Babes of the Ku Klux Klan

 

I first became aware of the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 after my dad went to Vietnam when I moved from the Marine base at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii to my mother’s hometown in eastern North Carolina.  

There was a KKK billboard up outside the county seat. 

 It had a Klansman in his hooded outfit on a horse holding a flaming cross and messages proclaiming, “Welcome to Smithfield,” “This Is Klan Country,” “Join & Support The United Klans of America, Inc.,” and “Help Fight Communism & Integration!” 

 I’d just attended Aikahi Elementary School in Kailua with children of all races, including Marine dependants whose fathers were off fighting communism in Southeast Asia, and I found the sign rather confusing.  I asked my grandmother about it and she told me that it was a shameful, ugly thing, that black people had a hard enough lot in life without folks in hoods making it any worse.

I met a lot of kids in my segregated school that year who felt like my grandmother.  There were more than a few tuned into the Klan frequency though, picked up on it from their families.  I dismissed them as backward, ignorant hicks who’d get winnowed out along the march of time.

A quarter of a century later, the year after the war to defend the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and restore the monarchy in Kuwait, I was a Marine Corps reserve captain and lived in another small town in eastern North Carolina with my wife and three daughters. 

I spent that summer out in the California desert as a controller for combined arms training exercises.  When I returned, I was surprised to hear that the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan were going to march in a nearby town.  I’d hoped that kind of thing was part of the past, not part of my children’s present.

I went with another Marine officer to check it out, to eyeball the kind of folks who were still into the fiery cross trip.

The police had the march area secured and we had to park several blocks from it.  On the walk there, a city police car screeched to a halt next to us and a deputy jumped out with his hand on his pistol.  His eyes were as big as a second lieutenant’s about to rappel out of a helicopter for the first time as he shouted, “Stand right there!  What’s in the bag?  What’s in the bag?”

I opened it and showed him my Minolta and a couple of film canisters.

He exhaled slowly and said, “Okay.  Go on now.”  Keeping his hand on his pistol, he returned to his vehicle.

 I turned to my friend and said, “I believe that Billy Blue Light thinks we’re skinheads.”

We both laughed.

The march route was taped off so the hundred and fifty or so spectators couldn’t get close to the few dozen marchers.   

It seemed like there were more cops there than anyone else, lining the crime scene tape, massed in reaction teams, on the rooftops and surrounding the KKK people.

When the little parade ended and Klansmen started giving speeches, they were so far away that I couldn’t hear anything other than periodic whooping.  The crowd behind the tape mostly gawked in silence.  A few jeered.

After that, some red-robed kleagles, the KKK officers whose main job is to recruit new members, came over to the crowd and passed out pamphlets. 

I suppose it’s a shallow, superficial, male chauvinist thing, but whenever I see a woman, some relexive, lower brain stem function spits out a potential mate rating and the most significant lasting impression I have from that day was how unattractive the Klan women were. 

Not that any of the hooded dudes looked like candidates for People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, but I can’t recall ever seeing a less sperm worthy group of females in my life.

But, no matter what they look like,

all God’s children,

yellow, brown, black or white,

get that craving in the night.

So, bathed in the blood of the lowly Nazarene,

with the Bible as their guide,

the flag as their protection,

and the Cross as their inspiration,

the Christian Knights continue to breed

purer than snow, whiter than milk

babes for the Ku Klux Klan.

Still around in the 21st Century, you can see them six days a week, Monday through Saturday, nine to five, at The World’s Famous Klan Museum and Redneck Shop in Laurens, South Carolina.

I suppose they’re in church On Sundays.

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12 Responses to Babes of the Ku Klux Klan

  1. Dean Herold says:

    I would like more information on the Klan.

  2. Doug says:

    I was at Aikahi from 62-65. My dad was the base legal officer at KMCAS and for a short while, the commanding officer of the base when the division shipped out to Viet Nam. I wonder if we met or knew each other! I can remember a couple of my teacher’s names. One was Mrs. Downey and the other was Miss Las Banos. Drop me a line if you remember any of this.

    Also, funny thing. I now live in North Carolina and I have seen the sign in Smithfield. I too took a photo of it a long time ago.

    Best regards,
    Doug Hanthorn

  3. elizabeth benton mencia says:

    I was moved to Smithfield as a kid by my parents along with 4 other siblings. The sign I remember was on Buisness 70 heading East into town around the Nuese River bridge. I was around 4 so it was about 1968. The sign scared the living shit out of me! I HATED it! I grew up in Smithfield with friends of all races and went to all of their houses. For people who are born AFTER all the fighting etc most of us are not racist unless raised to be by our parents. That still goes on TODAY in some families. I write the Smithfield Herald all the time(google my name and the herald to see) about this issue. If the Klan were still active today in Smithfield I would be hung from tree or maybe they dont read? lol For the most part it isnt an issue but we do have a huge group that think there shit dont stink because they have made alittle money! lol We have more of a class issue then a race issue now! WHO KNEW!? LIKE YOU SAID IM SURE THEY ARE IN CHURCH TOO!!!!! I SAY THAT ALL THE TIME!!!
    Elizabeth Benton Mencia

    • Nancy says:

      Elizabeth Benton Mencia,
      I moved to Smithfield almost two years ago… kind of by chance (long story). I had never been there or heard of the place, but it was closer to my boyfriend’s job. After he bought a house there, I heard about the KKK billboard and was horrified. I looked up info about the demographic of the town/county before we moved there and saw that it has a larger number of African Americans and Hispanics than most place I have lived… and that seemed cool to me. I love diversity. I am “Caucasion”, but the last church I was a member of in Asheville, NC was a United Methodist church that was 99% African American and very small. But now that I live in Smithfield, I don’t see much interaction between the races. I have had no bad experiences, and everyone seems friendly enough, but there just seems to be a gap of some kind. It’s sad, really. I have been kind of isolated since moving to Smithfield, and I feel sometimes that I need to find a way to be more of a fence mender and peacemaker. But that has been hard, since I don’t know many people, even after two years. I love the prayer of Saint francis of Assisi… “Lord, Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love…” etc. But I don’t know what i can do if I don’t know many people here!

  4. Paul Garris says:

    I Love the KKK !

  5. STEVEN SPOTTSWOOD JOHNSON says:

    I REMEMBERED THE SIGN THAT WELCOMED TRAVELERS TO SMITHFIELD EAST BOUND ON 70 HIWAY . I RECALL WHEN A LIBERATED COLLEGE KID CAME HOME FROM SCHOOL AND CUT THE WOODEN POST OF THE SIGN WITH A CHAINSAW. FOR A SHORT WHILE THE SIGN WAS DOWN. THEN THE OWNERS /KLANSMEN ERECTED THE SAME SIGN WITH STEEL POST(good luck sawing it down again) IT NEVER BOTHERED ME BECAUSE I SAW IT EVERYDAY OF MY LIFE AT THAT TIME AND I KNEW MOST OF THE LOCAL KLANSMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES IT WAS PART OF MY PAST AND I MISS IT TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH

    • Joel Roberts says:

      I remember the girl who chainsawed the sign (don’t remember her name); she was a student with me at UNC-Asheville in the early 1970s. She told me that they sent her to school in Asheville for the specific purpose of getting her out of Smithfield. Staying in Smithfield apparently was a hazard to her health.

  6. Lee Harvey says:

    Funny! Smithfield Is Now Nothing But Black. Whitey Ran Away.

  7. Anne-marie says:

    Ku Klux Klan non legal in USA-Not legal to be here-not legal to wear their dresses or sell them-Non legal since1922-are to be shot on site-they are not an American Group-They are and have been a Gay-bi-sexual group of unnaturalness-Natzi=KKK-From Irish,scottish-British royalty line-some french-mixed with all cultures

  8. Peter Knecht says:

    I was a grad student at Duke University in 1968-69 and a supporter of the Southgate Boycott for better jobs for Durham black folks. I was the first student billyclubbed in the Duke police riot that got President Knight fired. They weren’t interested in making arrests. Fortunately, they didn’t take prints off the teargas cannisters that got thrown back at them before they came out of the cloud and started cracking heads. If I could include pictures on this site, I would show a picture of a Durham City judge with his eyes closed as various walking wounded were arraigned before his bench, taken covertly from the public area of the court. Most of them had been beaten down as they ran from the Duke Chapel, where they had taken refuge, after the police brought in a portable tear gas generator that filled the place and drove them out. The cry that went up was combined disbelief and rage: “They’re gassing the God-box!”
    Anyway, my wife and infant took a trip through Smithfield on our way to the coast in our old car with the SUPPORT THE SOUTHGATE BOYCOTT bumperstickers and came across that sign–forever burned in our memories. We couldn’t get through there fast enough. Thank you for posting that bit of history. I wish the legacy were gone, but don’t believe it is. Repressed, shadowy, ghostlike, perhaps, but not gone. What were Faulkner’s words about the past not being dead, in fact, not even past?

  9. Scott Murphy says:

    As a native North Carolinian I am thoroughly ashamed of this very dark chapter of our state’s history. I used to pass through Smithfield from the west on Hwy 70 on the way to the beach. I also went to UNC with several people who were raised in Smithfield. The Klan OWNED that town in the 1950’s through the 1970’s

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