© 2022 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
KSOR Header background image 1
a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ku Klux Klan Impacts Southern Oregon Politics in 1920’s

The Ku Klux Klan swore in its first Oregon klansmen in Medford in 1921.  Within two years, the Klan claimed 35,000 members and more than 60 chapters in Oregon, as well as organizations for women, teenagers and foreign-born Protestants.

The Klan impacted the politics of Jackson County and statewide elections in 1922.  A gathering in Roseburg drew approximately 2,000 masked klansmen from Southern Oregon, and hooded klansmen marched in Ashland’s Fourth of July parade. 

A writer for the Oregon Encyclopedia said, “the overwhelming majority of members were ordinary Oregonians who represented a cross-section of their communities.” 

The Medford Mail Tribune editorialized against the Klan while the short-lived Medford Clarion became its mouthpiece.

Historian Jeffrey Lalande writes, “Increasingly implicated in murderous violence in other states, and tarred with financial scandal in Oregon, the Invisible Empire rapidly lost ground…”

By 1924 the Oregon Klan had disbanded, although some local Klans lasted a few more years.

Lalande says the Klan’s “swan song” in Southern Oregon was in 1924 when a large contingent of klansmen paraded down Ashland’s main boulevard, an airplane carrying an electrically illuminated cross circled overhead, and the Ladies of the Invisible Empire served ice cream on the city hospital’s lawn.

Sources: Lalande, Jeffrey M. A Dissertation Presented to the Department of History and the Graduate School of the University of Oregon in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. "It Can't Happen Here" In Oregon: The Jackson County Rebellion, 1932-1933, And Its 1890s-1920s Background. 1993. Web. 9 Aug. 2016. http://soda.sou.edu/awdata/030911e1.pdf; Toy, Eckard. "Ku Klux Klan." Oregon Encyclopedia. Portland State University and Oregon Historical Society, 2016. Web. 9 Aug. 2016. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.