The Journal of San Diego History
Spring/Summer 2000, Volume 46, Numbers 2 & 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

By Carlos M. Larralde and Richard Griswold del Castillo

Photographs from this article

During the 1920’s, San Diego, along with many other Southwestern cities and towns, witnessed a new emergence of the Ku Klux Klan, a rebirth of the older secret organization that, in the nineteenth century, had targeted newly freed slaves in the South. The new Klan of the 1920s was a racist as well as a anti-immigrant organization targeting new immigrants and Jews as well as African Americans. In San Diego, the Ku Klux Klan particularly targeted Mexican immigrants. Thousand of Mexican newcomers were crossing into California every year lured by the demand for laborers in the fields and in the newly developed suburbs. There the Mexicans encountered other immigrants, white Midwestern Protestants, who were eager to find fortune in the west. For many of these white immigrants the Klan, as well as fundamentalist religious organizations, offered a solution for the anxieties they felt as they encountered a new environment and new peoples.1

While there have been several monographs on the Klan in the 1920s, Klan activities in Southern California have been ignored by most scholars. The Klan continues to exist under a new name, the White Aryan Resistance, and some of its main forerunners are from San Diego. There is an unbroken narrative of this hateful association in San Diego and its legacy has never been told.2

This is one of the first attempts to trace the activities of the Klan in San Diego using newly available records. Most of the San Diego Ku Klux Klan materials were donated to the San Diego History Center by local businessman Wayne Kenaston, Sr. in the 1980s. Also, the San Diego History Center’s oral history project interviewed Wayne Kenaston, Jr. gathering further documentation on the Klan and his father’s role in it.3

Needless to say, it is difficult to get reliable primary documentation about the Ku Klux Klan since they have attempted to keep their membership and many of their organizational activities secret. Their public actions have surfaced periodically in the press. But during the 1920s, Klan crimes were rarely recorded. Newspapers refused to investigate cases of Klan hatred because editors feared that negative publicity might create a bad image for San Diego and hurt its commercial growth.4

The resurgence of Klan activity in San Diego in the 1920s was led by descendants of old American stock.5 They presented themselves as defenders of Christian morality and law enforcement, and they were also chosen to be members of grand juries where they were able to influence district attorneys.6 About 1922, the active branch of the K.K.K. in San Diego was the Exalted Cyclops of San Diego No. 64. It flourished throughout the county.7 The Klan center was a large hall west of 30th Street near Idaho Street and University Boulevard in North Park. The San Diego chapter flourished even while the national Klan headquarters was overwhelmed with problems of graft, mismanagement, and personal clashes.8 The Los Angeles chapter also seemed to prosper as colorful pamphlets poured from their office and, used-automobile-parts dealer John Porter thrived as Klan leader and became mayor of Los Angeles in 1928.9

The San Diego Klan members paid $10 to join and usually met on the second Wednesday of every month. Faithful participants included Fred Crandall, a prosperous paint store owner, E. D. Goodwin, a mechanic who worked in Gilmore’s Bicycle and Toy Store, W. J. Simpson and his wife Myrtle, Earl S. Barr, and John S. Burbank. Actually, these cardholders were hard working, thrifty, middle class church-going individuals. Nevertheless, the Klan used the Bible and the old concept of manifest destiny to see themselves as superior and Mexicans as inferior and in need of control. “Keep in mind that some harmless members envisioned a gregarious Klan, ignoring its grim horrors to those it detested,” stated the attorney Carey McWilliams.10

San Diego Klan participants formed their own traditions. V. Wayne Kenaston, Jr., whose parents were members of the Klan, reminisced, “If my memory serves me correctly, my mother made me a miniature Klan outfit with a little hood….”11 A number of women joined the Klan and were strongly encouraged to participate so as “to propagate in or through such meetings, either directly or indirectly…” the Klan’s message.12 The San Diego Klan affiliates saw themselves as humanitarians, similar to other Klans who established schools and hospitals.13 The testimony of Kenaston, Jr., revealed white Catholic voters, mostly from the Blessed Sacrament Church on 56th and El Cajon, supported the Klan’s political committee. As Kenaston, Jr., stated, “I’m wondering if, in San Diego, there were actually Catholic Klan members of the Klan, or whether they were referring to the fact that Klan members might have voted for the people that the Catholics might have liked.”14 The Klan did influence some religious groups. In parts of Southern California, “Many [Catholics and Protestants] who were suspected of being Klansmen at first denied their affiliation, but when confronted with their official Klan and number and date of entry, they could do nothing but admit membership.”15 Some of them were members of Catholic War Veterans and the Knights of Columbus.

“Most Irish-American clergy had no sympathy for Mexicans who were seen as an endangerment to traditional American values,” noted economist Ernesto Galarza. “They often ignored the Klan’s abuses toward Hispanics.”16 McWilliams noted, “For the most part, the Church later ignored Klan atrocities and focused on Communism. One was Father Thomas J. McCarthy, editor and scholar, who later provided funds to the Klan to continue its anti-Communist crusade.” Also, the Klan received comfort from anti-Semitic, right-wing broadcasters: Gerald L. K. Smith, Father Charles Edward Coughlin, and William Pelley, a self-professed fascist.17

Anti-Mexican Activities in the 1920s and 1930s

Kenaston, Jr., somewhat disingenuously, avowed that the Klan never intimidated any ethnic groups even as he admitted that their main zeal was in “chasing the wetbacks across the border.” 18 Most Klan activities were clandestine, aimed at keeping recently arrived Mexicans from participating in community politics. As McWilliams noted, “They opposed white-collar jobs for Mexicans, who at one time were merchants or professionals in war-torn Mexico, and demanded a policy to force them into manual labor.” 19 Luisa Moreno, a labor union leader, stated, “The California Fruit Growers Exchange, the tuna cannery industry that had its base in San Diego, and other local businesses enthusiastically supported this concept.”20

There are some testimonies as to Klan activities by their intended victims. Kenaston, Jr. remembered that years ago east of 55th Street and El Cajon Boulevard, past College Avenue, there were lemon orchards.21 Among these citrus orchards in suburban San Diego and in the rural areas, Mexicans were occasionally discovered dead, sometimes disfigured by torture. An expatriated soldier of the Mexican Revolution, Mercedes Acasan Garcia, reminisced that in San Diego, “any Mexican worker who challenged authority or appeared suspicious of one thing or another would forfeit his life.”22 Garcia, who was a young maid for Mrs. Alice Victoria Hamilton, recounted, “At first the Mexican field hands were curious at the sight of these strange men on horses shrouded with snowy gowns and huge, spotless cardboard hoods over their faces. Others had white cone shaped hoods to add height and also disguise their faces. They had painted red crosses on them.” The workmen believed that they were pious Catholics who were penitents and wanted alms.23

In response to the danger posed by the Klan, Mexican workers sought the support of their local mutual benefit societies. Garcia was active in one of them. In tears, she described how she saw Mexican laborers being dragged and lynched; others whipped or burned. “Since they were ragged Wetbacks, nobody cared who they were and nothing was done about it.”24 When traveling to visit her relatives, Garcia took back roads to cross the U.S./Mexico border to avoid contact with the Klan who were trying to intimidate immigrants. Farm owners who required immigrant workers often opposed Klan harassment tactics. She recounted how, “These laborers in rural areas had their homes or barns burned. Several growers patrolled their fields to calm their sad and worried field hands; their crops were worthless without Mexicans.”25

Carey McWilliams, a Los Angeles Times writer, explained that Mexicans who were transported from the farm regions “probably saw conditions better than those in their homeland until they were exposed to the erratic temper and violence of the Klan.”26 Several groups like the California Cavaliers, the American Legion, and the Associated Farmers of California favored stopping the influx of Mexican foreigners into the United States. McWilliams characterized the Associated Farmers as “Farm Fascists.”27 The Klan’s publication, The Imperial Night-Hawk, noted that “foreigners are taking the places of our native sons…. These foreigners want a place in the sunlight, and our money, but when we trade with them, we build them up at our own expense….”28 The Klan Imperial Wizard H. W. Evans proclaimed, “To the South of us thousands of Mexicans, many of them Communist, are waiting a chance to cross the Rio Grande and glut the labor marts of the Southwest.” This Klan ideology influenced government officials and indeed some members of the local county and city bureaucracy were members of the Klan.29

During the depression of the 1930s, numerous Mexicans were deported from Southern California. Known as the repatriados, or repatriated ones, they were sent to Mexico. Some families were shipped from Northern California in trucks or cattle trains to San Diego and then dumped at the Mexican border. In several cases, mothers or fathers were separated from children. Some families never found their relatives.30

Under the leadership of Wayne Kenaston, Sr., from 1930 to 1931, the San Diego K. K. K. expanded. As a reward for his effective leadership and service, he received the title of “Klan Giant” from T. S. Moodie, the Grand Dragon of all Klans.31 An “Organizing Committee” met regularly in the 1930s to inquire about how to further expand the Klan. As their questionnaire and application stated, “The purpose of this investigation, being conducted among the membership, is to increase our attendance, strengthen our organization, and to further the spirit of the Klancraft….”32

Political and religious pamphlets and books such as Coin Harvey’s Tale of the Nations, published in 1894, which glorified the White Race as the custodian of civilization, were distributed as part of the educational program of the California Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Another book was Madison Grant’s The Passing of the White Race, warning that unrestricted immigration would create a degenerate nation of different races like Mexico.33

During this era, Frank G. Ellis of the U.S. Immigration Service in Calexico, recalled how he obtained information about immigrant smugglers. “We used to pay the informants out of our own pockets — I spent a lot of money for the government along that line.”34 He also related how some of the Mexican smugglers got Chinese immigrants across the border. Ellis was a Catholic family man who belonged to the Elks Lodge in Calexico. He soon dropped out of it because, “it became too much control by the Ku Klux Klan.”35

Even while K.K.K. activities threatened the safety of immigrants, Mexican families fought against discrimination. In 1931 in Lemon Grove, parents of 75 Mexican American students refused to send their children to an all-Mexican school built for them by the school board. The parents sued the school board and won in a landmark case. The Lemon Grove case was the first legal victory by Mexicans in challenging their separation in the school system.36

The San Diego Klan, meanwhile, announced it had a new leader, Richard A. Floyd. As one account reported, “He is fearless, honest, devoted to the cause of Protestantism, and I consider him an outstanding man among men of high repute and capable.” He and other new officers were installed in 1933.37 Floyd suffocated the Klan with his fierce iron will and pitted Klan individuals against each other in order to control the organization. Active in the local Republican Party, Floyd also dominated the American-Mexican Republican League, organized on July 2, 1934. Ironically, the league was designed to promote business relations with Mexico. Distinguished Mexican merchants joined it and their dues and other funds secretly went to the Klan.38

In 1937 Mexican President Plutarco Calles was exiled to the United States. According to historian Enrique Krauze, Calles stayed in San Diego for five years. Despite his cold and firm personality, Calles made friends with the influential Mexican businessmen of the American-Mexican Republican League. They all shared the same traits: anti-Communism, anti-Semitism, and anti-liberalism, sentiments the Klan also held. Carlos Montalvo, a local community activist, stated, “While reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf with interest and respect, Calles disregarded the Klan’s crimes against Mexicans as a frivolous matter. His biggest concern was getting back to Mexico.”39

Ironically, numerous Mexican Cristeros were also exiled in Southern California. They were named after their battle cry of “Christ is King,” and had bitterly fought Calles’s government. In 1934 the Cristeros carried huge crucifixes and other religious relics during several parades in Los Angeles and San Diego against the atheistic Russian and Mexican governments. At first most of them supported the Klan. They believed that the Klan’s painted crosses on their white gowns and their burning crosses symbolized Christ, Mary, and the saints. As Montalvo explained, “A few of the Cristeros attempted to join the Klan, only to be rejected. To their sorrow, they later discovered what the Klan was all about.”40

Bitter conflicts meanwhile erupted between Floyd and the Klan. In August 1939, Kenaston received an urgent letter from organizer S. E. Mendenhall, stating that “There will be a special Klan meeting at Hawthorne Hall…on August 25…. We wish to talk about reorganizing here, and wish your attendance.”41 To Mendenhall’s regret, Floyd prevailed as the Klan leader. He saw himself as the father of a family of minors that needed to be disciplined. With Floyd’s parsimonious budget and strict rules of discipline, the Klan survived by gaining respectability.

During the 1930s, the Klan began to merge with like-minded organizations such as the Silver Shirts League, the MinuteMen, and the White Guards. Historian Stephen Schwartz affirmed, “Many adherents of the Silver Shirts were former members of the Ku Klux Klan.” The San Diego Silver Shirts League, “a deadly fascist inspired group,” was planned with the purpose of attacking blacks, Hispanics, and Jews. Inspired by the Nazi SS mystique, the Silver Shirts saw themselves as an American counterpart, enforcing Aryan racial superiority through intimidation and violence.42

The Silver Shirts had other branches scattered throughout the United States. The San Diego chapter was well-known but ignored by most city officials who did not consider their anti-Semitic and anti-Mexican propaganda a problem. The San Diego Silver Shirts soon split into two groups, one under the leadership of Donald J. Niswender and the other led by C. T. Lee.43 Niswender’s groups held clandestine meetings where they performed mysterious rituals before a flag with the swastika. One confirmed tactic of the Silver Shirts was to seize governmental weaponry and learn military tactics that would enable them to “cleanse society of undesirable characters.”44 For the Silver Shirts the Mexicans were considered particularly undesirable, for in addition to being non-Aryan, they were from a country that, in their opinion, had a socialist president, Lazaro Cardenas.45

By the late 1930s the U.S. government was concerned about the activities of the Silver Shirts and Corporal E. T. Gray of Marine Corps intelligence was assigned to infiltrate and report back on the activities of the San Diego Silver Shirts. Soon Niswender discovered that Gray was an undercover agent and five Silver Shirts attacked Gray in downtown San Diego between C and Broadway Streets. They slit his face, fractured his skull, and sent him to Balboa Naval Hospital for two weeks. Later, two Silver Shirts shot at him.46 Cherishing the spirit of the Klan, the Silver Shirts rehearsed war games and practiced shooting their rifles, reportedly using Mexican wetbacks as targets. During their rallies, they dressed in blue corduroy knickers and a silver gray shirt with a crimson “L” (for liberator). They also wore blue ties and jackboots.47

Despite Hispanics’ attempts to avoid the Klan and the Silver Shirts, labor organizer Luisa Moreno vividly recollected how the groups helped the tuna industry, a major employer of Latinos, combat unionization by breaking up unions, and physical intimidation and violence. The Klan fight against unionism enabled the tuna packing companies to pay low wages. Companies like California Packing Corporation, Marine Products Company, Van Camp Seafood Company, and several others, financed the Klan to battle against union leaders like Moreno. Also, the Associated Farmers of California, the American Legion, and other extremists supported the Klan. In the end, Moreno was convinced that some of the tuna executives and the growers had employees that were members of the Klan and the Silver Shirts. Although she openly fought them, Moreno privately feared the Klan and other right wing radical groups. As she later recalled, “With the Klan, you never knew what they planned to do next or who they actually were. With the Silver Shirts, their ugly mouths were their worst enemies.”48

Bert Corona, another labor organizer in Southern California, stated, “The Klan and other radical groups were ruthless and intimidated many of our people with fear. They broke up our union strikes and clubbed several of our members.”49 Mercedes Garcia admitted, “Most Mexicans were staggered by the obstacles to stay in Southern California. The greatest adversary to stay alive was not the Klan but one’s determination to go on.”50

A Zealous Renewal

The 1940s saw a growth of Klans in California, with Los Angeles serving as its western headquarters. In 1940, it offered to aid the House Un-American Activities Committee and passed out anti-Communist brochures in downtown Los Angeles.51 The Klan burned a cross protesting Harry Bridges speaking in Huntington Park and attempted to sabotage a speaking engagement he had later in San Diego.52

During World War II, San Diego grew into a major port for the U.S. Navy and a center for the aircraft industry. Old prejudices endured, however. Several religious leaders throughout Southern California, like Methodist Bob Shuler, propounded a fundamentalist message from the pulpit defending the Klan against its Jewish opponents. He castigated the Mexicans who he thought were guilty of lewdness. To prove his point he labored over the rumor that Reverend Sister Aimee Semple McPherson had been kidnapped at Agua Prieta, Mexico. Later it was revealed that she had eloped with a lover.53

Klan associates like V. W. Kenaston, Sr., stayed active against Hispanic labor and civil rights activities. While a member of the Klan, he was on the Building Trades and Labor Council and also an affiliate of the Federal Mediation Service.54 Kenaston was well acquainted with the city’s mayor and councilmen, and with local bankers and merchants. With the friendship of Senator Jack Tenney, head of the California Un-American Activities Committee, it put Kenaston in an ideal position to incapacitate Mexican American civil and labor rights.

Meanwhile in war-time Los Angeles, former K.K.K. leaders ran for Congress and State Attorney General Robert W. Kenny was concerned how to prevent a resurgence of Klan activity.55 Fiery crosses were discovered in the front yards of some African Americans in Los Angeles and Kenny persuaded Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Paonessa to move to limit the Klan’s ability to organize since it “taught social hatred through violence.” Finally, on May 21, 1946, the Klan’s charter was revoked and it was denied the right to obtain a permit to operate in California. As Kenny affirmed, “The real victim, [of the Klan] the final victim is American democracy.”56

Following World War II, the Mexican American community was politically divided. A super-nationalist group arose, composed of members of the Alianza Hispanico-Americana, and was led by John B. Calderon. Another conservative group was the “Loyal Democrats,” which included figurehead Hispanics such as Oceanside resident, Hollywood actor Leo Carrillo. Together they ignored Klan activities and sided with Senator Jack Tenney, who conducted a witch hunt for Communists and militant labor organizers like Luisa Moreno.57 The Hispanic nationalist group, “Loyal Democrats,” simplified their views in a leaflet: “Leave us Mexicans out of your Communistic sneaky underhanded [activities]…. Any Mexican with a religious background would grind you…into meat.”58 Petrified by the threat of deportation, most Mexicans refused to testify against the Klan or discredit Tenney’s California Un-American Activities investigations. Moreno was soon brought before the committee and subsequently deported to Mexico. Tenney meanwhile concluded that most Mexicans in the civil rights organization, Mobilization for Democracy, “deliberately manufactured Ku Klux Klan acts of terrorism for political purposes. The Communist plan to utilize this front for agitational purposes in California…” was aided by the labor movement.59

To avoid deportation, discrimination, or the Klan, several Mexican aliens attempted to “whiten their skin” with the chemical hydroquinone. The San Diego lawyer, Alfredo Montoya, hated by the Klan and Loyal Democrats for helping Mexicans, tried to stop these dangerous skin treatments. According to Bert Corona, “He was a very self-sacrificing individual, with an almost priest-like dedication to his work.” Loyal Democrats and the Klan opposed Montoya as he assembled evidence of abuses against Mexicans by the Klan and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Another effort to combat hate crimes was the work of two trade union leaders in San Diego, Phil and Albert Usquiano. Together in the 1950s, they founded the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional (Mexican National Brotherhood), an association dedicated to helping immigrants preserve their civil rights. They chartered chapters throughout San Diego County, and were also affiliated with the Carpenters’ Union and the Laborers’ Union.60

They warned their members about the Klan. Moreno noted that “The Klan operated where there were few witnesses. One of their areas was remote farms. As before, they preyed on innocent, defenseless Mexican field workers. Local law enforcement refused to do much about these foreign Mexicans when they were murdered.”61 Even during the 1950s and 1960s, the F. B. I. refused to devote funds to curtail the Klan violence. Instead, they infiltrated those labor unions which they saw as supporting “extreme left-wing activities associated with violence.”62

Not much was heard about the Klan until the 1970s. People believed that the Klan in San Diego County was dead. Nevertheless, San Diego’s Police Chief Bill Kolender was aware that strong Klan groups had resurrected in San Diego and in Oceanside. A state of California report declared in 1980 that the Klan was stockpiling weapons, “allegedly preparing for the race war its members believed to be inevitable.” The United Klans of America put up posters that declared, “Don’t be half a man: Join the Klan.”63 Several Klan demonstrations took place in San Diego in this period.

By the late 1970s, a San Diego television repairman, Tom Metzger, emerged as California’s Klan leader. In the early eighties Metzger and forty Klansmen provoked a riot in Oceanside when they marched into John Lander’s Park to rid it of Mexicans and other aliens. In the ensuing melee, several people were injured as the Klan encountered a rock-throwing mob.64

Metzger warned in his publications, “Our nation will sink into the swamp of racial pollution known as the third world.” He preached that Mexico was the real threat since its population doubled every twenty years. By the year 2000, when Mexico’s population would expand to 125 million it would, in his words, “create a racial attack on the United States.”65

Chicano leaders like Chole Alatorre, Roberto Martinez, Bert Corona and others were active in the Hermandad Mexicana Nacional during the 1980s to protect minorities from Klan abuses. They were confronted by several ghastly revelations. On December 10, 1983, the Klan boasted of beheading undocumented aliens. Alatorre declared, “Several Mexican men in remote regions disappeared. Their wives saw them for the last time when they were driven out to work in the fields. Nobody saw them again. I believe that the sadistic Klan had fun with them and dumped their bodies in a crevice.”66 A former police officer, Douglas K. Seymour, testified at a six-hour hearing of the state Fair Employment Housing Commission in Oceanside on December 9, 1989, that the San Diego County Klan remained “one of the strongest chapters in the country.” As a reserve officer he attended Klan rallies, demonstrations, and cross burnings throughout Southern California. He rose in the organization to become one of the Klan’s leaders, Tom Metzger’s right-hand-man, a member of the inner circle of the white-supremacist organization. Seymour admitted that members frequently boasted of beheading and burying undocumented Mexicans. Roberto Martinez, a leader of the San Diego Chicano Foundation’s Law and Justice Committee, said most of the complaints he received from Mexican immigrants were police harassment and Klan beatings. “What we have here in North County is selective law enforcement,” Martinez announced.67

The police infiltrator, Seymour, kept undercover in the Klan in the late 1980s. As he declared, the Klan attempted to “adopt a more low-key underground type of activity” chiefly to undermine Mexican aliens and Chicanos. Eventually Seymour alleged that the San Diego Police refused to acknowledge his activities, declaring that his supervisor “ordered him to lie to the F.B.I., the county grand jury, Escondido police officers, and Palomar Hospital, who treated him for a gunshot wound.”68 Finally, Seymour was awarded $531,000 in a lawsuit against the police, claiming that the top command of the San Diego Police Department “had disavowed its undercover officer inside the Klan and destroyed his intelligence reports to deny allegations that police were illegally spying on a [mysterious] right-wing congressional candidate.”69

The full story of the Ku Klux Klan in San Diego and Southern California has yet to be told. What emerges from the scanty evidence drawn from the archives is a tenacious legacy of hate toward Mexican immigrants, Jews, and others who were branded as un-American. San Diego’s proximity to the U.S.-Mexican border along with its growing population drawn from all over the United States has made for a favorable environment where the Klan could recruit and sustain an organization that has died out in other areas of the country. The persistence of the K.K.K. and its offshoots thriving in “AMERICA’S FINEST CITY” is one of the disturbing realities of twenty-first century California.


1. The classic work on the rebirth of the KKK is Charles Alexander, The Ku Klux Klan in the Southwest (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965).

2. See Richard Melching, “The Activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Anaheim, California, 1923-1925,” Southern California Quarterly, LVI, 2, Summer, 1974.

3. V. Wayne Kenaston, Jr., Interviewed by Nancy B.Cuthbert, 8 February 1978, San Diego History Center Oral History Program. Hereafter, Kenaston, Jr.

4. House Executive Document, Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Special Committee on UnAmerican Activities at Los Angeles, California. 73rd Congress, 2nd Session, 1934, 4-6, hereafter, Congressional Hearings. See also, Cater Tarrance, “San Diego Silver Shirts,” 12, seminar paper, 1976, San Diego State University, item S.S., SDHC.

5. Arnold S. Rice, The Ku Klux Klan in American Politics (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs, 1962), 13. See also “Well Organized New California Klans,” The Imperial Night-Hawk, June 13, 1923, 5. This illustrated magazine was one of the official KKK publications printed in Atlanta, Georgia.

6. The Klan and other radical groups flourished in Southern California. See the Los Angeles Times, April 23, 30, 1922; Santa Ana Register, May 1, 1922; Anaheim Bulletin, December 31, 1924, June 4 and November 16, 1925; La Habra Star, July 2, 1924; Balboa Times, January 27, 1927.

7. The K.K.K. in San Diego was formed about 1922. See Constitution and Rituals, 1927-1928, Mss 203, V. Wayne Kenaston Papers, San Diego Historical Society, Research Archives, Box 1, File 1, Item 3, hereafter KKK, SDHC. For California Klan activities see, Ed Cray, Chief Justice: A Biography of Earl Warren (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 52-54, 56-57.

8. “Imperial Kloncilium Brands Charges Against Klan Officers ‘Absurd False and Malicious,'” Imperial Night-Hawk, June 27, 1923, 2-3. See also Kenaston, Jr. 3.

9. Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920’s (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 138-139. Starr has written several books on California history. He said, “I have a deep respect for Carey McWilliams and Robert Kenny for their struggle against the Klan in Southern California. As attorneys they curtailed Klan abuses against Mexicans.” Interview with Kevin Starr, October 12, 1994. See, Carey McWilliams, It Can Happen Here: Active Anti-Semitism in Los Angeles (Los Angeles: Privately Published, 1934), 11. Interview with Carey McWilliams, June 12, 1979.

10. “Letters, Miscellaneous, 1931-1939,” KKK, SDHC. See also item 19, a portion of a Klan member list, ibid. On several of these members’ occupations, see the San Diego City and County Directory from 1929 to 1935. Interview with Carey McWilliams, September 12, 1978.

11. Kenaston, Jr., 3.

12. “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Recognize Combine of Women’s Orders as Auxiliary,” The Imperial Night-Hawk, June 13, 1923, 5.

13. For example see “Will Break Ground for $125,000 Hospital to be Erected by Klansmen at El Dorado, Ark.,” The Imperial Night-Hawk, June 27, 1923, 8.

14. Kenaston, Jr., 4.

15. Rev. Donald Montrose, ed., The Story of a Parish” Its Priests and Its People, 1860-1960: The Centennial of St. Boniface Church, Anaheim, California ) Anaheim, CA: St. Boniface Parish, 1961), 153.


16. Interview with Ernesto Galarza, January 12, 1978. With few Latinos as priests or nuns, Latino Catholics remain largely segregated from other Catholics in the nation’s parishes. In this country, there is just one Latino priest per 10,000 Latino parishioners. See Margaret Ramirez, “Study Finds Segregation of Latinos in Catholic Church,” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 2000. See also David Rieff, Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (New York: A Touchstone Book, 1991) 164-165.

17. McWilliams Interview, September 12, 1978. Interview with San Diego civil rights leader Luisa Moreno, April 17, 1971, and Carlos Montalvo, January 7, 1992. For more on Thomas J. McCarthy see Carolina Walker, “Speakers Assail Reds,” Los Angeles Evening Herald & Express, March 10, 1949. On anti-Semitism, see Arthur Herman, Joseph McCarthy: Reexamining the Life and Legend of America’s Hated Senator (New York: the Free Press, 2000), 81, 82.

18. Kenaston, Jr., 5.

19. McWilliams Interview, June 12, 1979. The Klan used the same policy on Mexicans in El Paso. See Mario T. Garcia, Desert Immigrants: The Mexicans of El Paso, 1880-1920 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981), 250. See also Shawn Loy, War, Revolution, and the Ku Klux Klan: A Study of Intolerance in a Border City. (El Paso: University of Texas, 1985). Loy wrote about how the Klan dominated El Paso during the 1920s.

20. Interview with Luisa Moreno, April 17, 1971. Some of the same conditions could be applied to regions like El Paso. See, Desert Immigrants, 84.

21. Kenaston, Jr., 8.

22. Interview with Mercedes Acasan Garcia, June 12, 1979. For her military activities see Josefina Rendon, Justo Homenaje al Valor Herocio: Album 1911 (Tijuana: Artes Graficas, 1976), 28. She was fifteen years old when she aided the army with water and bullets.

23. Garcia Interview, June 14, 1979. In F 1, Garcia Papers, there is a thank you note from Mrs. Hamilton “for Coming.” Apparently, Garcia did some extra chores for her.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid. Another Klan victim was Heliodoro Barragan. See his testimony in Marilyn P. Davis, Mexican Voices American Dreams: An Oral History of Mexican Immigration to the United States (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1990), 11-15. For a comparison see the interview with Wally Sanchez, July 15, 1994, interviewed and edited by Robert Gonzalez, transcribed by Kathleen Case, conducted for the Redlands Oral History Project, AK Smiley Public Library Heritage Room, Redlands, CA.

26. McWilliams Interview, June 12, 1979.

27. For more on this era see Kevin Starr, Endangered Dreams: the Great Depression in California (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 161-162.

28. “Every Influence Needed on Side of Restrictive Immigration Bill,” The Imperial Night-Hawk, March 5, 1924, 5.

29. H. W. Evans, Attitude of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan toward Immigration (Atlanta: Imperial Palace, c1926), Imperial Instructions, p. 7. See also Evans’s The Practice of Klanishness (Atlanta: Imperial Palace, 1924), Imperial Instruction, Document No. 1 Series AD, 5.

30. George Kiser and David Silverman, “The Mexican Repatriation During the Great Depression,” Journal of Mexican American History, 3, 1973, 153; Abraham Hoffman, “Stimulus to Repatriation: The 1931 Federal Deportation Drive and the Los Angeles Mexican Community,” in Norris Hundley, ed., The Chicano (Santa Barbara, CA: Clio, 1975), 110.

31. Letter form T. S. Moodie, Grand Dragon, to V. W. Kenaston, April 14, 1932, Los Angeles. K K K SDHC, file 3, item 4.

32. Questionnaire from the KKK Committee, June 7, 1933, KKK, SDHC, Item 12A. See also eight copies of a card advertising KKK, no date, ibid., item 13AH.

33. Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997), 667. See also, “Body of Minutes,” February 2, 1933, Exalted Cyclops, San Diego, No. 64, KKK, SDHC Item 10.

34. Edgar F. Hastings interview with Frank Garfield Ellis, March 28, 1961, 17, San Diego History Center Oral History program. Hereafter, Ellis.

35. Ellis, 17.

36. Annie Reynolds, The Education of Spanish Children in Five Southwestern States (U.S. Department of Interior Bulletin No. 11 (Washington, D. C., 1933) in Carlos E. Cortes, ed., Education and the Mexican-American (New York: Anno Press, 1974), 13.

37. Exalted Cyclops to the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, San Diego, January 3, 1933, KKK SDHC, Item 7. See notice of Election of Officers, no date, Item 18A-C, ibid.

38. “Spanish G. O. P. Group Formed,” San Diego Sun, July 2, 1934; McWilliams Interview, August 12, 1979.

39. Interview with Carlos Montalvo, January 7, 1992. See Enrique Krauze, Mexican Biography of Power: A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996 (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997), 412, 436. See also Jean Perier to A. Poincare, April 29, 1924, Box 25, File 1, Correspondencia Diplomatica Francesa, Paris.

40. Montalvo Interview. See also, Jack Williams, “Carlos Montalvo, 82; active in early days of Chicano Movement,” San Diego Union-Tribune, February 15, 2000. See also Rieff, Los Angeles, 163-164.

41. Letter from S. E. Mendenhall to Klansman Kenaston, August [no date], 1939, Item 8A, KKK, SDHC.

42. Los Angeles Examiner, August 6, 1934. See Henry Schwartz, “The Silver Shirts: Anti-Semitism in San Diego, 1930-1940,” Western States Jewish History, XXIV, 1, October 1992, 52-60. See Stephen Schwartz From West to East: California and the Making of the American Mind (New York: The Free Press, 1998), 296. For more on these radical groups, see A. B. Magil and Henry Stevens, The Perils of Fascism (New York: USA International Publishers Co., 1938), 106-111.

43. San Diego Sun, August 6, 1934.

44. San Diego Union, August 8, 1934. A unique source of San Diego’s Silver Shirts was C. Leon de Aryan, the eccentric editor of San Diego’s The Broom. See the report of how the Silver Shirts were fighting for “Christian control,” The Broom, February 12, 1934. See also another issue with the headline, “Silver Shirts-Second Edition-Why?” The Broom, August 27, 1934.

45. Life, September 20, 1937, 37; Time, August 29, 1938, 19; McWilliams Interview, August 12, 1979.

46. Interview with Luisa Moreno, April 17, 1971; Montalvo Interview, January 7, 1992. See Congressional Hearings. Richard M. Sola, “The Case of Silver Shirts: Criminal Proceedings Against two San Diego Fascist Leaders, 1934-35,” legal history category, miscellaneous manuscript, SDHC.

47. San Diego Evening Tribune, October 25, 1934.

48. Moreno Interview, April 17, 1971. See also the Waterfront Worker (San Francisco), January 2, 3, 1933; March 5, 1934. See also Mss. 009 Box 16 of 27, Harry Bridges Legal Collection, Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, Los Angeles (SCL). In this collection, see Box 19, File 1, letter, June 22, 1939, Los Angeles lawyer Lee Coa to San Francisco attorney Aubrey Grossman concerning the Klan and the Silver Shirts.

49. Ibid. Interview with Bert Corona, April 25, 1980. The Klan remained active in San Pedro. See the Waterfront Worker, March 5, 1934, and Waterfront Worker, January 2, 1933. On page 3, it stated, “Ben Gusick and his gang were fired for this accident, and a Ku Klux Klan organizer, scab-herder, and a tool who helped to break the 1923 strike was put in his place….” For copies of this Southern California periodical see Mss. 009, Box 16 of 27, the Harry Bridges Legal Collection.

50. Garcia Interview, June 14, 1979. Even McWilliams wrote, “In short, the history of labor in California is really not a history of the struggle of unions to achieve recognition but of a

struggle for power between organized labor and organized capital…[which] accounts for the periodic convulsions in the state’s social history.” See Carey McWilliams, The Great Exception (New York, A. A. Wyn, Publisher, 1949), 130.

51. Los Angeles Times, March 31, 1940.

52. Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1940. McWilliams Interview, January 12, 1979.

53. McWilliams Interview, January 12, 1979. Daniel Mark Epstein, Semple Aimee: The Life pf Aimee Semple McPherson (New York, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1993), 264, 296, 314. For more on Shuler see Starr, Material Dreams, 136-137. Klan supporters used proverbs from the Bible, such as Deuteronomy, 7:3, 23:2 and Joshua 23: 12, 13. One Klan defender, the Rev. Bertrund L. Comparet, abused Biblical Proverbs in his pamphlet, “God Commands Racial Segregation” (Los Angeles: privately published, 1980).

54. Kenaston, Jr., 2.

55. See the commentary columns in Los Angeles Times, April 9, 10, 12, 1946.

56. New York Times, May 23, 1946, p. 23. See “Attorney General Robert W. Kenny’s Address Olympic Auditorium, June 14, 1946,” Box 22, Miscellaneous Files, I-M, file Ku Klux Klan, B 22, F 6, in Civil Rights Congress, Los Angeles Collection (SCL). Un-American Activities in California, 1947 (Sacramento, CA: Government Printing Office, 1947) 57-58.

57. Robert E. Burke, Olson’s New Deal for California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953), 22. Interview with Emil Freed, March 12, 1980. Carrillo remained a friend to Tenney and helped him with conservative causes. For more on Tenney’s blacklists, see, “Give Filmsters Chance to Erase Their Names Off Tenney Reports, ” Variety (Los Angles), July 23, 1954. In the end, he destroyed the careers of many people in the film industry, both Anglos and Mexicans. As McWilliams said in a UCLA conference in October 1976, “If Tenney did not like you, your career was in danger.”

58. See “FREE CLEAN AMERICAN MEXICANS 100%” to Civil Rights Congress, August 8, 1950, Miscellaneous Files, I-M, Ku Klux Klan Clippings, B 22, F 7, Civil Rights Congress, Los Angeles Collection, (SCL) Most Free Clean American Mexicans were composed of G. I. Form members, LULAC associates, and several religious groups like the Knights of Columbus. As McWilliams stated in an interview January 12, 1979, “Jack Tenney played on their sympathies to promote his career and destroyed those who questioned him”

59. For more on Moreno see Steve Murdock. ” A Question of Deportment,” in Our Times (Los Angeles and London), 1949, p. 3; Evening Tribune (San Diego), 27 June 1950, Sec. B, 1. See also, Carlos Larralde and Richard Griswold del Castillo, “Luisa Moreno: A Hispanic Civil Rights Leader in San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History, vol. 41, no. 4, Fall 1995, 285-311, and “Luisa Moreno and the Beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement in San Diego,” Ibid. Vol. 43, no. 3, Summer 1997, 159-175. See California Senate, Un-American Activities in California, 1947, (Sacramento, CA: Government Printing Office), 369.

60. See “From Black to White: Chemicals Lighten Dark Negro Skins,” Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1949, P-11. See also Ann M. Simmons, “Quest for LIght Skin is Darkening Lives in Africa,”Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2000. Different methods are still being used in an effort to bleach dark skin. Mario T. Garcia, Memories of Chicano History: The Life and Narrative of Bert Corona (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994), pp. 290-291. Interview with Bert Corona, April 25, 1980. See “Meeting Proceedings,” April 30, 1950, Box 8, F 15, Conference and Convention, Park Manor, 1950, Civil Tights Congress, Los Angeles Collection (SCL). It reveals how effective Luisa Moreno, Frank Lopez, Henry Schmidt, Carlos Montalvo, and others were fighting deportations, loyalty oaths, intimidation, police brutality, and other issues. Their attempts were later sabotaged by the McCarthy era.

61. Moreno Interview, April 17, 1971. See the California Eagle (Los Angeles), November 7, 1946; see the Los Angeles Sentinel, September 19, 1946, and October 31, 1946.

62. The F. B. I. continued to do the same thing during the 1970s. See Bryce Nelson, “Violence by Informants Indicated in FBI Memo,” Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1971.

63. Joe Gandelman, “Racism: Infiltrator requests federal investigation of Klan,” San Diego Union, December 10, 1983; Bill Callahan, “Kolender doesn’t recall approving KKK Spying,” San Diego Tribune, April 27, 1988. For more details see “Klan Storing Weapons in State for Race War, Deukmejian Says,” The Ventura County Starr-Free Press, (Venture, CA), September 30, 1980.

64. Bill Olsen, “Racial Discrimination hearing due in Oceanside,” Blade-Tribune (Oceanside), November 3, 1983; Eric Bailey, “O’side Police Prepare for Racial Hearing, ” Blade-Tribune, December 11, 1983.

65. Tom Metzger, “Viewpoint from the State Organizer,” in Ruben Botello, “Chicanos in Ventura County: A Demographic Analysis of Oppression,” (Ventura County Community Action Organization, 1983), 12.

66. Interview with Chole Alatorre, April 12, 1992.

67. Elizabeth Wong, “Klansmen here boasted of beheading aliens, infiltrator says,” San Diego Tribune, December 10, 1983. See also Tom Gorman, “Klan Infiltrator Settles With City, Takes His Story to Television, ” Los Angeles Times, March 1, 1989. Seymour had dreams for a best-selling book of his infiltration of the KKK for use as a movie or television miniseries.

68. Bill Callahan, “KKK Spy Seymour Claims Police Boss Ordered Lies,” San Diego Tribune, April 13, 1988; Richard Serrano, “Police Kept Infiltrator in Klan Despite Political Race,” Los Angeles Times, April 27, 1988.

69. Andrea Estepa, “Klan Infiltrator Is Awarded $531,000 in Suit Against Police,” Los Angeles Times, May 10, 1988.



Carlos M. Larralde is an independent scholar who has written several monographs and articles in Mexican American studies. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Larralde is the author of Mexican American Movements and Leaders (1976)

Richard Griswold del Castillo is Professor of Mexican American Studies at San Diego State University. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Griswold is the author of The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1990) and with Richard Garcia, Cesar Chavez: A Triumph of the Spirit (1995).

Photographs from this article