United States v. Original Knights of Ku Klux Klan, Civ. A. No. 15793.

Decision Date01 December 1965
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 15793.
Citation250 F. Supp. 330
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, by Nicholas deB. KATZENBACH, Attorney General of the United States, Plaintiff, v. ORIGINAL KNIGHTS OF the KU KLUX KLAN, an unincorporated Association, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Louisiana




Before WISDOM, Circuit Judge, and CHRISTENBERRY and AINSWORTH, District Judges.

WISDOM, Circuit Judge:

This is an action by the Nation against a klan.*

The United States of America asks for an injunction to protect Negro citizens in Washington Parish, Louisiana, seeking to assert their civil rights. The defendants are the "Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan", an unincorporated association, the "Anti-Communist Christian Association," a Louisiana corporation, and certain individual klansmen, most of whom come from in and around Bogalusa, Louisiana.1

The defendants admit most of the allegations of the complaint. Their legal position is that a private organization and private persons are beyond the reach of the civil rights acts authorizing the Attorney General to sue for an injunction. There is no merit to this contention.

Seeking refuge in silence and secrecy, the defendants object to the admission of any evidence as to klan activities. We hold, however, that what the klan is and what the klan does bear significantly on the material issues and on the appropriate relief.

In deciding to grant the injunction prayed for, we rest our conclusions on the finding of fact that, within the meaning of the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964, the defendants have adopted a pattern and practice of intimidating, threatening, and coercing Negro citizens in Washington Parish for the purpose of interfering with the civil rights of the Negro citizens. The compulsion within the klan to engage in this unlawful conduct is inherent in the nature of the klan. This is its ineradicable evil.

We find that to attain its ends, the klan exploits the forces of hate, prejudice, and ignorance. We find that the klan relies on systematic economic coercion, varieties of intimidation, and physical violence in attempting to frustrate the national policy expressed in civil rights legislation. We find that the klansmen, whether cloaked and hooded as members of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, or skulking in anonymity as members of a sham organization, "The Anti-Communist Christian Association", or brazenly resorting to violence on the open streets of Bogalusa, are a "fearful conspiracy against society * * * holding men silent by the terror of their acts and their power for evil".2

As early as 1868 General Nathan Bedford Forrest, the first and only Grand Wizard of the original Invisible Empire, dismayed by mounting, uncontrollable violence laid to the klan, ordered the klan to disband and directed klansmen to burn their robes and hoods.3 General Forrest was a Confederate cavalry hero, a man without fear and, certainly to most Southerners, a man beyond reproach. He announced that he would dissociate himself from all klansmen and cooperate with public officials and the courts in enforcing law and order. But the founders of the Invisible Empire had sown dragon's teeth.

The evil that led General Forrest to disband the original Ku Klux Klan was its perversion of purposes by undisciplined klans led by irresponsible leaders.4 The evil we find in the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is an absolute evil inherent in any secret order holding itself above the law: "the natural tendency of all such organizations * * * to violence and crime."5 As history teaches, and as the defendants' admissions and the proof demonstrate in this case, violence and crime follow as the night the day when masked men conspire against society itself. Wrapped in myths and misbeliefs which they think relieve them of the obligations of ordinary citizens, klansmen pledge their first allegiance to their Konstitution and give their first loyalty to a cross in flames.

None of the defendant klansmen is a leader in his community. As a group, they do not appear to be representative of a cross-section of the community. Instead they appear to be ignorant bullies, callous of the harm they know they are doing and lacking in sufficient understanding to comprehend the chasm between their own twisted Konstitution and the noble charter of liberties under law that is the American Constitution.

Legal tolerance of secret societies must cease at the point where their members assume supra-governmental powers and take the law in their own hands. We shall not allow the misguided defendants to interfere with the rights of Negro citizens derived from or protected by the Constitution of the United States and now expressly recognized by Congress in various civil rights statutes. We enjoin the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, its dummy front, the Anti-Communist Christian Association, and the individual defendants from interfering with orders of this Court and from interfering with the civil rights of Negro citizens in Washington Parish. Specifically, these rights include:

(1) the right to the equal use and enjoyment of public facilities, guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment;
(2) the right to the equal use and enjoyment of public accommodations, guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000a;
(3) the right to register to vote and to vote in all elections guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment, by 42 U.S.C. § 1971, and by the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and
(4) the right to equal employment opportunities, guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e.


The United States sues under authority of 42 U.S.C. § 1971; 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000a-5 and 2000e-6. Under those sections and under 28 U.S.C. § 1345, this Court has jurisdiction of the action. We resolve any doubt as to the reach of these sections in favor of the Government's standing to sue in a case of this kind. In its sovereign capacity the Nation has a proper interest in preserving the integrity of its judicial system, in preventing klan interference with court orders, and in making meaningful both nationally created and nationally guaranteed civil rights.6


We turn now to detailed findings of fact.

A. Background. The invisible realm of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan coincides with the Sixth Congressional District of Louisiana. This district is composed of the "Florida" parishes, the area east of the Mississippi River and north of Lake Pontchartrain claimed by Spain until 1810.7 The events giving rise to this action took place in Washington Parish and centered in Bogalusa, the largest municipality in the Parish. Bogalusa is on the Pearl River at a point where the river forms the boundary between Louisiana and Mississippi. It has a population of about 14,000 white persons and 7,500 Negroes.

The Grand Dragon of the Original Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and President of the Anti-Communist Christian Association is Charles Christmas of Amite in Tangipahoa Parish. Saxon Farmer, who seems to have an uncanny capacity for being present whenever there is racial trouble in Bogalusa, is the second in command of both organizations, Grand Titan of the Klan and Vice-President of the Anti-Communist Christian Association. In February 1955 he was elected to both offices simultaneously. He is also the Exalted Cyclops of one of the Bogalusa Klaverns (local units). In 1960 this Court entered an order in the case of United States v. McElveen et als. (C.A.No. 9146) against Saxon Farmer and others enjoining them from interfering with the rights of Negro citizens to vote.8 That order restored to voter registration rolls of Washington Parish the names of 1,377 Negro citizens Farmer and others, then active in the Citizens Council, had unlawfully purged from the rolls.

The evidence clearly establishes that the Anti-Communist Christian Association is not a bona fide, independent organization but is the defendant klan thinly disguised under a respectable title. At an earlier time, the klan's dummy organization was called the Bogalusa Gun Club. The defendants' efforts to appear respectable by association may also be reflected in the location of the klan's principal office in the Disabled American Veterans Hall.

The officers, members, internal structure, and method of paying dues of the ACCA and the klan are identical. The corporate structure of the ACCA includes nothing but a charter. The governing rules and by-laws of the ACCA are the Klan Konstitution. The secret oath for admission and resignation in both organizations is the klan oath. Nothing is required of klan members to become members of the ACCA, except identifying to the secretary of the klan unit their assigned secret klan number. Klan members are then furnished a small green card with the name Anti-Communist Christian Association printed thereon. This Court finds that the defendant klan has appeared in this cause. The pretense that the klan does not exist, has ceased to exist, or has made no appearance in this cause is a sham.

Until recently Washington Parish was segregated from cradle to coffin. After Congress adopted the 1964 Civil Rights Act, however, the Negroes in Bogalusa began a broad scale campaign to gain recognition of their rights. Working through the Bogalusa Voters League, they conducted voter registration clinics, held mass meetings to call attention to their grievances, picketed places of public accommodations to protest racially discriminatory policies, and petitioned the Mayor of Bogalusa to accord equal rights in voting, public facilities, employment, and education.

The klan has been the center of unlawful activity in Washington Parish designed to interfere with the efforts of Negro citizens to gain equal rights under the law. Its objective has been to preserve total racial segregation in Bogalusa.

B. Defendants' Admissions. An unusual feature of this...

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