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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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William A. White

The W A White Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas was named after William Allen White, who worked with the Emporia Gazette.

Biographies Picture Gallery

William Allen White's 1924 Gubernatorial Campaign
with bibliography

William Allen White and the Klu Klux Klan in Kansas

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"Kansas, A Land of Contrasts" by Robert W. Richmond, 4th edition, 1999, Forum Press, Inc., pg. 242-245 (William Allen White's Fight Against the Ku Klux Klan)

W A White - 1924(At left:  William Allen White, in front of the Emporia Gazette office with the car he used in his anti-Klan gubernatorial campaign of 1924.)

As the 1924 election approached Kansans were concerned with the growth of the Ku Klux Klan.  The Klan of the 1920s was not the same organization that had been formed in the South following the Civil War as a protest against Radical Republican reconstruction.  During the First World War a new Klan was organized by an extremely conservative Georgia minister named William Simmons.  This organization developed rapidly and spread throughout much of the United States.

The Klan was against almost everything except what it defined as "Americanism."  It was anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, and anti-black, and it preached its undemocratic ideas where it could find listeners.  Governor Allen had said that it was the "greatest curse that comes to a civilized people," and he had done his best to run it out of the state.  But the Klan continued to grow and by May 1923, it was estimated that there were 60,000 Klansmen in Kansas with similar numbers existing in the other midwestern states.  Organizers were sent into Kansas from Oklahoma but much of the operation was directed from Kansas City, Missouri.

The Klan was involved in the railroad strikes in Kansas during 1922 as it acquired members among laboring men who opposed black strike breakers hired by the railroads.  Part of labor's sympathy for the Klan came because of its opposition to Henry J. Allen.  Since labor did not like Allen, because of the Industrial Court, and Allen did not like the Klan, some union members supported the Klan.  Organized labor as a whole was not solidly behind the KKK.

When the nominees for governor were announced - Davis, the Democrat, and Ben Paulen, the Republican - William Allen White filed as an independent because he thought that neither of the regular candidates would fight the Kan strongly.  Although there was no evidence that either Davis or Paulen had any direct connection with the Klan, White felt that the Klan would exert its influence on the two parties.  He wrote to friends that he did not really want to run for governor because the last thing he wanted was to get elected but he thought somebody had to point out to Kansans how bad the Klan was.  Three years before his candidacy, on August 2, 1921, White had written an editorial that expressed how he felt:

It is an organization of cowards.  Not a man in it has the courage of his convictions.  It is an organization of traitors to American institutions.  Not a man in it has faith enough in American courts, American laws, and American executive officers to trust them to maintain law and order, and it is an organization of lazy butter fingers in politics, or it would get out at the primary and the election and clean up the incompetent officials whom its members think are neglecting to enforce the law.

The Ku Klux Klan in this community is a menace to peace and decent neighborly living, and if we find out who is the Imperial Wizard in Emporia we shall guy the life out of him.  He is a joke, you may be sure.  But a poor joke at that.

Since White was so well known his campaign attracted national attention.  He was careful to avoid endorsements from his Republic friends who were also candidates for office because he knew he would divide the party to a degree. 

Paulen won and White ran third, but he had about 150,000 votes and he did it mostly on his own.  His candidacy brought the Klan problem into the open.  In January, 1925, the state supreme court ruled that the Klan could not do business in Kansas without a charter.  Since the secretary of state's office would not issue a charter the Klan was through in the state.

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History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 23-Apr-2014

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