When The KKK Ruled Colorado: Not So Long Ago

The Ku Klux Klan had no presence in Colorado in 1920. By 1925, Klan members and sponsored candidates controlled the Colorado State House and Senate, the office of Secretary of State, a state Supreme Court judgeship, seven benches on Denver District Court, and city councils in some Colorado towns. Mayor Ben Stapleton of Denver and Governor Clarence Morley of Colorado were also Klansmen. The Klan was stronger in Colorado than any other state. How did the Klan gain power so quickly and absolutely?

William Joseph Simmons of Georgia called for the resurrection of the Klan in 1915. By 1920, only 5,000 or so members had joined in Alabama and Georgia. Clearly, the old organizing prejudices weren’t enough to mobilize a respectable membership. The Klan developed a new recruiting message focused more on the menace that Catholics and Jews posed to the “nation’s Protestant ideals” than on Blacks. According to the excellent history Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado by Robert Goldberg, the KKK posed as saviors of “Old Time Religion” and Americanism. As adherents to the Pope and their “polytheistic” religion of saints, Catholics were seen as completely excluded from such Americanism. Colorado was predominantly Protestant, and this message played well here. Conspiracy theories about a secret Catholic government of overlords abounded, much as such stories about Jews make the circuit today. The Klan also stood for fair elections, for law and order against the backdrop of Prohibition bootlegging and rampant crime, and against the loosening of morals brought by new music, new dances, and Hollywood, things the general public could get behind.

While Catholics, Jews and Blacks spoke out against the Klan in newspapers such as Denver Express, Denver’s major papers were silent or neutral. The Klan infiltrated both political parties. Local Klan chapters preyed on local prejudices and divisions. Business owners proudly displayed Klan stickers, and protestant elites and working people, men and women, were quick to join. Barring a few exceptions, such as Denver District Attorney Philip Van Cise, a fierce Klan opponent, few politicians or Protestants spoke out against the Klan, allowing them to consolidate influence and power rapidly.

Strangely, part of the Klan’s appeal was that it functioned as a social outing for many Protestants. In fact, members in Grand Junction flocked to the KKK not so much from prejudice, but because they thought of it as another Elk’s lodge, except with hoods and weird cross burning ceremonies out in the desert. Even Dalton Trumbo tried to join because it was the hot “thing to do.” In Denver, the Klan held picnics (one drew 100,000 people), auto races (a Catholic won. See photo), and had many other events. Of course, the old Klan sometimes reared its ugly head, driving Blacks from white neighborhoods and discriminating against Italians and Mexicans. Beginning in 1925, the Klan’s power in Colorado waned. The Colorado Grand Dragon was investigated for tax evasion, and corruption scandals rocked Klan office holders. But for those few short years, the Klan ruled Colorado. For more information on the Klan in Colorado, visit Western History. Search our Digital Photos to see more pictures of the Klan in Colorado.

And ever since the Democrats established the KKK, they have been ruining Colorado ever since!

None of this is accurate.

Can you be a bit more specific? And cite your sources as the author did?

If this wasn't accurate then why did my history teacher tell me to go to this link

In reply to by Bri (not verified)

This was taught in Colorado schools for years. Anger black mark on the Democratic Party.

In reply to by Doug MacDonald (not verified)

You obviously didn't read the whole article!

"The Klan infiltrated both political parties."

How silly. This is a place for gaining insights. You spout shallow platitudes

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

hahahahahahaha. lol.

mr. McFarland is either hoplessly addicted to meth or was resently kicked in the head by a horse. either way he's adorable

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

"Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth
You're an idiot babe
It's a wonder that you still know how to breathe"
Bob Dylan

They were extreme right wing conservatives of the time. Now they would br Republicans.

Jim, I'm sorry you are such an ignorant man. Today, Democrats are typically mean spirited, hateful and intolerant. You might bone up on history and learn the truth about your beloved Democrat party.

The Democrats:
Democrats fought to expand slavery while Republicans fought to end it.
Democrats passed those discriminatory Black Codes and Jim Crow laws.
Democrats supported and passed the Missouri Compromise to protect slavery.
Democrats supported and passed the Kansas Nebraska Act to expand slavery.
Democrats supported and backed the Dred Scott Decision.
Democrats opposed educating blacks and murdered our teachers.
Democrats fought against anti-lynching laws.
Democrat Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, is well known for having been a “Kleagle” in the Ku Klux Klan.
Democrat Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, personally filibustered the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for 14 straight hours to keep it from passage.
Democrats passed the Repeal Act of 1894 that overturned civil right laws enacted by Republicans.
Democrats declared that they would rather vote for a “yellow dog” than vote for a Republican, because the Republican Party was known as the party for blacks.
Democrat President Woodrow Wilson, reintroduced segregation throughout the federal government immediately upon taking office in 1913.
Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first appointment to the Supreme Court was a life member of the Ku Klux Klan, Sen. Hugo Black, Democrat of Alabama.
Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s choice for vice president in 1944 was Harry Truman, who had joined the Ku Klux Klan in Kansas City in 1922.
Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt resisted Republican efforts to pass a federal law against lynching.
Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt opposed integration of the armed forces.
Democrat Senators Sam Ervin, Albert Gore, Sr. and Robert Byrd were the chief opponents of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Democrats supported and backed Judge John Ferguson in the case of Plessy v Ferguson.
Democrats supported the School Board of Topeka Kansas in the case of Brown v The Board of Education of Topeka Kansas.
Democrat public safety commissioner Eugene “Bull” Connor, in Birmingham, Ala., unleashed vicious dogs and turned fire hoses on black civil rights demonstrators.
Democrats were who Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the other protesters were fighting.
Democrat Georgia Governor Lester Maddox “brandished an ax hammer to prevent blacks from patronizing his restaurant.
Democrat Governor George Wallace stood in front of the Alabama schoolhouse in 1963, declaring there would be segregation forever.
Democrat Arkansas Governor Faubus tried to prevent desegregation of Little Rock public schools.
Democrat Senator John F. Kennedy voted against the 1957 Civil rights Act.
Democrat President John F. Kennedy opposed the 1963 March on Washington by Dr. King.
Democrat President John F. Kennedy, had Dr. King wiretapped and investigated by the FBI.
Democrat President Bill Clinton’s mentor was U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat and a supporter of racial segregation.
Democrat President Bill Clinton interned for J. William Fulbright in 1966-67.
Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright signed the Southern Manifesto opposing the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright joined with the Dixiecrats in filibustering the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964.
Democrat Senator J. William Fulbright voted against the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Southern Democrats opposed desegregation and integration.
Democrats opposed:

The Emancipation Proclamation
The 13th Amendment
The 14th Amendment
The 15th Amendment
The Reconstruction Act of 1867
The Civil Rights of 1866
The Enforcement Act of 1870
The Forced Act of 1871
The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871
The Civil Rights Act of 1875
The Freeman Bureau
The Civil Rights Act of 1957
The Civil Rights Act of 1960
The United State Civil Rights Commission
Republicans gave strong bi-partisan support and sponsorship for the following

The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Voting Rights Act of 1965
The 1968 Civil Rights Acts
The Equal Opportunity Act of 1972
Goals and Timetables for Affirmative Action Programs
Comprehensive Employment Training Act of 1973
Voting Rights Act of Amendment of 1982
Civil Rights Act of 1983
Federal Contract Compliance and Workforce Development Act of 1988
The Republicans:
Republicans enacted civil rights laws in the 1950’s and 1960’s, over the objection of Democrats.
Republicans founded the HBCU’s (Historical Black College’s and Universities) and started the NAACP to counter the racist practices of the Democrats.
Republicans pushed through much of the ground-breaking civil rights legislation in Congress.
Republicans fought slavery and amended the Constitution to grant blacks freedom, citizenship and the right to vote.
Republicans pushed through much of the groundbreaking civil rights legislation from the 1860s through the 1960s.
Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sent troops into the South to desegregate the schools.
Republican President Eisenhower appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to the Supreme Court, which resulted in the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision.
Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois, not Democrat President Lyndon Johnson, was the one who pushed through the civil rights laws of the 1960’s.
Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois wrote the language for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Republican Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois also crafted the language for the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which prohibited discrimination in housing.
Republican and black American, A. Phillip Randolph, organized the 1963 March by Dr. King on Washington.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act Roll Call Vote: In the House, only 64 percent of the Democrats (153 yes, 91 no), but 80 percent of the Republicans (136 yes, 35 no), voted for it. In the Senate, while only 68 percent of the Democrats endorsed the bill (46 yes, 21 no), 82 percent of the Republicans voted to enact it (27 yes, 6 no).

Thaddeus Stevens, a Radical Republican that introduced legislation to give African Americans the so-called 40 acres and a mule and Democrats overwhelmingly voted against the bill.

During the Senate debates on the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, it was revealed that members of the Democratic Party formed many terrorist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan to murder and intimidate African Americans voters. The Ku Klux Klan Act was a bill introduced by a Republican Congress to stop Klan Activities.

History reveals that Democrats lynched, burned, mutilated and murdered thousands of blacks and completely destroyed entire towns and communities occupied by middle class Blacks, including Rosewood, Florida, the Greenwood District in Tulsa Oklahoma, and Wilmington, North Carolina to name a few.

History reveals that it was Abolitionists and Radical Republicans such as Henry L. Morehouse and General Oliver Howard that started many of the traditional Black colleges, while Democrats fought to keep them closed. Many of our traditional Black colleges are named after white Republicans.

After exclusively giving the Democrats their votes for the past 25 years, the average African American cannot point to one piece of civil rights legislation sponsored solely by the Democratic Party that was specifically designed to eradicate the unique problems that African Americans face today.

As of 2004, the Democrat Party (the oldest political party in America) has never elected a black man to the United States Senate, the Republicans have elected three.

Great copy and paste job of anti-Democratic party propaganda. Try forming your own educated thought next time.

It's a pro-level troll that can successfully Gish Gallop this well.

You have to realize that the values of the democratic party have switched to those of the old republican party and vice versa. Democrats today are more like the Republicans of the past.

Republicans today ARE those Democrats of yesteryear. Of course a mixture of both parties. Republicans like to play off of the confusing twist that was done when the parties jumped ship or changed names. Not gonna work any more. Busted!

In reply to by a Patriot (not verified)

A Patriot: So I take it then that you are not a Democrat"?

In reply to by a Patriot (not verified)

But what happens when we control for both party affiliation and region?

Quotes from article in brackets.
[In this case, it becomes clear that Democrats in the north and the south were more likely to vote for the bill than Republicans in the north and south respectively. This difference in both houses is statistically significant with over 95% confidence. It just so happened southerners made up a larger percentage of the Democratic than Republican caucus, which created the initial impression than Republicans were more in favor of the act.]
Actual voting % was split by states north or south of the Mason Dixon Line, those who had belong to the Union or those who belonged to the Confederacy.

Who voted For the 1964 Civil Rights Amendment? Info. below from article.

House/ Union states - 95% of Dem and 85% of Rep.
House/ Confed. states - 9% of Dem and 0% of Rep.
Senate/ Union states - 98% of Dem and 84% of Rep
Senate/ Confed states - 5% of Dem and 0% of Rep

[Nearly 100% of Union state Democrats supported the 1964 Civil Rights Act compared to 85% of Republicans. None of the southern Republicans voted for the bill, while a small percentage of southern Democrats did.]

After this vote Strom Thurmond, a southern Dem. who vote against the CRA, changed his party affiliation to Republican because he could see the Republicans were actually more in agreement with him and thus began the exodus of southern representatives from Dems to Republicans.

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

I would like to see your sources for this info.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Hi There - This is Brian and I'm a librarian with DPL's Western History Department.

The relationship between the two major political parties and the southern states is incredibly complex and worthy of a more in-depth discussion than can really be provided in the comments section of a blog.

I would definitely encourage anyone interested in this subject to read, "Why Did Democrats Lose the South?" by Ilyana Kuziemko and Ebonya Washington of Yale Economics, which illuminates the subject with plenty of solid data.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

You obviously didn't read the article!

"The Klan infiltrated both political parties"

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

And the rest of the country. The problem with today's uneducated, ignorant buffoons is the fact that they will refuse to believe the truth. They refuse to acknowledge history and now they want to erase it so they never have to admit it. Wake up and smell the roses. For those of us who watched Gov. George Wallace defy lawful orders, Gov. Orval Faubus dare the National Guard to act, and so many other outrageous actions, it was truly sad times for this nation.. Wallace's inaugural speech included the words, "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" which brought tears to my eyes. However, not ALL Democrats were idiots as JFK ordered the National Guard to physically make Gov. Wallace step aside to allow students Vivian Malone and James Hood to enter the University. It was still the north vs the south. But it still was miserable to hear the Nat'l Guard leader say that it was "with a sad heart" the he had to order Wallace to step aside. Wait until Schumer and friends have to face facts about the Byrd offices they occupy in Congress. I guess they will have to be destroyed as well as Sam Ervin's Library & Museum, anything named after FDR, and so many other truly historic buildings, statues and the like. What a damn disgrace !!

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

Is anyone mediating this site and its comments? @Denverpubliclibrary

Hi Goyette - Thanks for your question. We do monitor the comments on this site and are guided by DPL policy which states:
"Commentary, opinion, and reaction to posts are welcome and consistent with DPL's commitment to intellectual freedom. Spam, flaming, personal attacks, and off ­topic comments are not permitted."

why was the klan so heavy to get involved with ppl who came from the old world to new one that did a few generations before

In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

You should read more about Colorado history, the history of the KKK particularly in the 1920.


In reply to by Keldon McFarland (not verified)

In the 1920s the Klan was supporting Republican candidates, not Democratic ones.

I remember seeing crosses burning on top of Ruby Hill in south-west Denver in 1934 or '35.

In reply to by Barbara Ruther… (not verified)

That sight would definitely have a lasting impact, Barbara. Thank you for reading the blog and for your comment.

In reply to by Barbara Ruther… (not verified)

hi ruby, would you like to give an interview of your memories?

In reply to by Barbara Ruther… (not verified)

wait you we're there

We had a cross burned on our yard 1969. However Floyd Littles house on Monaco never bothered. Guess kkk liked football

... this would explain why my third grade research project went so far wrong ... I still remember interviewing my grandmother and her telling me of all the good the Klan used to do ...

For years, Germans continue to stick up for Hitler and Nazis for the good works they accomplished, such as restoring Germany's position in the world, the economy, building the autobahn, and the Volkswagen (people's car).

I, being a Jew, know that this is complete bs, some of my Jewish friends lived in Berlin for years. Of course there are still extremists, but as a whole the nation has apologized.

Fascinating historical information!

What about the Klan presence during the Civil Rights movement???

I have a ghost in my house and I was told this whole area in Loveland was KKK and there's a hanging tree not too far from me

Thank You.

Man, where have you all been? This info isn't new. heck Park Hill was the hot spot for sheets.

Short time? KKK Mayor Ben Stapleton , the city's mayor most of the time from 1923 to 1947 . He also "served" in many other government positions. His name is all over the place. I imagine few have any idea.

I love the way Colorado history pretends it was just a few "aberrant" years.

In reply to by Laura (not verified)

Something no one speaks, these days..

Hi Laura - You bring up some very valid points about an incredibly controversial period in Colorado history.

The Klan was quite influential for a number of years in Denver, but their political clout waned considerably by 1926 when the organization was rocked by a series of financial and criminal scandals.

Your point about about Stapleton's name is well taken and, over the years, this issue has popped up frequently.

Of course racism did not disappear when the Klan returned to the shadows, and we endeavor to present the history of race relations in Denver in a thorough and objective manner in our collections.

My high school science teacher told me that his father was pressured to join the klan. He told them that he could not join a group whose members had to cover their faces to hide their acts. This was in Logan County.

In reply to by S. Lueck (not verified)

Hi S. - Thanks for sharing that story with us. There were plenty of opportunities for folks to join the Klan back then, it's nice to hear of someone actually passing up the opportunity!

In reply to by S. Lueck (not verified)

thumbs up 4 that father.

The Klan specifically targeted Colorado for it's all new, user friendly messages in 1922. It promoted itself as a civic improvement organization at first, and targeted the 'leaders' of society, politicians, drs. lawyers, businessmen, etc.Once their real message was revealed, members rapidly left and everybody else was disgusted. Coloradans have never appreciated outsiders telling us what to do. The Klan was out by 1925; some the leaders and hard core tried to organize locally as the Minute-Men with no takers. There were never enough Klan members to really influence Colorado in spite of some showy politicians, the legislature was closed down and only three Klan bills were entered, none passed. Ben Stapleton, Gov Morley, Senator Rice Means and others pretended that they had never heard of the Klan.

This is painted with a big brush, but this information is out there now, it wasn't when I started studying the Klan in Colorado back in the 60's. Dig a little deeper if you want to know the truth.

In reply to by badfrog (not verified)

If you want to know what really happened in Denver during the kkk years just pick up a copy of John Dunnings Denver book. It's the Bible of the time.

During the winter of 1960 or 61 a "memorial" cross burning occurred on Ruby Hill. This screwed up all the great sledding for three days. My grandfather, a former member while living in Weld then Logan Counties, said it was a "call to arms" because of the influx of minorities into Denver.