Observations at a 1965 Md. Klan rally

28 Oct

The Ku Klux Klan held a large rally at the farm of George Boyle in Rising Sun, Md. November 6, 1965, in part to honor fallen Klan members. One was Dan Burros, a New York Klan leader who took his own life after a New York Times article on Klan activities in their state revealed he was Jewish. Mae Rankin attended the rally and wrote of her personal observations that resonate today as white supremacy again tries to enter the mainstream.

Klan cross blazes is Rising Sun, Md in 1965

Klan cross blazes is Rising Sun, Md in 1965

by Mae Rankin

[Originally published in the Afro American newspaper, Nov. 27, 1965]

I am really not the adventurous type, but I have a certain amount of intellectual curiosity about people and what makes them tick.

This curiosity gave me the courage to “step where angels fear to tread” and visit a certain peaceful cow pasture in Rising Sun, Md., on the evening of Nov. 6.

Rising Sun is a small town, not far from the Pennsylvania line. On the streets pleasant people greet one another in a cordial manner as they shop in the few, scattered stores.

When we stopped at the gasoline station to check the exact location of our ultimate destination, the attendant gave us directions in a friendly way.

The sky was overcast that night. It was chilly. There was an unknown something that made me feel tight and cold. It was fear, real fear.

Arriving at the rally

I shivered in spite of the friendly faces and jokes from the platform. This was a large crowd, almost two thousand people, listening receptively to the speakers.

As I looked around and observed the crowd—teenagers, young parents with small children, middle-aged men and women—I found it difficult to believe that this was a Klan rally.

But there it was, right in front of me—the large cross with the petroleum soaked canvass wound around it. And there they were—the Klansmen and Klanswomen in their unmistakable robes, which they wore with pride.

They mixed with the crowd, distributing their official publication, The Fiery Cross.’ Published by the United Klans of America, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Md. Klan honors fallen Jewish leader

Md. Klan honors fallen Jewish leader at Rising Sun rally

The speakers, visiting Klan leaders from nearby states, were presented on a  wooden platform, decorated with two black wreaths.

Underneath one was the name, Dan Burros, and under the other, Matt Murphy.

The flags were also conspicuous—American and Confederate.

Ralph E. Pryor Jr., Grand Dragon of the Delaware Klan; Roy Frankhowser, Pennsylvania Grand Dragon, and Frank Rotella, King Kleagle of the New Jersey Klan, were the principal speakers.

Vernon Naimaster of Essex, acting Grand Dragon of Maryland, said, “I’m the bus driver they were talking about.” He was referring to news releases which had stated that he was an employee of the Baltimore Transit Company.

Naimaster did not wear the Klan garb, but he was dressed in his Sunday best and seemed proud to be on this platform.

Pryor presented the various speakers. He is a former policeman, in his thirties, who said that he had worked with the Vice Squad in Wilmington.

A strong Klan

Call for an anti-Klan rally in Maryland: 1971

A flyer from a 1971 anti-Klan rally in Rising Sun, Md.

He spoke with an air of authority when he quoted the alleged ‘startling statistics—regarding the number of white women raped by colored men there. There was no question in his mind as to how this critical situation should be handled.

“The only answer is to organize a strong Klan,” he thundered.

“That’s right, that’s right,” the crowd echoed.

The visiting Klan leaders were unanimous in their hatred of President Johnson. They were furious because they were being ‘unjustly’ investigated by Washington.

Said one speaker angrily, “See this ring on my finger?” He held up his hand dramatically and paused…

“In Washington they want to know who gave it to me. Well I won’t tell them, It’s none of their business. I’ll tell you. It was my mother,” he screamed. The audience was silently sympathetic.

I looked at the audience. Teenagers were everywhere; groups of young men with hard, tight faces. Yes this was definitely their cup of tea. Hate, hate. You get points for that.

Send in leaky boat

Entrance to Town of Rising Sun, MD: 2012

The town of Rising Sun in 2012.

One speaker suggested that the only way to solve the “N__ah problem,” was to send all the “N__ahs” back to Africa…in a leaky boat.

According to another authoritative Klansman, all Jews were Communists.

Arthur Spingarn, former head of the NAACP, was feeding money from the Jews to the colored people in order to weaken America from within so that the ‘commies’ could take over. Marvin Rich of CORE, was also mentioned in this context.

The Klan leader from New York had a very special and confidential message for the audience. He had worked for the Welfare Department during the day, but the Klan had his unquestioned loyalty at night. He had been dismissed from his job, he said, and was suing for his loss of income.

Welfare Cadillacs

He sounded most convincing when he told the audience about the colored people who would drive up to the Welfare Department in their Cadillac to collect their welfare checks.

There was only one difference of opinion. One speaker stated that Daniel Burros, the New York Klansman who shot himself, was framed! Another leader stated that ‘Dan Burros was not a Jew. But for some unknown reason his parents were married in a synagogue.

“He [Burros] wanted to protect the Klan, so he shot himself, twice. That took courage. He was a white martyr, for the white race.”

Cross burning

At this point, the audience was reminded that part of the rally was to be a memorial to the Klan members who had died this year.

Md. rally salutes fallen Klansmen: 1965

Salute to fallen Klansmen

“Get away from the cross, we don’t want anyone to get burned.”

“Now, if it was a N____, that would be alright someone shouted.”

“Amen, amen,” echoed the audience.

By now all eyes were focused on the giant cross.

To most Christians this is a symbol of the brotherhood of man; to this audience it was a symbol of hatred and terror.

I shuddered, sick inside. The sky was still overcast. Now came the slow, dull sound of taps. I could barely see the long-barreled rifle which startled me as it was fired upward into the darkness.

Suddenly, the cross was in flames….

The men who applauded, “Amen, Amen,” looked like men you would meet in Anytown, USA. They wore casual flannel shirts, work pants, some wore work caps.

The women mostly working men’s wives, were dressed informally. They all listened intently. They applauded loud and long when “white womanhood” and the “purity of our white race” was reaffirmed from the platform.

The speakers were almost religious in their intensity. As they repeated one after the other that race-mixing was evil; this was mongrelization of the pure American race; that the Klan had the only answer—there echoed again loud and fervent, “Amen, Amen.”


For another personal experience, one confronting the Klan, see https://washingtonareaspark.com/2013/01/02/standing-against-the-maryland-klan-1971-a-personal-memory/

For more information and related images, see https://flic.kr/s/aHsjDhRPzT

This account was originally published in the Afro American newspaper November 27, 1965. Images have been added to give the account context.

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