Yesterday's story on our weekend at the Arkansas headquarters of The Knights Part of the KKK brought in a variety of correspondence. Below, the most vibrant.
From Rachel Pendergraft, national organizer of The Knights Party and avowed admirer of Hitler:
Just a quick note to say that all in all, the article was rather balanced - at least as much as was expected. I always look for the positive. I do want to clarify that I said "Negro regiment" and not what you printed [ed.: a "great increase in the nigger population"]. I don't say that at home and certainly am not stupid enough to use it in a speech, with or without media present. The video and audio is clear and while I understand a disagreement with my beliefs, I don't expect to be misquoted. It is quite unprofessional and not at all representative of your behavior at the conference which was quite congenial.
On a side note, I don't know what your ethnicity is and made no implication as to your racial background even noting that I did not know and that I did not think all Jewish people were involved together in a conspiratorial nature, though it is evident that most are at odds with Christianity.
Thank you for your time.
[For the record, I stand by my reporting: she did say "Negro regiment," followed shortly afterward by "nigger." It's very clear in my notes. Whether it was purposeful or a slip I do not know. If she has video or audio which proves this wrong, I will make a correction.]
From the mayor of Harrison, Arkansas:
Thank you for making my afternoon! I haven't laughed so hard in quite some time.
The reputation Harrison has acquired as home to the KKK is something we work very hard at overcoming. Your article and those of others help us to do just that. Harrison is not the KKK and they are not Harrison.
Next time you are in town (although I doubt you will be invited back for a Klan rally) I will be happy to buy you lunch!!!
City of Harrison
From Chris Ramsey of the Harrison, Arkansas Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Harrison Community Task Force on Race Relations:
I love it that someone has finally covered this from the perspective that you have. I just wish Pastor Robb would go away...because guys like him attract others like him if you know what I'm sayin'. I don't want this area to be a magnet for intolerance. We welcome diversity here. You'll see a lot more racism on your streets than you will down here.
From a person who has worked with various anti-Klan groups for many years:
Thom Robb's organization is what is referred to as a 'paper' Klan. It is little more than a money making scheme and is actually one of the smaller KKK groups in the country (particularly for a "National" organization). They hold little interest to law enforcement and serious anti-Klan groups for this simple fact. Unfortunately there are Klan groups that are significantly more violent and secretive. To describe Thom Robb's group as representative of the Klan as a whole would be misleading. Perhaps the best example of a more dangerous, exclusive, and (in a sick and twisted sort of way) professional Klan group would be the White Camellia Knights of the KKK based out of East Texas.
Please note though that I do not really view this as a criticism of your article. I simply want to make it clear to you and others that there are still many Klansmen (and women) out there who are significantly more dangerous and threatening than the ones you dealt with. I don't want you or your readers to be left with the idea that they don't pose any real threat, at least as far as acts of terrorism are concerned. They certainly are a very small shadow of what they once were, but a threat they remain.
We heard from several people who live or have lived in the Harrison, Arkansas region. Some selections:
My name is Katie I am 33 years old and I was born and raised in Harrison Arkansas. I lived in Harrison until I was 26 years old. I eventually moved out of the area and now reside in Fayetteville Arkansas. My wonderful family still lives in Harrison and I am very proud to say are very prominent in the community.
In reading your article, I must admit, my first impulse was "Great! What now!?" it's a kneejerk reaction when someone mentions the Klan and Harrison (or Arkansas) in the same sentence. It's heartbreaking for me, I a very torn. Harrison is "home" and always will be. But I do not foresee my family moving "home" in the near future. The one and only reason: my fiancé is black and our two beautiful daughters are, of course, biracial.
Living so close to Harrison (Fayetteville is about an hour and half drive); we bring our girls home often. I can honestly say we have never had an "incident" or bad experience. I am comfortable with my daughters going to the parks, swimming pool, library or shopping. I don't feel the need to protect my children any more then I do in Fayetteville. I get a kick out of my father toting my girls around like the proud papa he is.
It's sad that Harrison is synonymous with the Klan. You have no idea how heartbreaking that is for me and the good people who live there. It's a stain on the community and a black cloud that just looms overhead. There are so many good people who live and are from that area and to be lumped in with a group such as the Klan is embarrassing.
I was initially surprised not to see mention of my old pal (I use that term loosely) Billy Roper, but then I read the sidebar with the quotes in it, and there he was. By the way, did he mention any plans to run for President?
See, I am from Arkansas, and Billy Roper is from my neck of the woods. (Pope County). In summer 2010, I got a job working as a reporter at our local newspaper. After just a couple weeks on the job, and still about as green as they come, my editor threw me in a room with Billy Roper and had me write an article.
The interview was an eye-opening experience. I was pretty intimidated by him at first, but that quickly faded to just plain intrigue and, at times, amusement. He had worked so hard to convey himself as friendly and rational, but there was a disturbing undertone to what he said. I was not surprised to note in the quotes from him included in your piece, he came off much less congenial than he did to me.
I'm including a link to my article, in case it's of any interest to you. [ed.: A bizarre and entertaining read!]
Speaking of the folks in Harrison, I used to do business with a paper mill/carton company who has one of their plants there. A group of their foremen and managers from Harrison were in Atlanta for a meeting at their HQ and they wanted to visit our shop just to see how we did their graphics and printing plates.
I noticed that they all kept their hands in their pockets as I conducted the tour through our facility, and afterwards was told by some of their co-workers at a different plant that they had discussed doing this to avoid catching AIDS. They suspected our artists and designers were gay and didn't want to take any chances.
My mom and her entire family is from Arkansas (I'm from Missouri), so nothing about that story surprised me. Nothing. About once every few years the Klan would have a rally in downtown St. Louis (Southern Illinois is a hot bed for white supremacists, they used to send me lovely hate mail when I was editor-in-chief of my college paper there), and it was always kind of pathetic because the number of anti-klan protesters always out numbered the klansmen to an insane degree. One year quite a few of the black talk radio hosts (we used to have those in St. Louis in the 90s) were talking about their counter-Klan protests and a well-known caller who went by "Jacob of Israel" called in to complain about why, if the KKK hated black people so much they didn't come march down Delmar, the dividing line in the city between rich Jewish people and that bombed out part of St. Louis that looks like Beirut that my parents fled from in the late 1970s.
Jacob of Israel then knowingly laughed because it was obvious why the Klan, all 30 of them, didn't want to march down Delmar and didn't want to confront any number of black people without a police escort. Because they were pathetic, no one was afraid of them and without the STL PD blocking, they'd probably get knocked the fuck out for funzies.
[Photo: Bucky Turco for Animal]