11 August 2020

The SLC KKK Publicly Recruits Members in 1920s

Heath’s Auto Tourist Camp, 995 S. State. From flickr user firstearta

The mid 1920s were the height of membership and activity in SLC for the Ku Klux Klan. After the failure of Alex Christensen’s membership campaign (see previous post) the KKK began a public recruitment effort with much greater success.

When Klan representatives arrived in SLC in summer 1924 they found the SLC KKK on the verge of extinction. The local Klan had relinquished its charter and had ceased operations.

On Sept 16 1924 the KKK formally announced the beginning of its membership campaign in SLC. Local newspapers ads invited the entire public to “come hear the truth about this great American movement.”

An estimated 4K people including nearly 100 Klansmen in regalia gathered at Heath’s Auto Tourist Camp at 995 S. State St to hear Klan members speak about the principles of the KKK. Many of the men in the crowd stepped forward to get membership applications. Klan officials reported that their supply of 250 membership cards was exhausted and that many others handed in their names of slips of paper.

Several more open-air meetings were held at Heaths throughout the autumn of 1925. On one occasion, more than 50 new members were initiated at a single meeting.

By Nov 1924 Klan organizational efforts had met with considerable success. The strategy calling for public rallies to promote credibility had worked. Active chapters of both the Knights of the KKK and the Women of the KKK had been established and were holding regular meetings in SLC.

Within 6 months the KKK had become pervasive throughout the larger cities of Utah. Harry Sawyer, head of the Ogden Klan, was appointed King Kleagle of Utah.

The KKK membership drive provoked forceful opposition from municipal officials, newspaper publishers, immigrant residents, and from the LDS church. Consequently, most of Utah’s KKK disbanded or went underground; only the KKK in Carbon County and SLC remained active in early 1925.

Source: Blazing Crosses in Zion by Larry R. Gerlach, Ch 3.

Deseret News May 28 1927

Salt Lake Telegram Oct 17 1924

No comments:

Post a Comment