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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Feb. 16, 1960

February 16, 2010 |  2:00 pm

Feb. 16, 1960, Mirror Cover

Ku Klux Klan Jerks Goofing as Per Usual

Paul Coates    This, liberally interpreted, is a progress report.

    It concerns the eerie persistence of Hooded Sign Painters Local No. 950, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Charleston, South Carolina.

    A few months ago I passed along to you the rather startling news that the Charleston KKK had crowded into the domain of such respected service groups as the Lions and Rotary clubs.

    Donning their white sheets of supremacy, the KKK members marched to the South Carolina metropolis' city limits and posted an eight-foot sign for all weary travelers to see. 

    It read:

    "The Association of South Carolina Klans, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Welcome You to Charleston."

  Feb. 16, 1960, Finch Trial  At the time, I commented that the printed highway greeting was a strange expression of sociability, even in the murky regions of the Deep South.

     Apparently, someone down there agreed, quite violently, with my sentiments.

    The sign lasted only a few weeks before it was completely defaced.

    This, however, didn't stop the Klan boys from leeching off the good name of the fair Dixie city.

    They upped and built another sign bearing a similar message.  And, amid much pomp and ceremony, planted it in place of the defaced one.

    That was last Jan. 26.  About 40 Klansmen participated in the dedication, which included a brief cross-burning ritual plus the playing, over a loud speaker, of "The Old Rugged Cross" and "In the Garden," which were interspersed with some rock 'n' roll records.

    The press was invited to cover the event.

    In his account, one Charleston reporter wrote:

 Feb. 16, 1960, Finch Trial   "After the two holes were dug in the hard earth near the highway, it was discovered that a miscalculation had been made in how far apart the holes should be . . . One hole had to be dug again . . ." 

    The reporter stated that the hooded, robed Klansmen "enthusiastically posed for pictures," and quoted one as commenting:

     "I think we ought to tell 'em who we are.  Then they'd learn to dread us more."

    The Charleston papers handled the story with gentle derision.

    A couple of weeks ago, however, Sign No. 2 met a  fate worse than that of No.1.  It was, mysteriously, burned to the ground.

    Now I'm told, Klan No. 950 is planning to erect a third sign.  But the townspeople of Charleston are in no mood to let it or any subsequent KKK propaganda dirty up their landscape.

    It's interesting to note that worried Southerners are turning on the Klansmen with the weapon which the KKK used with such vicious effectiveness for years: anonymous vandalism.

Feb. 16, 1960, Finch Trial::

    Illinois State Penitentiary's "The Menard Time," one of the slickest prison publications in the country, has been running a series of articles on "Probing Delinquency," with by-lines of prominent authorities in the field.

     In this month's installment, much of the blame is put on American adults' chase for the dollar, and inability to enjoy their children. 

    "If parents don't enjoy their children, how can they understand, help and encourage them?"  asks the writer.

    The theory isn't necessarily new, but what is unique is the fact that the writer is no armchair expert.  In trouble with the law since he was 15, he's currently doing 14 years at Menard for a crime he committed at the age of 21: murder.