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The Klan in Colorado

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Hooded white robes and flaming crosses usually are associated with the worst aspects of Southern culture. But there was a time, almost 80 years ago, when the Ku Klux Klan took over the Republican Party and dominated Colorado politics.

In the general election of 1924, Clarence Morley, a Klansman, was elected governor, and the state House of Representatives gained a Klan majority. Benjamin Stapleton, the mayor of Denver, consulted the Klan when making appointments. U.S. Senator Rice Means was elected with open Klan support.

The Ku Klux Klan, a national organization of white Protestants who supported "100% Americanism," terrorizing people of color and differing religions, marched and burned crosses in small towns throughout the state, from the eastern plains through the mountains to the Western Slope. City councils, mayors' offices, police and sheriffs' departments, county governments -- many fell under the Klan's control.

As Denver, Pueblo, Grand Junction, Cañon City and scores of other towns and cities succumbed to the Klan, only one major city escaped: Colorado Springs. Then, as now, El Paso County was a GOP stronghold, but the party leadership actively opposed the KKK, and the Invisible Empire never gained power at the base of Pikes Peak.

-- Ed Quillen

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