In a recent story, I wrote about the great publicity this community received on a national level about the condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan starting a chapter here. There were editorials in the Atlanta and Augusta papers, and it was mentioned in Time magazine. At the time I wrote the story, I hadn’t found the original article which prompted the praise. I have before me now a copy of the statement with the 104 signatures included.
I missed the original printing because I supposed it to be a full page ad, with signatures attached at the bottom like the Declaration of Independence.
The newspaper article of April 14, 1949, however, was only 8” by 8” and the signatures were last names followed by initials. Maybe The McDuffie Progress, the only local paper at the time, copied the statement from a full page document with actual signatures, like the Declaration. Now, that would be a document the community could forever admire if it were framed and displayed at the Museum.
If such an artifact existed, it would be hard to get it on display at the Museum, because there seems to be a feeling that the Museum doesn’t just want to borrow items for display, but would rather permanently keep them as its own. This could not be further from the truth. So, with no further fanfare, here’s the statement printed in the Progress denouncing the Klan in Thomson, Georgia, in 1949:
Under the large bold print saying “PUBLIC NOTICE” is the heading “STATEMENT OF OPINIONS AND RESOLUTIONS RELATIVE TO THE KU KLUX KLAN.”
“Since it has recently become generally known that a unit of the Ku Klux Klan has been or is being organized in Thomson, we, the undersigned Citizens, in line of what we feel to be our civic and patriotic duty, wish to express and publicize the following opinions and resolutions relating to the Klan question.
The original Ku Klux Klan of Reconstruction days was an organization of heroes to whom concealment of personal identity was a matter of life or death importance. The Klan then served to protect life and property at a time when there was a complete breakdown of decent government.
That condition does not now exist. Our lawmaking, judicial, and enforcement agencies, both local and otherwise, are men chosen by us, either directly or indirectly. They need the full cooperation of every loyal citizen toward giving us better government, better courts, and better law enforcement. But, in our opinion, we do not need an organization which operates in concealment, and takes upon itself the powers of the courts and law enforcement officers.
Such usurpation of power is destructive of our democratic way of life. It would be wrong and undemocratic if practised openly - practised in concealment it becomes cowardly as well. Only in times of actual danger and turmoil, such as the Reconstruction period, would such methods be heroic, or even needed at all.
With the avowed patriotic aims of the Klan, as we have heard them, we are in full sympathy. We want to disagreee with the Klan in method. We believe their method is too much like the old adage of ‘burning down the house to get rid of the rats.’
Therefore, in consideration of our opinions as expressed above, be it resolved:
That we regret deeply that some of our fellow citizens, our friends and neighbors, have seen fit to organize a Ku Klux Klan in Thomson; that it is our earnest hope that these our friends will soon come to see the Klan idea to be what we honestly believe it to be, a dangerous mistake; and finally, be it further resolved that we urge any others who may be considering joining the Klan to think very seriously before doing so, such others of our fellow citizens being invited to discuss the matter, in all friendliness and good will, with any of the undersigned persons.”
After this notice, there followed a list of 104 men who put their friendship and business relationships on the line by signing this statement.
They were a brave group who exposed themselves to a possibly violent retribution from the Klan members, in person and property. They also ran the risk of a loss of business that would affect their livelihood.
The article is at the Museum, and if you want to see if your father, or grandfather, signed the document, stop by and help yourself.
On an historic note, the Klan had 4 million members in 1920, 6 million members in 1924, 30,000 members in 1930, and the ranks were reduced to 5,000 members by 1980, and are at that same level today. The greatest membership during the Second Klan time period (1921-1944) was in Indiana.