Moose Park

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Moose Park was an informal name for the grounds of the Loyal Order of Moose Bessemer Lodge No. 509, which met in the early 1960s on the upper floor of a barn, likely to have been located between Blue Lake and Discount Auto Salvage, opposite the former Holiday Drugs, on Bessemer Super Highway.

"Moose Park" is infamous as the scene of major Ku Klux Klan rallies and cross-burnings. One rally held on October 13, 1962 was said to have been attended by "thousands" who spilled out from the lodge building onto the grounds. One attendee, 35-year-old ex-Marine Jack Bryan of Hueytown, claimed to have been assaulted and kicked by a group of seven men after speaking out that, "Mob violence is no answer to nothin'."

Klan officials estimated the crowd that night at 5,000, including a contingent of students from the University of Mississippi, where riots had marked the court-ordered enrollment of African-American veteran James Meredith the previous month. Tuscaloosa Imperial Wizard Robert Shelton and Georgia Grand Dragon Calvin Craig were among the speakers. Around 800 of the Klan members present wore robes and hoods. Reports that as many as 200 of the participants had their faces covered prompted Attorney General MacDonald Gallion to request a report from Deputy Circuit Solicitor Howard Sullinger to determine if the state's anti-mask law had been violated.

The most well-known rally at Moose Park was held on the evening of Saturday May 11, 1963, the day after a truce was announced to end the Birmingham Campaign of public civil rights demonstrations in downtown Birmingham. James Bevel read from a flyer advertising the event for a series of field recordings from the Birmingham Campaign made by Dale Minor for Pacifica Radio. New York Herald-Tribune correspondent Charles Portis (author of the 1968 novel True Grit), attended the rally and reported that, except for the spectacle of the two 25-foot burning crosses, one bearing an effigy of Martin Luther King Jr, that the event was, "a much duller affair than one might expect." He estimated about 200 hooded Klan members were present, and about 900–1,000 onlookers in street clothes, including an assortment of, "tow-headed kids who couldn't have been much more than 4 years old." The speakers, which included Shelton and, "the grand dragons of Georgia and Mississippi," addressed the crowd from a flatbed trailer.

According to Moose International, the Bessemer Lodge No. 509 was closed in December 1964, two months after a gambling raid at the lodge hall. Some recollect the lodge remaining active into the late 1960s. Outside of its documented association with the KKK, mentions of "Moose Park", which Portis mistakenly described as a, "gift to the city of Bessemer from the Loyal Order of Moose," are scarce.

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