When Dallas was the most racist city in America

The drum corps of the Dallas Women’s KKK poses in front of Union Station around 1930. The Dallas Klan No. 66 at one time was the largest KKK chapter in the nation. (Photos courtesy of the DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University)

In the 1920s, it could be argued, Dallas was the most racist city in the nation.

Dallas dentist Hiram Wesley Evans became leader of the national Ku Klux Klan in 1922, when the Dallas chapter of the KKK was the largest in the United States.

Read the full story in the Oak Cliff Advocate, excerpted below, and scroll down to see a photo of Evans marching in Klan garb in Washington, D.C.

The Dallas Klan No. 66 had about 13,000 members in the 1920s; it was the largest chapter in the United States, according to Michael Phillips’ 2004 book “White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001”. Hiram Wesley Evans, a dentist with a practice downtown, became national leader of the KKK in 1922.

Higher-ups in the Dallas Klan included the police commissioner, a Dallas Times-Herald reporter, four Dallas Power and Light officials, the Ford Motor Company’s local superintendent, the Democratic Party chairman and the county tax assessor, according to Phillips’ book. Local KKK members also included police chief Jesse E. Curry, police homicide division head Will Fritz and Robert L. Thornton, a banker who served as mayor from 1953-’61.

Business owners were coerced into joining or at least supporting the Klan under threat of boycott. Politicians loyal to the KKK often fared well, and the Klan held political rallies downtown on the eves of elections.

Klan members worked to portray the KKK as a benevolent organization. They started Hope Cottage for orphaned children and organized various relief efforts when disasters struck.

But its main purpose was to act as a literal whip to enforce its racist and Puritan ideals.

The best-documented incident happened April 1, 1921. A group of klansmen, joined by a Times-Herald reporter, drove to the home of Adolphus Hotel elevator operator Alex Johnson, who was black. They accused Johnson of having sex with a white woman in the hotel. They threatened to hang him and burned “KKK” into his forehead with acid, according to Phillips’ book. Then they dumped him, bloody and shirtless, in front of the Adolphus.

Hiram Wesley Evans, a dentist with a practice in Downtown Dallas leads a KKK march in Washington, D.C., September 1926. Evans was a national leader in the KKK. (Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress)
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