Reports of Investigators on Meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ku Klux Klan

From: Florida Legislative Investigation Committee, Records, 1954-1965, Series S 1486

Reports of Investigators on Meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Ku Klux Klan

About This Document

During the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s-1960s, a number of southern states established governmental committees to investigate the activities of civil rights and communist organizations that were deemed subversive. In 1956, the Florida legislature established a special joint committee known as the Florida Legislative Investigation Committee. The committee, popularly known as the Johns Committee because former Governor Charley Eugene Johns served as its first chairman, was established to "investigate all organizations whose principles or activities include a course of conduct on the part of any person or group which could constitute violence, or a violation of the laws of the state, or would be inimical to the well being and orderly pursuit of their personal and business activities by the majority of the citizens of this state."

Over the next ten years the committee investigated civil rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the NAACP, and white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. They also explored the activities of pro and anti Castro organizations. The committee's mandate was expanded in 1961 to include the investigation of homosexuals and the "extent of [their] infiltration into agencies supported by state funds." The committee was particularly concerned with reports of homosexual activity on Florida's college and university campuses. Always controversial, the committee was eventually disbanded in 1966.

Following the disbanding of the Johns Committee, its records were kept in the legal custody of the Florida Legislature and were closed to research. As a result of the efforts of a number of Florida historians and historical organizations, the records were opened for limited research in the early 1990s. While the original records were kept in the custody of the State Legislature, a duplicate, photocopied set was transferred to the Florida State Archives and opened for public research. Chapter 93-405 of the Laws of Florida, however, prohibited the disclosure of the name of "any witness, any person who was the subject of the inquiry, or any person referred to in testimony, documents, or evidence retained in the committee's records," except for committee members and staff, or other public officials "not a subject of the inquiry." Consequently the names of all such individuals have been redacted from the copy in the possession of the Florida State Archives.

Reproduced here are the reports of a Johns Committee investigator who attended a Southern Christian Leadership Conference meeting and a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1964.


27 July 1964

SH from JB

Found Klan rally site late afternoon of 25 July, on U.S. 441 just north of town, (bout two miles). Banner out with KKK sign.

[Introduced] myself, this was about 5 p.m., to two men and two boys found at site. One man, wearing cowboy hat and khaki shirt and pants, named [redacted] forgot name of other, who said he from Jacksonville, he [apparently] [laryngectomy], had hole in throat for breathing..about 50 years old, balding and wearing glasses. Recall one boy's name as [redacted]. They said rally time was 8 p.m. Said no rally upcoming Sunday night, but that there had been one Friday night.

Returned to town, to eat, and to phone [redacted]. Arrived at rally scene, about 7:45. [redacted] was on hand, and gave him [some] small photos of his appearance at press conference in St. Augustine in June.

Checked with [redacted] regarding shooting activities. He found youth in Klan robe and hat, and asked for head man of local activity, to get permission. Lad said he'd look, but never reported back. [redacted] recommended me, and said "he's been through some real fire with us in St. Augustine."

Noted arrival of another cameraman, and later saw WJXT stationwagon, which also had inscription "[redacted], Photography" He was equipped with Keystone 16 mm camera, and a sun gun, but he never shot. Kept away from him, just in case press not welcome, only [redacted], [redacted] and the unidentified lad knew me.

Meeting began with brief address by man introduced as [redacted]. Then unidentified [...] with Klan robe, but no hat, made brief speech as to reason for meeting being good white Klansman had been shot by nigger, was in hospital, and his family needed money. He identified the victim as "Brother [redacted]"

This man also said it had been reported to him that some in the audience had been drinking, and he asked that anyone who was drinking to leave. Brief invocation, stressing God's guidance for white supremacy cause, then followed by cross-burning. About 50 robed and hooded klansmen and women circled around crosses.

Same man then introduced "a good brother who has something to say to us. This individual was a tall, gray-haired and bearded man, with glasses and string bow tie. Had earlier heard him addressed as "professor." He was not identified by name on the platform.

He said that due to the possible adverse publicity, he would read his remarks, although usually spoke extemporaneously.