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position of the case is not known to the committee. Fuller has a record of nine arrests between 1947 and 1958, with no known convictions. The charges involved investigation for rape, finally dismissed, drunkenness, fighting and disorderly, carrying concealed weapons, gambling and reckless driving.
The acting head of another presently-operating klan has in the past received a 30-day jail sentence on charges of reckless driving, collision and drunkenness. The top official of yet another recently-formed klan has previously been convicted of armed robbery and carrying a concealed weapon.
That klan leaders do not consider police records a barrier to a career with the klan was strikingly demonstrated by Imperial Wizard James Venable's testimony before the committee. Venable stated he had served as legal counsel for Colbert Raymond McGriff and Earl Holcombe when they were arrested and convicted of disorderly conduct in the spring of 1964 as a result of burning a cross in front of a Negro dry cleaning establishment in Griffin, Ga. Venable acknowledged that the defendants were members of the rival United Klans at the time he represented them but were later accepted into the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, which Venable heads. Holcombe and McGriff served on a “degree team” which administered oaths to new members at rallies held at Oregonia, Ohio, in June 1965 and Stone Mountain, Ga., in September 1965. They also served as security guards at a klan rally near Lodi, Ohio, in September. Venable furthermore had supplied Holcombe with klan membership applications and blank klavern charters bearing the imperial wizard's signature for the purpose of organizing new National Knights klaverns in the State of Georgia.
In December 1965, Holcombe and McGriff were arrested in Crawfordville, Ga., on a charge of pointing a weapon at another. The disposition of the case is not known to the committee. The two men appeared as witnesses at committee hearings in February 1966, at which time they were also questioned regarding their involvement in the transport of dynamite from Georgia to Ohio in the summer of 1965.2 Both men refused to answer committee questions on grounds which included possible self-incrimination.
Two witnesses who were members of the Ohio organization of th National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan had recently been arrested for armed robbery. Verlin U. Gilliam, also admittedly the vice president of a Columbus, Ohio, klavern, and Daniel N. Wagner had been arrested for robbing a Columbus merchant in August 1965. They appeared before the committee on February 11, 1966, and the following October were tried and convicted of the robbery charge. Wagner, admitting participation in the crirne, received a 1 to 25 year prison sentence. Gilliam, who did not admit guilt, was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in the Ohio penitentiary.
Wagner had testified frankly before the committee. In addition to his activities in behalf of the klan, he acknowledged an arrest as a juvenile for burglary and petty larceny; an undesirable discharge from the Army in 1964 on charges including possession of unlawful weapon and attempted escape from an Army stockade; and an arrest in Ohio in May 1965 for carrying a concealed weapon at a klan rally. Gilliam
2 See also p. 111.
invoked constitutional privileges against self-incrimination in response to many questions about the klan. The committee learned he had previously received a 5-year sentence for armed robbery in California and had made an escape from San Quentin prison farm while serving that sentence.
Another individual closely associated with the National Knights in Georgia was incarcerated in the summer of 1965 on charges based on his involvement in an alleged counterfeit ring and a personal assault.
A 33-year-old member of the United Florida Ku Klux Klan, who was admittedly involved in organized klan violence in 1964, had been "in trouble” since the age of 12. He periodically ran away from home and was rated incorrigible by school authorities. In school psychiatric tests, he expressed a hatred for his parents. By 18, he had been convicted and sentenced to jail for burglary. Eight years later he was again sentenced to prison for aiding and abetting å jail break. In the interim, he had also served a sentence on a drunk charge. Psychiatric and other interviews of the man while he was in his twenties revealed acute anti-social reactions, lack of confidence, an excessive drinking problem and a violent dislike for Negroes.
WHO IS IN THE KLAN AND WHY Former United Klans Grand Dragon Pryor had viewed klan leaders ils unstable little men looking for power. Another former grand dragon confidentially informed the committee that he believed the leaders primarily valued the klan as a money-making enterprise. To an undercover agent within the National Knights organization in a Northern State, the leaders appeared to be activated by hatreds of the Negro and communism--and under the illusion they could eliminate people they didn't like.
It appears to the committee that ku klux klan organizations offer at least four basic attractions to its officers: (1) financial rewards; (2) an opportunity to exercise authority over others; (3) publicity; and (4) an outlet for extremists' views and hatreds.
The record shows that the United Klans of America provided fulltime paid employment for Imperial Wizard Shelton and at least six of his grand dragons. Several of the grand dragons could also drive around in Cadillacs, and in at least one case the auto was admittedly a gift from rank-and-file klansmen.
Although the committee's information on the background of klan leaders is by no means complete, available records indicate that at least a half-dozen of the individuals who served as grand dragons of the United Klans were high school drop-outs. One dragon's education was limited to elementary school. Three dragons were known to have finished high school and only one person—who for a short period headed the organization in a Northern State-possessed a college degree. Imperial Wizard Shelton was dropped by the University of Alabama for poor scholarship after he obtained failing grades in every subject for two semesters.
Age-wise, the imperial wizard and most of his State klan leaders are in their thirties. Several active independent klans in Louisiana and Mississippi are headed by men in their forties. A number of other
less successful klans are under the direction of men in their fifties and sixties or older, several of whom were virtually incapacitated by physical ailments.
The bulk of the klans' rank-and-file membership, a former United Klans official from a Southern State testified, is drawn from uneducated elements of the population who have never attained the social status they would like to achieve. Such persons are also seeking comradeship but would not be at home in civic clubs such as Rotary and the like, this witness observed. An additional motivation attributed to those who join the klan is hatred for Negroes, Jews and Catholics a motive which allegedly was increasingly important “the deeper South you go.” The ex-klan officer blamed such hatreds on a "kind of brainwashing.” Committee investigation tended to confirm this assessment.
Two rank-and-file klansmen who testified in the committee's public hearings gave substantially similar reasons for their entrance into and eventual departure from klan organizations. George L. Williams, a 45-year-old welder, joined the United Klans at one of its cow pasture rallies in North Carolina in the summer of 1965. After listening to the speakers, he signed up because he believed the klan could "get the colored out of the schools,” keep the races from mixing, and "kind of hold down the colored from mixing in the South."
Williams quit the klan before the year was out, after witnessing klan beatings and financial chicanery on the part of klan officials. “I believe now,
;" Williams told the committee, "that klan life is the lowest life that you can get. John H. Gipson, a 30-year-old logger with
a seventh grade education, joined the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Louisiana in 1963 on the presumption that klan goals would be pursued by ballots, boycotts and economic pressure, but not with violence. Before he left the organization, Gipson himself was an admitted participant in a klan-organized flogging of a white man who was accused of neglecting his family.
Although much attention has been devoted to the blemished records of many persons attracted to klan organizations, testimony from witnesses and other evidence gathered during the committee's investigation show that in some communities klans enrolled persons with considerable education and with responsible positions in governmental or business affairs in their community. Klan infiltration of law enforcement agencies and elected governmental offices has been discussed in a preceding chapter. In the testimony of Williams and Gipson, klan membership was ascribed to a chief of police, a justice of the peace, a preacher and a junior high school principal. Gipson identified the principal as being an exalted cyclops of a klavern of the Original Knights. The individual eventually abandoned his klan office, but not the klan, for fear of losing his school post. Committee investigation disclosed klansmen professing to be ministers of the gospel in many States. Klansmen also held such positions as municipal judge, school board member, State highway department employe and city engineer. A number of owners of local business establishments as well as an active civic leader were found in the klan. And the head of a volunteer fire department was discovered to be in charge of crossburnings conducted by his local klavern.
Only a small proportion of the individuals identified as klansmen held positions of responsibility in their communities, however. The committee is aware, nevertheless, that the klan has received financial and moral support from a number of persons of some prominence in their own communities who have rejected klan membership only for reasons of expediency. A United Klans klavern in North Carolina encouraged such support with a letter which declared :
We know that you would like to become a member of your local Klan, but due to your business or other reasons you cannot afford to. * * *
We would like you to know that you can help fight for the freedom of all whites just as hundreds of others are doing, by making a donation to your local Klu [sic] Klux Klan unit.
Your donation will be of top secret and will not be revealed to anyone.
The klavern's letter instructed that checks be made payable to an innocuous-sounding front name which the klavern utilized—the “Caldwell Improvement Association."
Ex-klansman Gipson testified that the presence of a minister or school officer in the klan served as a powerful attraction for new members. Both Gipson and Williams agreed, however, that most of the more responsible individuals tended to drop out of the klan after they found out what they were actually involved in. In Gipson's opinion, in fact, the entire rank-and-file membership of the Original Knights was subject to a rapid turn-over.
CHAPTER VIII: SUMMARY The present-day ku klux klan movement, unlike the monolithic klan of old, is comprised of at least 17 separate and independent klan organizations. Its more than 16,000 adherents are attached to hundreds of local units (klaverns), most of which are located in the States which formerly comprised the Southern Confederacy.
Committee investigations and hearings into the activities of the major klans demonstrated nevertheless that klans operate-today as in the past—as conspiracies to deprive certain citizens of rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Klans moreover have continued to rely on terrorism as an instrument for achieving so-called “white supremacy” and other objectives. This terrorism runs the gamut from telephoned threats or intimidatory cross-burnings to various forms of physical violence. Klan involvement in kidnappings and beatings, arson, bombings, and outright murder in recent years compels the committee to view a klan as a vehicle for death, destruction, and fear.
Arrests of klan officers and members frequently have led to the uncovering of caches of arms. In addition to rifles, shotguns, and handguns in quantity, klansmen maintained stocks of explosive devices. Klan units have sponsored courses of instruction for their members in the use of firearms and the art of demolition. Robert M. Shelton, the imperial wizard of the United Klans of America, has himself attended such a course.
Public disavowal of violent intent by klan officials are unworthy of credence in light of other statements by the same leaders and the actions of klansmen on both officer and rank-and-file levels. A study of the evidence amassed during the committee's investigation leads to the conclusion that klans and their leaders actually incite disrespect for the law and encourage acts of violence.
This report has taken note of the public activities engaged in by some klans for the purpose of increasing the size of their treasuries and obtaining new recruits. The report shows how even legal klan activity, such as speech-making, picketing, literature distribution, boycotting and “politicking,” has sometimes had the calculated effect of goading sympathizers into committing acts of violence. The bulk of a klan's activity, however—and that which is most menacing to the rule of law and maintenance of order—is zealously shrouded from public scrutiny.
Secrecy becomes a way of life for a klansman from the moment he takes a series of oaths customarily administered upon his entrance into a klan. In addition to obedience to klan officers, a klansman swears to protect the secrecy of the order. The committee found that, in practice, the oath binds klansmen into protecting law violators within the klan, no matter how heinous their crimes.