Standing up to the Klan in 1920's Texas

David Paulin
Race-hustling liberals, and in particular, self-appointed black leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, love to showcase every terrible white-on-black racist outrage from America's past.

But a museum exhibit that just opened in central Texas -- revolving around the historic trial of Ku Klux Klan members in 1923 -- is one that neither Sharpton nor Jackson will probably spend much time talking about. The reason is that this trial in Williamson County involved a white prosecutor (and presumably an all-white jury) that successfully prosecuted Klan members who beat up a traveling salesman.

Oh, and something else that race-hustling liberals would not care much about: the salesman was white.

The Klansmen targeted the salesman because he was allegedly having an illicit affair with a widow, also white, who ran a boarding house, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman: "Williamson County museum exhibit shows details of 1923 KKK trial." Klan members were angered over the supposed immorality of the alleged affair, the paper noted.

As the Statesman explained:

The Williamson County district attorney and a jury stood up against the Ku Klux Klan in 1923 but Chris Dyer, director of the Williamson Museum, says not enough people know about it.

That's why the museum in Georgetown opened an exhibit Friday focused on the 1923 trial that resulted in the conviction of several Klan members...

"This trial had a very positive impact, and we wanted to cover it," Dyer said.

At the time, Dyer noted, the Klan was a political power in Texas. "The Williamson County jury in the 1923 trial was probably scared and knew Klan members, but they stood up and did the right thing at their own personal risk."

Williamson County District Attorney Dan Moody, who tried the case with other prosecutors, went onto became the state's Democratic governor.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Klan came under attack in the 1920s by a remarkably diverse group of civic-minded Texas who came together to stop the group's thuggery and terror that affected whites as well as blacks.

According to historian Charles Alexander, the "distinctive quality" of the Klan in the Southwest was "its motivation, which lay not so much in racism and nativism as in moral authoritarianism." In the Southwest "the Klan was, more than anything else, an instrument for restoring law and order and Victorian morality to the communities, towns, and cities of the region. Its coercive activity and its later preoccupation with political contests make vigilantism and politics the main characteristics of Klan history in the Southwest." Only a relatively small part of the Klan's defense of morality and society was directed at blacks. Its campaign of systematic terrorism-beatings and tarrings and featherings-was aimed mostly at bootleggers, gamblers, wayward husbands and wives, wife beaters, and other sinners....

It's definitely a complex and fascinating history, one that will not interest those who prefer to look at America's history through a racial prism of white-on-black violence.
Race-hustling liberals, and in particular, self-appointed black leaders such as Al Sharpton and Jessie Jackson, love to showcase every terrible white-on-black racist outrage from America's past.

But a museum exhibit that just opened in central Texas -- revolving around the historic trial of Ku Klux Klan members in 1923 -- is one that neither Sharpton nor Jackson will probably spend much time talking about. The reason is that this trial in Williamson County involved a white prosecutor (and presumably an all-white jury) that successfully prosecuted Klan members who beat up a traveling salesman.

Oh, and something else that race-hustling liberals would not care much about: the salesman was white.

The Klansmen targeted the salesman because he was allegedly having an illicit affair with a widow, also white, who ran a boarding house, according to an article in the Austin American-Statesman: "Williamson County museum exhibit shows details of 1923 KKK trial." Klan members were angered over the supposed immorality of the alleged affair, the paper noted.

As the Statesman explained:

The Williamson County district attorney and a jury stood up against the Ku Klux Klan in 1923 but Chris Dyer, director of the Williamson Museum, says not enough people know about it.

That's why the museum in Georgetown opened an exhibit Friday focused on the 1923 trial that resulted in the conviction of several Klan members...

"This trial had a very positive impact, and we wanted to cover it," Dyer said.

At the time, Dyer noted, the Klan was a political power in Texas. "The Williamson County jury in the 1923 trial was probably scared and knew Klan members, but they stood up and did the right thing at their own personal risk."

Williamson County District Attorney Dan Moody, who tried the case with other prosecutors, went onto became the state's Democratic governor.

According to the Texas State Historical Association, the Klan came under attack in the 1920s by a remarkably diverse group of civic-minded Texas who came together to stop the group's thuggery and terror that affected whites as well as blacks.

According to historian Charles Alexander, the "distinctive quality" of the Klan in the Southwest was "its motivation, which lay not so much in racism and nativism as in moral authoritarianism." In the Southwest "the Klan was, more than anything else, an instrument for restoring law and order and Victorian morality to the communities, towns, and cities of the region. Its coercive activity and its later preoccupation with political contests make vigilantism and politics the main characteristics of Klan history in the Southwest." Only a relatively small part of the Klan's defense of morality and society was directed at blacks. Its campaign of systematic terrorism-beatings and tarrings and featherings-was aimed mostly at bootleggers, gamblers, wayward husbands and wives, wife beaters, and other sinners....

It's definitely a complex and fascinating history, one that will not interest those who prefer to look at America's history through a racial prism of white-on-black violence.