We stood together against Klan

On October 25, 1993, the people of Wilmington and Clinton County came together to respond to a visit from the Arkansas-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some 20 Klan members stood on the west steps of the courthouse speaking to a crowd of approximately 250 according to police estimates. Speaking to press and television reporters from Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus prior to the rally, Thomas Robb, the national director of the Knights, said, ”We’re misunderstood … We’re not against any group… We think all groups have a right to be who they are – white people, too.”

In his speech later he commented, “It’s time for a white, Christian revival to touch the hearts of our nation and you can be part of it, part of a movement that cares about the future.”

Dan Nixon, then-City Editor of the News Journal, said, “Law enforcement from 14 counties stood in line for lunch at the Wilmington Fire Station Saturday. The fire trucks had been moved to the city service building and tables and chairs set up in their place. It looked like a convention of Ohio law enforcement. At least 229 deputies from 14 counties, some as far away as Cuyahoga County, along with police from six villages and cities, had signed in that morning.”

This was just one stop for this Klan; later they stopped in Columbus and finally at a Fayette County residence near the Clinton-Fayette county line.

Prior to Saturday, the 25th of October, Mayor Nick Eveland urged residents to avoid downtown Saturday and either stay at home or attend the Community Day Celebration at the fairgrounds.

A full schedule from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Saturday started off with the Fulton Street Five Plus One (Harry Hague, Rick Johnston, Richard Z. Smith, John Morris, Charles Hargrave and Pete Eveland).

Other groups included the Collegium Musicum, the CC Community Concert Band, the Free Fall Band and the Wilmington High School Choir. A wide variety of booths and displays were also present as well as activities for youth organized by the Girl Scouts.

At 2:30 p.m. a worship service featuring Rev. Larry Harris commenced. His carefully chosen words moved everyone to stand and clap to such comments as, “All people are of color, some of us have more and some of us have less.”

He also added, “Don’t pay any attention to any hate groups, black, white or other, because they are all the antithesis of Christianity.” He concluded by asking the audience to “Say amen someone.”

Dan Nixon reported that the building vibrated with the response. Inspirational songs were led by Larry Harris Jr. and Rob Haskins.

That Community Day attended by some 2,000 locals hit a chord that was followed by two or three more such celebrations.

A community-wide celebration of this sort serves many purposes, but above all it brings the community together with a common spirit. In light of too many recent events in our society that expose divisions and even hate, anything that helps bind us together is important.

Maybe it is time for us to consider another day to celebrate a deep sense of community unity.

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus of Wilmington College.

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Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist