1948: Albany takes measures against Klan

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

In March 1948, the Ku Klux Klan, which had become just a shadow of the terrifying organization that it was during its peak in the South, was again making headlines through a series of Georgia rallies.

This came after a cross-burning and rally at which 300 hooded klansmen threatened "blood" in rural Wrightsville near Dublin if President Harry Truman kept pressing civil rights reforms.

It was worrisome enough for local officials that on March 24, the Albany City Commission voted to task its city attorney with drawing up an ordinance that would ban parades or demonstrations by people wearing hoods or masks -- an ordinance aimed directly at the Klan.

"The Klan has no place here or elsewhere and we'll take whatever action necessary to prevent demonstrations," Albany Mayor J.W. Smith told The Albany Herald.

The day before, a woman told local police that while she was stopped at a local intersection she was approached by a hooded man who encouraged her to join his secret society -- a move viewed by the police chief at the time as a veiled attempt to boost the Klan's Albany presence.

Also happening in March 1948 in the pages of The Albany Herald:

-- K.B. Hodges passed the gavel of president of the Albany Chamber of Commerce to Paul Keenan, who would later become Albany mayor.

-- The bodies of the city's first servicemen who died in battle in World War II were finally en route home for burial. The Herald reported that the bodies of Marine Sgt. Charles E. Orton and Army Pvt. Benjamin Marshall were aboard the USS Walter W. Schwenk and headed for the U.S. Their bodies had been recovered from cemeteries and burial grounds in Saipan and Honolulu, it reported.

-- Ezell Smith, a 14-year-old Albany boy, was charged with murder and jailed after fatally shooting his stepfather. Smith told police and reporters that he caught his stepfather, Marion Bell, beating his mother and grabbed a shotgun and shot him in the chest.

-- On March 5, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met with city and chamber officials to discuss their plans to make the Flint River "navigable" from Albany to the Gulf of Mexico. The ambitious plan called for the construction of a dam 18 miles north of Bainbridge, another dam 13 miles North of Newton and a boat lock. Officials said they'd likely to be able to "secure navigable water on the Flint River to the Gulf of Mexico within a few years."

-- A lady told The Herald that her newly-acquired French Brunard dog had gone missing. The coal-black animal with a white goatee likely would answer to the name of "Satan," the paper reported. The previous owners had apparently ingrained the dog with the notorious nom de guerre and, despite her best efforts to rename the dog "Tig," the lady said that "Satan" was what the dog most readily responded to. The dog was found a few days later. "A more happy and jovial animal spirit, Albany has never seen," the paper said.

-- Finally, in city briefs, The Herald reported that in an apparently not-so-anonymous meeting of the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter, "a prominent St. Louis, Mo., citizen is scheduled to speak in the Georgian room of the Hotel Gordon tonight. The meeting, an open discussion following the address, will be open to any drinker or non-drinker, free of charge."

E-mail government reporter J.D. Sumner at j.d.sumner@albanyherald.com.