off after he shot and killed City Marshal Cathey in Pauls Valley and was to represent Miller and cronies. And, the Ada citizens still feel pretty good about that. Was it a klan activity? Probably not. Was it any different than a klan lynching? No.
If you advocate klan activities as being an adjunct to law enforcement, you simply don't understand anarchy.
I agree with Mike. What's particularly scary is that sometimes law enforcement officers were also Klan members. I believe that at one point the Klan was so powerful in Tulsa that the Governor felt compelled to declare martial law and send in the National Guard. One witness later recalled that "Klan membership [in Tulsa] permeated the entire population. I think it is safe to say that a large majority of the so-called middle- and upper- class men belonged to it; at least ninety percent of government officials and community leaders were Klansmen. The sheriff and his deputies, members of the police department, county commissioners, even most of the judges and court attendants belonged"(Marshall Houts, From Gun to Gavel: The Courtroom Recollections of James Mathers of Oklahoma [New York:William Morrow, 1954], pp. 235-36.
i was wondering if charles page was around during the tulsa riot,did he play any roles in this
It's a little more complicated than merely an issue of "law and order", or which group is defining "justice".
For example, Governor Jack Walton was duly elected by the people - - and his most enthusiastic and vocal detractors were the klan. Was this just a case of the lesser of two evils? Walton was one of the most corrupt officials the State of Oklahoma has ever encountered - - and that's saying a lot. And Walton never served a day in jail for all the abuses that he perpetrated while serving as our highest "elected" official. For a fee, he emptied our state prisons and jails of some of the worse criminals who ever lived. (He, or his replacement, must have pardoned himself. Where's the justice in that?)
John is correct about many law enforcement officers maintaining duel roles as lawmen AND members of the klan. I have a very interesting piece of "insider" information about Clarence Hurt for anyone who's interested in that sort of thing; but, not for the internet.
Not to be defending the klan in any way, whatsoever, since most of their activities were very obviously racially motivated and indefensible; however, I noticed (thru researching this subject) on many occasions the klan singled out (white) wife-beaters and child abusers, inflicting their ill-advised form of justice (whippings & beatings). And, when Carter County Sheriff Buck Garrett and his homicidal side-kick, Bud Ballew, failed to do their duty of closing the roadhouses, gambling dens, and houses of prostitution, which they had a financial interest in, the klan stepped-in to do the job for them.
So, you see, it aint quite as "black & white", or "black vs white", as you would like believe.
And, by the way, what "color" were Jim Miller, Joe Allen, Jesse West and B. B. Burrell? Also, I have come across many instances where there were black-on-black vigilantishm, as well.
Baca - - see what you started!?!
I disagree that the Klan was Walton's biggest supporter. Brad Duren has a good article on the Klan and Walton in the Chronicles, winter 2003-4, and maintains Walton took the farmer, black and Catholic vote. He tried to join the Klan but his application was never accepted. I agree Walton was as big a blight on Oklahoma as the Klan and that he used scare tactics to go after the Klan to take the floodlight off of himself. It almost worked but then common sense took hold. The Oklahoma News said it best when it declared the state was suffering from two menaces: the Klan and J. C. Walton. And, within a few years, both ceased to be a bother.
And, it is just as simple as who is defining "justice." Michael Jessup, in the fall, 2000, Chronicles of Oklahoma has a very good discussion of the Klan in Oklahoma and recognizes that some joined, as one member stated: "because it was the only crowd that was doing anything decent." He also recognizes that there were many solid citizens and that many Klansmen were also Masons. Jessup contends that the Klan was so popular that by 1924, one hundred thousand plus claimed membership in the organization. But, he also quotes a former member who joined because of the touted morality and law and order stance who found that the organization was really about violence and arbitrary justice. Jessup then says that by the 1930 there were less than 2000 Klan members in the state. And, the reasons for the drop were because of excessive violence, external opposition, and internal disputes. Or, as one anti-Klan leader said: "It is a fraternal order for the promotion of strife; an empire for the promotion of democracy; a criminal conspiracy for the upholding of the law; a peace crusade by violence; and a new sort of Christianity that would flog Christ for being a Jew and a foreigner!"
How excessive was the violence? Well, Tulsa county average a whipping a night in 1922 and a governor's study the same year estimated about 2, 500 cases statewide with nine known deaths due to Klan savagery. Bootleggers were an especial target of the Klan, but when a hundred or so tried to raid the home of Joe Carroll, Carroll and two Klansmen wound up dead. Regardless of how you look at that one, murder and manslaughter were involved. Jessup also tells of the whipping of a man and his wife and another who was stripped, beaten, and kicked in the groin before being dragged by a rope around his neck. Yet another was tied to a tree and received 50 lashes and another was forced to "confess" to avoid castration. One bunch of Klansmen accosted a dude walking down the road, so they whipped him for gambling, not supporting his widowed mother, for shiftlessness, for carrying a gun and bootlegging. Notwithstanding the fact that the man told the group his mother died when he was three and that he had never owned a gun or sold booze. These solid citizens even cut off the tip of one man's ear and tried to force him to eat it and when he refused they clubbed him with guns and left him bleeding.
Miller and co-lynchees were white by the way. And, were probably good Klansmen in their home communities.
Either I worded it wrong or you misunderstood my meaning. I said that the klan was Walton's biggest "detractor" - - enthusiastic & vocal critic - - enemy!! And, it wasn't just because Walton's wife was Catholic. It was predominately because Walton was so #@$%#! corrupt. Dee Cordry's new book, "Alive If Possible, Dead If Necessary", describes very well Walton's many depravations and links with the underworld.
As far as the many horrendous activities attributed to the klan, I'm not trying to defend any of their actions. I can, however, report some of the false accusations that were proved to be false by the media and the courts. For example, there was a major incident, reported in the newspapers during the Walton years, in which a man claimed to have been kidnapped in Oklahoma City and taken to Edmond where he was beaten, tortured and "branded" with klan symbols on his body, supposedly by the klan; however, when the reporter caught up with this guy, they discovered that the brand was merely "painted" on his chest and the kidnappers were part of Walton's private security force. He tried to use this incident to declare Martial Law. Lots of horrific incidences need further investigation because there was a LOT of mis-information being disseminated.
And, yes, I understand about the connection between the Masons and the klan. One doesn't have to look any further than Moman Pruiett's defense of N. C. "Clay" Jewett, who was a very high officer in the (Okc) Masonic Order and, also, Grand Master of the Klan for the State of Oklahoma. Oh, yeah, he was acquitted by a jury of his peers, in the judicial system that you seem to hold in such high regard. The defense witnesses who testified in Jewett's favor, giving him his alibi, were the leading citizens of El Reno, including the mayor, police chief and secretary of the Knights of Pythias Lodge. Justice always prevails!!
By the way, Jesse West and Joe Allen were both Masons, as well. They may even have been members of the same lodge as A. A. Bobbitt and "his friends". I really don't know that much about the Masonic Order. I'm sure that it's a very fine organization; but, isn't there something in their by-laws about not harming a Brother Mason?
When the Klan attacked the home of noted bootlegger, Joe Carroll, weren't one (or both) of the klan members, who were killed, deputy sheriff's? Or have I got that incident mixed up with a different raid? Carter County, right?
I would never try to defend the klan, or their actions, in anyway; because, I understand that they were a lawless group. However, before one sets out to completely "demonize" them as a faceless "organization of evil", one should step back and try to identify the individual members involved. They were a great cross-section of the society in which they lived...from the banker to the mechanic, civil servants to shop keepers, lawmen, firemen, professional men, doctors, tradesmen, and, yes, even preachers. They were the citizens that made-up the society that made the laws; and, they were frustrated with the "corruption" of their system of government. Vigilantism? Anarchy? Or, "Social" SELF-DEFENSE!?!
My mistake, sometimes my tri-focals get crossed. At the intellectual level, I know that a whole lot of our state lawmen had some connection with the Klan and that they did not view them as much more than a posse or network of informants. But, at the gut level, I get mad about it because their involvement was an extension of the "good ol' boy" network and the idea that as long as enough of your buddies agree--it's a good plan.
As to the Carrol raid, I don't know.
You're absolutely right!
I certainly appreciate your Oklahoma History scholarship. An interesting "aside" to your "Klan" discussion: My maternal grandfather, Eugene Mills Hancock (a somewhat itinerant cotton-gin operator), was a resident of Ada at the time of the Bobbit murders and subsequent Miller gang lynching. As he related the story to my mother, he was at the time apprenticed to the local Masonic order. On the night of the lynching, he was approached by some of the Masonic brotherhood and asked to come along for some unknown, nefarious "fun-and-games." He was apparently discouraged by his spouse and did not attend "the function." I have read accounts which point fingers of suspicion at the local Masonic order for the grim "doings" at the local livery.
BTW, my paternal grandfather, Albert Rennie, shared some office space with the infamous Moman Pruitt in Pauls Valley. Some of the family like to believe that he actually shared a practice with him. I think not. There is no competent evidence of same as "Papa" was habitual in getting the appropriate stationery printed reflecting such associations; e.g., his relationship with J W Hocker et al.
How does your week look for a lunch in PV?
David A Rennie
I agree with you, it really wasn't a black and white issue.
Very interesting conversation.
oldwest, sounds like you, at least, have done some "in depth" research? Refreshing, to say the least. As a Mason and after watching that muck the Discovery Chanel spouts off, about the Masons, I was terribly disturbed. I suppose there are bad apples in every barrel but, in todays world, we would be much the worse off without the Masonic movement. Just my predudiced $.02 worth.This message has been edited. Last edited by: SteveB,
The orginal point and click interface was a Smith & Wesson
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