Saturday, January 10, 2009

Colorado Independent Posts Worthy Story About State's KKK Past

In light of the events at the Capitol this week, during which two African-American men were installed as leaders of both chambers of the General Assembly, it's interesting and valuable to recall that Colorado has not always been a very tolerant place.

Cara DeGette's story posted Friday at Colorado Independent about a dark time in the history of the Centennial State is therefore especially worth reading.

DeGette's story owes much to a report done for the Colorado Springs Independent in 2003 by veteran journalist Ed Quillen. DeGette quotes part of that piece in her story:

After the general election of 1924, the governor, Clarence Morley, was a Klansman, taking his orders from Dr. John Galen Locke, the Grand Dragon of the Colorado Realm. Benjamin Stapleton, the mayor of Denver, consulted the Klan when making appointments. U.S. Senator Rice Means was elected with open Klan support. The state House of Representatives had a Klan majority.

Klansmen marched and burned crosses in small towns throughout the state, from Great Plains through the mountains to the Western Slope. A city council, or the mayor’s office, or the police and sheriff’s departments, or the county government — many fell under the Klan’s control.

Numerous cities and towns were infiltrated by Klan activities, Quillen noted, including Denver, Pueblo, Grand Junction and Canon City. “Only one major city escaped,” he noted, and that city was Colorado Springs.

The General Assembly eventually defeated the Klan's legislative agenda and the group's influence on the state's politics waned after Morley's single term in the governor's chair.