The KKK Parade Lasted Night As Many Thousands Watched
Bonham Daily Favorite, September 18, 1994
The intense revival of Ku Klux Klan activities after the cessation of World War I seemed to lose steam early in the 1920's. The calming of the post war turbulent economic waters was one of the factors influencing the decline. After a brief recessionary period throughout the country, the jobless rate dropped markedly by 1923 which also eased the general dissatisfaction that had prevailed among the ranks of labor. No longer was the competition for jobs as fierce as it had been at the opening of the decade.
The relatively brief but stormy period of violence perpetrated by various Klan groups through the country caused many members of the organization as well as society in general to speak out against these activities. The violence was far from being Southern isolated for almost daily the newspapers reported incident after incident from all quarters of the country.
Despite the inroads made by the Klan in political office, politicians of the day found it more and more expedient to distance themselves from the Klan and its activities and many political hopefuls took the dangerous position of attacking the Klan at every opportunity. Additionally it was suspected that many of the violent acts were committed by groups without official Klan sanctioning but who adopted the Klan persona for its cover.
By late 1922 a growing number of anti-Klan organizations sprang up throughout the state and as the politicians stumped the circuit on anti-Klan platforms more and more Klansmen became former Klansmen. Many political analysts consider that the election of Miriam Ferguson to the governor's chair and the election of dynamic young prosecutor Dan Moody as the state's attorney general to have been keystones in the destruction of the Klan in Texas. Both Ferguson and Moody ran successful campaigns with strong anti-Klan planks in their platforms. Moody had even successfully prosecuted some Klansmen for various illegal activities before his entry into statewide politics. By 1924 the Klan's influence was rapidly declining.
In Fannin County the Klan went out with a last hurrah. The summer of 1923 saw the beginning of the end although there was some slight evidence to suggest that the Klan as an organization still thrived, to some degree, into the 1930's .
The June 4th edition of the Bonham Daily Favorite contained a small but noticeable advertisement that there would be a Ku Klux Klan parade in town on the night of the 7th followed by a speaking on the square. The announced subject of the parade, rally, and speaking was "The Ku Klux Klan As A Factor in American Life."
The editions of the paper of June 5th and 5th contained identical ads with instructions for assembling of the Klansmen, for the parking of automobiles along the parade route, and the actual route to be taken by the procession.
The Sherman Daily Democrat on June 6th contained a small notice under the heading KKK Will Put on Parade in Bonham. Information provided by the article was that a group of individuals from Bonham had been in town that day distributing circulars advertising the parade and speaking on June 7th with participants from Sherman most cordially invited.
The day following the event, The Bonham Daily Favorite featured the previous evening's activities on the front page under the headline THE KKK PARADED LAST NIGHT AS ANNOUNCED AS MANY THOUSANDS WATCHED.
The parade had been announced for 8:30 but in deference to a service at Union Presbyterian Church the starting time was pushed back an hour. To kick off the evening's schedule an unidentified man on the dais which had been erected at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets introduced the speaker, the Reverend Dr. William H. Knight of Baton Rouge, formerly of Fort Worth.
The newspaper remarked that several thousand persons on were on the square, most of whom were trying to hear the speaker but many on the fringes of the crowd were unable to do so for the noise and confusion created by the movement of so many people. The reporter stated that some estimates of the crowd size ranged upwards of 10,000 persons, but he would hazard the guess that four to five thousand were in attendance, opining that four or five thousand people on the Bonham square made quite a crowd.
Most impressive was the great fiery cross which was suspended twenty feet in the air in front of the speaker's platform, shedding its colorful glow on the face of the speaker and the milling crowd. Despite the size of the crowd order was maintained with only one incident involving two spectators who "attempted to adjust an old difference by the use of fist power."
As the speaker concluded, he turned to his right and dramatically raised his arm pointing in the direction of the well-timed and approaching line of robed and hooded Klansmen headed by ten men on horseback, one carrying another flaming cross and one an large American flag.
After the introduction of Dr. Knight he asked the crowd to bare their heads and join together in singing the first and last stanzas of America.
Following this Knight opened his speech with, "My Friends, from the looks of this crowd, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan couldn't be dying out. I want to talk tonight upon the position of the Ku Klux Klan as a vital factor in American Life."
Briefly Knight gave a history of the Klan's second birth in 1915 stating that about half of the original gathering were original Klansmen from the era after the Civil War.
The body of his speech was predicated on three phases of the Klan, its character, its principles, and its enemies. In describing the character of the Klan the emphasis was placed on the Klan being an American organization which excluded any foreign born from membership. It was a white organization which precluded membership by any person of any color. It was a Christian organization which eliminated all but the Protestant faith.
Then figuratively wrapping himself in the flag he declared that the Klan stood for protection of the American home, old time religion, and morality. He did however fail to mention apple pie.
The remainder of the speech was a long rambling diatribe against the Roman Catholic Church Knights he claimed were engaged in a conspiracy to take control of the American government and placing the Pope on "the throne of our country." Finally the newspaper reported that it was an address that appealed to many of his hearers and met with much applause and seeming approval.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas