Stephenson Trial: Internal Klan Conflicts Linked to Downfall of Second
by Lindsay Dunn
Posing the Problem:
In the early 1920’s, D. C. Stephenson was one of the most powerful men in the
In 1925, his reign ended. On Monday, November 16, 1925, a judge in
However, this simplistic interpretation of the events neglects much evidence. Interviews show that many Klan members, especially women, doubted the victim and supported Stephenson. Except for the anti-Klan Indianapolis Times, newspaper reports attacked Olberholtzer’s character rather than Stephenson’s character.
Although a number of Klan members supported Stephenson, officials in the Klan did not. A year before the conviction, Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans and other Klan leaders caused Stephenson’s dismissal from his home klavern in
I propose that the fall of the Klan in
result of feuding between Klan leaders. Evans, and other Klan officials, attempted to gain more power by turning the public against Stephenson. However, instead of gaining more power, these leaders destroyed the Klan.
The Indiana Historical Society owns a private collection entitled the D.C. Stephenson Collection. The Collection includes numerous journals maintained by Stephenson before and after the trial. The collection also includes articles of correspondence between Stephenson, Evans, and other Klan officials. I plan to use this information to interpret Stephenson’s relationship with other Klan leaders and better understand his rise to power in
My primary resources also include a speech by Evans entitled “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism,” found in North American Review, and the Journal of the National Horse Thief Detective Association, Stephenson’s private police group journal. These resources provide insight on Klan ideology and activity. The records for the murder trial are missing, but reports from local newspapers such as the Indianapolis News, Indianapolis Star, Indianapolis Times, and Kokomo Dispatch describe Klan activity before, after, and during the trial and also provide numerous editorials and interviews of Klan and city officials, common Klansmen and Klanswomen, and the public.
Pulitzer Prize winning My Indiana, by Indianapolis Times writer Irving Leibowitz, contains reproductions of parts of the missing trial transcripts.
Traditionally, scholars linked the fall of the Ku Klux Klan in
In newer texts and articles, such as Leonard Moore’s Citizen Klansmen and Rory McVeigh’s “Power Devaluation and Defensive Mobilization: The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Fall of the Political Left,” scholars discuss the activities of the typical Klansmen and voting trends of the 1920’s. These arguments also fail to discuss in detail the links between Stephenson’s conviction, internal Klan corruption and the decline of Klan activity.
Other scholars argue in support of Stephenson. William Lutholtz’s Grand Dragon and Robert Butler’s So they Framed Stephenson primarily address the trial and Stephenson’s (believed) innocence.
My argument will not dispute Stephenson’s effect on the Indiana Klan. By establishing links between internal Klan conflict, Stephenson’s downfall, and
the decline of the Indiana Klan, I will better explain the causes and effects of the events.
Section One: Brief overview of events in the nation and Indiana in the 1920’s leading to the rise and fall of the Second Klan
Section Two: Presentation of thesis: The fall of Klan activity linked to internal conflict
Section Three: Discussion of Stephenson’s background as a Socialist leader and rise to power in Indiana
Section Four: Discussion of the Indiana Klan and the appeal of Klan ideology
Section Five: Discussion of power struggles within the Klan (Evans, Simmons and Stephenson)
Section Six: Discussion of Klan activity during Stephenson’s trial
Section Seven: Conclusion: The causes and effects of internal conflict within the Klan
Evans, Hiram Wesley. “The Klan’s Fight for Americanism.” North American Review. March 1926.
D.C. Stephenson Collection,
Journal of National Horse Thief Detective Association
Blee, Kathleen M. Women of the Klan.
Butler, Robert A. So They Framed Stephenson.
Horowitz, David. Inside the Klavern: The Secret History of the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920’s.
Jessup, Micheal Morris. “The Decline of the 1920’s Ku Klux Klan: A Sociological Analysis.” Ph.D. diss., Southern
Katz, William Loren. The Invisible Empire.
Lutholtz, William M. Grand Dragon: D.C. Stephenson and the Ku Klux Klan in
McVeigh, Rory . “Power Devaluation and Defensive Mobilization: The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Fall of the Political Left.” Ph.D. diss.,
Moore, Leonard Joseph. Citizen Klansmen:The Ku Klux Klan in
Moore, Leonard Joseph. “White Protestant Nationalism in the 1920’s: The Ku Klux Klan in
Weaver, Norman F. “The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in