The Ku Klux Klan in Spokane

The Ku Klux Klan invokes visions of hooded men burning crosses and intimidating non-whites in southern states. But in the 1920s, those frightening sights would have been familiar to Spokanites, too.

The Spokane Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was organized in 1921 with elected officers, membership dues, and over 100 members. According to local newspapers, the upstart Klan was relying on political influence more than violence to achieve their goals. Most individuals who belonged to the Klan maintained their anonymity, and the members names were rarely published in the newspapers.

One Klansman though, Reverend C. A. Rexroad, was not shy about his affiliation with the robe and hood. Rexroad, a long time minister, moved to Spokane from Butte, Montana where he became the pastor at the Corbin Park Methodist Episcopal Church. Rexroad came under fire when he was outed in the newspapers as the Grand Cyclops of the Spokane Ku Klux Klan. His photo was plastered in the headlines and his bosses were notified of his role in the KKK. 

Due to public outcry, Rexroad was removed as the National Guard Champlain, his membership in the American Legion was questioned, and the board of the Corbin Park Methodist Episcopal Church met to determine Rexroad’s future. The board unequivocally supported the reverend and vowed to “stand behind Mr. Rexroad no matter what comes or goes.”

Klan gathering described in pro-Klan newspaper, The Fraternalist, June 12, 1924.

Although there was no substantial opposition to the Klan, one group formed a resistance. The Organization of the Three Brothers was founded in 1921 with the hope of removing all KKK members from political office in Spokane. (I have not discovered anyone specifically, but this likely means that Klan members did hold political office in Spokane.) Despite their efforts, the Klan continued to grow through the 1920s.

In 1924, under Rexroad’s leadership, the Spokane Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan held a large initiation ceremony on Five Mile Prairie. One hundred and fifty new members were initiated while they stood at the base of a ninety foot tall cross engulfed in flames. According to a pro-klan newspaper, over 4,000 klansman and 3,000 visitors attended the ceremony. Although smaller than chapters in southern cities or in Portland, the Klan was a powerful political force in 1920s Spokane.

 

This article was originally published in Nostalgia Magazine as part of my bi-monthly column “Heroes and Scoundrels.”

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