Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy

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The Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy was a violent, paramilitary Ku Klux Klan offshoot founded by Asa Carter.

Carter, a virulent white supremacist, had been the leader of the North Alabama Citizens' Council, which he established in 1955 and grew enormously in the aftermath of Autherine Lucy's failed attempt to desegregate the University of Alabama in February 1956. Soon, however, the NACC was being forced out of the emerging statewide movement of White Citizens Councils over the issue of admitting Jewish members and over Carter's distrust of the rich businessmen and powerful politicians that the statewide group was courting. After the split, both groups competed for members statewide with Sam Engelhardt's Citizens' Councils of Alabama demonstrating more success with its more palatable tone.

Carter and fellow NACC member Jesse Mabry published a monthly magazine, The Southerner, which lionized Confederate heroes the proud Anglo-Saxon stock of the hill country, and warned of intricate conspiracies between the NAACP, communists, popular musicians, and even those segregationists less strident than himself. After Carter wrote scurrilous reviews of a "rock and roll" concert at which white teenagers were lured into animalistic fevers, his associate, Kenneth Adams, called for NACC members to attack Nat "King" Cole en masse during his April 10, 1956 concert at Birmingham's Municipal Auditorium.

Only two other members, Willis Vinson and E. L. Vinson, actually joined Adams in the attack, which was quickly suppressed by Birmingham Police in attendance. Rather than earning acclaim for their use of direct force, however, the attackers were almost universally reviled for their brutality and Carter, who immediately sought donations to a legal defense fund, was unable to maintain the NACC as a legitimate group.

Carter and his compatriots then formed a more explicitly violent organization under the name of the Ku Klux Klan. Existing KKK leadership was still too "soft" for Carter, so he formed an independent offshoot. Members of the KKK of the Confederacy wore robes in Confederate gray rather than white. Carter, the "Grand Marshal", wore khakis and paratrooper boots. Membership rituals included bloodletting from the wrist, the signing of documents in blood, and the occasional attack on random Blacks as a test of mettle.

On September 2, 1957 six members of the group; Joe Pritchett, James Griffin, Bart Floyd, William Miller, Jesse Mabry and Grover McCullogh; abducted Judge Aaron, an African-American mechanic, from Airport Road near Zion City. They drove him to Chalkville and tortured him in their "lair", a cinder-block shack. After Floyd castrated him with a razor, they poured kerosene and turpentine on his wounds and passed his severed testicles around in a paper cup for inspection. Aaron was dumped near Five Mile Creek in East Birmingham. He was found there and taken by police to Hillman Hospital, where he was treated and eventually released.

Griffin and Miller turned state's evidence, leading to the conviction of the four others on charges of mayhem. They were each sentenced by Judge Alta King to 20 years in prison. Those sentences were commuted, with full restoration of rights, by one of George Wallace's appointees shortly after he took office in 1963. The two who gave evidence served their five-year sentences in full and kept their felonies on their records.

The ugly incident did not prevent other members of the group from participating in the beating of Fred Shuttlesworth and his family when they attempted to enroll four children at Phillips High School on September 9.

In 1958 an internal dispute over the handling of club dues led Carter to shoot two of his associates with the revolver he kept strapped to his waist. One of the injured Klansmen pressed charges, and Carter was arrested. The district attorney declined to prosecute for lack of evidence and the charges were later dropped. The Original Ku Klux Klan of the Confederacy became inactive following that incident, and Carter moved into speech writing for Wallace.

References

  • McMillen, Neil R. (1994) The Citizens' Council: Organized Resistance to the Second Reconstruction, 1954-64. University of Illinois Press ISBN 9780252064418
  • McWhorter, Diane (2001) Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, The Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0743226488
  • Harris, W. Edward (2004) Miracle in Birmingham: A Civil Rights Memoir, 1954-1965. New York, New York: Indianapolis, Indiana: Stonework Press. ISBN 9780963886477
  • Sprayberry, Gary S. (Winter 2004) "Interrupted Melody: The 1956 Attack on Nat "King" Cole." Alabama Heritage