By Vicki S. Davey, M.Ed.
Believe it or not, the pen is mightier than the sword! The Dallas Morning News proved this back in the day when it used its power to help rid Dallas of the KKK.
In 1923 there were 160,000 residents in the Dallas area. Having relocated to Dallas from all over the south, one in three men were part of Chapter 66 of the Klu Klux Klan, which boasted a whopping 13,000 members with over 4 million members nationwide.
Beginning with a huge parade, Klu Klux Klan Day was celebrated at the Texas State Fair in October of that year and the next day 5,631 new members were initiated, 800 of which were women. As stated by the KKK itself, the Dallas chapter was the nation’s largest.
According to Dallas Morning News writer, Brian Woolley, most KKK members came right off cotton fields and out of rural villages bringing with them prejudice against anyone who was not white or Protestant. They called themselves the Invisible Empire, hiding under their notorious white robes and pointy hoods.
During this reign, the Klan kidnapped, tortured, and murdered numerous people who were black, Jewish, and Catholic, but especially those who were black. The Klan terrorized inhabitants as they marched through neighborhoods at night in full costume, single-file, carrying burning crosses. They dragged people from their homes and places of work to torture and murder them just because they didn’t fit the white-supremacist caste of perfection.
Even worse than these horrible acts of violence is the fact that the Klan committed these crimes of terrorism openly. In one instance a Times Herald reporter was invited along during one of their most atrocious abductions of an elevator operator, and later reported on the event as if it were normal for a person to be kidnapped and tortured.
The Klan’s seemingly endless corruption was supported by the police and the judicial system through non-action and repeated refusals to investigate. The Klan “owned” the sheriff’s office, police commissioner, lawyers, politicians, the courthouse, City Hall, and the state senate. They also “owned “the Chamber of Commerce and its businessmen, doctors and dentists, and even some shady pastors who praised the Klan from their pulpits.
They were getting away with murder right here in Dallas… until finally, the Dallas Morning News fought back.
One brave journalist at the Dallas Morning News, Alonzo Wasson, stepped up to the mound and revealed the truth of these KKK cowards, urging a grand jury investigation. He and other reporters continued to investigate and write stories exposing the Klan and its public officials who not only condoned but praised Klan activities. The writers also sent their stories to other parts of the country raising awareness of the Klan’s immoral and vicious acts to the entire nation. Additionally, the “News” helped organize an anti-Klan meeting attended by 5,000 men and reprinted a series of stories exposing further Klan crimes that had appeared in the New York World newspaper.
To silence these stories the almighty KKK attempted to put the “News” out of business by boycotting them, and it nearly worked; however, the Dallas Morning News was able to rally and make a come-back by selling their parent newspaper, the Galveston News.
In 1924, the Klan was so powerful that they were about to have their (openly Klan) candidate, Judge Felix Robertson, elected as Governor of Texas. With the truth about the KKK being revealed through the Dallas Morning News, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson beat Robertson and became the first female Governor of Texas. One of the new governor’s first tasks was helping to quash and run the KKK out of town.