The Ku Klux Klan and I clashed a couple times during the late ’70s while reporting the arrest and trial of Tommy Lee Hines, accused of abducting and raping a white woman in Decatur, Alabama. Ever been to a KKK cross burning? Join me as I narrowly avert getting my skull bashed in with a two-by-four.
I can only speak from personal experience as a reporter for The Decatur Daily newspaper covering both sides of the numerous confrontations between the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), their supporters and sympathizers, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and their supporters and sympathizers.
Reporting as fairly as I knew how from the streets of Decaur, and later Cullman, Alabama, I was continuously under fire from the KKK for being, in there eyes, biased in my reportage. I never heard any feedback from the SCLC or the black community.
One night I was covering a KKK cross burning in a field in Cullman County. A man, armed with a 2X4 approached me and asked my name. When I told him he said, “We don’t like what you been writin’.”
I answered I was simply doing my job as a reporter. He looked at me steadily, and I noticed his arm beginning to rise, club in hand. I started to shit myself.
A TV camerman from Channel 48 from Huntsville, Alabama, was standing about 50 feet away, his back to us, watching the blazing cross light up the night sky. His camera was at rest… he was not filming, just watching.
I began raising my voice to the Klansman, not in anger, but as a way to get the camerman’s attention. Loudly, then even more loudly, I proclaimed that I was only doing my job and if he had a complaint he should see my editor. The man’s arm had almost reached above his head when, finally, the Channel 48 cameraman, in one motion, pivoted while, at the same time, raised his camera accompanied by a blinding beam of light, bathing the Klansman and myself in its glare. The man’s arm slowly lowered to his side. I turned and walked quickly away.
I wasted no time getting the hell off that field. I almost ran to my car, heart pounding, and drove home to Athens, Alabama. Soon after, I left The Decatur Daily. I was done with being a newspaper reporter. And so, I became an elementary school teacher. This video highlights some of my fifth grade students’ art.