Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 14, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Recently discovered document chronicles KKK speech in Walla Walla

Recently our new diocesan archivist, Dr. Anthony Clark, who teaches at Whitworth University in North Spokane, found a box from St. Parrick Parish in Walla Walla which contained a 30-page legal-size document, a speech by the Deputy Grand Lecture of the Ku Klux Klan. The speech was part of recruitment effort in Walla Walla on April 27, 1922. It was the second night of lectures. At that time the Ku Klux Klan claimed 5 million members and was seeking to grow to 20 million. A Klan representative had been at an office in Walla Walla for six months or so in this recruiting effort.

The room that day did have some Catholics there because the speaker tried to convince them to leave the Church. But it appears that most members of the audience were not of the Catholic faith. Because the text includes the notation (applause) after certain sections of the speech and (great applause) after the strong anti-Catholic sections, it is my guess that the text comes to us from possibly a woman with shorthand skills who gave a copy to the parish so Catholics would know what was going on. The archives of the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin newspaper may well have more detail on numbers present and where the meeting was held.

The speaker does say that there are several Ku Klux Klan members dressed in their white garments with some kind of helmet standing around the walls of the room.

The Deputy Grand Lecturer of the Western Domain begins his speech, titled “The Truth about the Ku Klux Klan,” with much patriotic language, including speaking favorably of Presidents Lincoln, Grant, and Teddy Roosevelt. He also speaks favorably of women having the right to vote.

Early on in the speech, the speaker says that the Ku Klux Klan is attacked as other great patriotic movements have been attacked, such as the Masonic order, the “Know-Nothing” Party, the Knights of Pythias, and the Order of Redmen.

Here are some excerpts:

• Page 8: “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan come here, following as near as they may in the footsteps of Jesus, taking Him as a criterion of the Klansman, with an earnest prayer in his heart which comes in the ritual of every lodge, a prayer which is breathed to heaven by every Klansman tonight and by every true American citizen, ‘God save our nation’ (Applause).”

• Page 10: “And tonight, my friends, wherever there is an organization of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the constituted officials and authorities can depend upon them as the invisible government which is going to be back of them in every hour of trial or struggle or tribulation whenever they need a united force, a united instrument to crystalize the ideals of this republic as led by its constitutionally appointed officers (applause).”

• Page 11: “Now, ladies and gentlemen, we couldn’t do it through the organizations of the past. We have found that partisanship of various kinds has in the past led people away; we have found that the great press of the country in the hour of stress and struggle could not be trusted, because influences have grown up which have controlled the press of the country, and this great organization has arisen as a spontaneous impulse of the American people to see that a better organization is secured for bringing these things about (applause). Five millions of American people can do almost anything, the right kind of people: when we get twenty millions of them united they can do anything (applause).”

• Page 14 : “Now we didn’t write the rituals and obligations, for instances, of the Knights of Columbus. We didn’t provide in that organization that a Protestant couldn’t be a member. So we think we have an equal right on the other side to provide that those who join the Ku Klux Klan shall be real Americans (Loud applause).”

• Page 15: “For instance as a plain lawyer engaged in hearing evidence and practicing law in this country, I have never been able to understand how Joan of Arc, for instance, could be burned as a witch in one age and then in another age she could be taken up by some kind of head and made into a saint. But the last few years of the history of the world has witnessed this about-face being accomplished by the organization of which I speak. Another question I don’t understand, which is, if God Almighty had selected a spiritual leader of the world that sometimes there are two of them fighting for the job (applause). I remember that history reveals that in 1409 the Council of Pisa met, the council of the Church and there were two contending popes, and one of them must have been the representative of God and the other wasn’t but the council of the Church threw out both representatives of God and the other fellow and put in a new one in place of both of them (applause).”

To Be Continued…

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist and Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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