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Eldon Edwards

Eldon Edwards, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, talks to Wallace about the South's attitude toward the KKK, the Klan's membership, segregation, the NAACP, communism, and J. Edgar Hoover.
NOTE: This interview contains language that may be offensive to some people.

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Guest: Eldon Edwards

WALLACE: Good evening. My name is Mike Wallace. When plans were made to bring these interviews to you over a national network, sponsored by a national advertiser, doubt was expressed in some quarters as to my freedom as a reporter to select and interview my guests. I think what you're about to see provides an answer to such doubt. There will be some, I'm sure, who will feel it is amistake to give network exposure to Eldon Edwards, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

WALLACE: To you who feel that way I respect your views, although I do not share them. This will be an unrehearsed interview with Eldon Edwards. I don't know what he will say. But the opinions he expresses will be his, not those of myself, the network or my sponsor; for understanding that censorship can never contribute to public enlightenment and for providing me, a reporter's freedom to go after the facts, my acknowledgments to the sponsor Philip Morris, Incorporated.

ANNOUNCER: New Philip Morris, probably the best natural smoke you ever tasted presents:


WALLACE: Tonight we go after the story of the Ku Klux Klan from its boss -- his name, Eldon Lee Edwards. His title, Imperial Wizard of the U. S. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. We'll try to find out what Mr. Edwards, you see him here at a cross-burning, is for and against. We'll try to find out just how strong the Klan is how dangerous and how they justify their activities.

WALLACE: We'll ask who their supporters are and we'll try to ascertain whether the Klan is a potent faithful representative of Southern feeling or whether the Klan is as some Southerners describe it something to laugh at, something comical. We'll also try to find out what kind of man the Imperial Wizard is himself what he thinks of Jews, Catholics, inter-marriage, the Republicans and the Democrats. These stories in just one minute.


WALLACE: And now to our story. Three years ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was not equal and in effect the law of the land was changed. And with segregation outlawed, the Ku Klux Klan again began to ride in the South crosses burned, bombs were exploded, some people were hurt.

WALLACE: The most conspicuous and mysterious of the South anti-integration machinery is led by forty-eight year old Eldon Lee Edwards. He's married. He has no children. He works by day as a ninety-two dollar a week automobile paint sprayer in his home-town of Atlanta, Georgia. By night, berobed, he becomes the Imperial Wizard of the U. S. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan... said to be the Klan's most powerful group.

WALLACE: Mr. Edwards, we've heard reports from down South that your group is not taken very seriously. How influential how much respect would you say the U. S. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is in the South?

EDWARDS: Well as to just how much now... it would be hard to estimate. But the Ku Klux Klan itself is an organization here to stay.

WALLACE: Here to stay but do people regard it as something comical, as kind of a comic opera?

EDWARDS: No... no... they do not.

WALLACE: You feel that the South respects the Klan?

EDWARDS: Well they do -- they respect the Klan for the principles of which it stands.

WALLACE: Well in the light of this respect that you describe, how do you account for a report like this, Mr. Edwards I'll read from the New York Times -- December 16, 1956 describing the appearance of three robed Klansmen on a street in Montgomery, Alabama in broad daylight. "Several Negroes, quote... this is from the Times, "looked unflinchingly at the robed men and began to smile and then to laugh."

WALLACE: "There were whites, too on the corner of Court Square and grins of amused incredulity were on most of their faces. One of them scratched his chin as he watched the hooded Klansman and he said: Looks like they've been lost out of one of them old movies."

WALLACE: And then the Times article goes on to say: "Nothing more vividly illustrates the change in basic race attitudes in this Cradle of the Confederacy than the disregard and the amused contempt that the Negroes and it must be emphasized most of the whites -- now express openly for the Ku Klux Klan." Now if these... if this is the way that things are, Mr. Edwards, and we have received similar reports from throughout the South, how much respected can the Klan really be?

EDWARDS: Well, the Klan is respected as of now, and at the speed the Klan is growing and organizing today, then it will gain the respect of the people of the United States.

WALLACE: How do you account for this? This was published nearly three, four months ago in the Times.

EDWARDS: I only account for that is that being propaganda sheet material.

WALLACE: The New York Times, in your estimation, is a propaganda sheet given to spreading this kind of propaganda.

EDWARDS: That material there is. Now I recall the incident in Alabama, they refer to three Klansmen there. Well they would come nearer being three thousand than there were three. And that was a prelude to an outing there that same night, a cross-burning, an outing of the Klan itself, a rally so to speak.

WALLACE: Well, to not just that incident. They don't talk just about that incident. They talk about the attitude of the South generally. According to an article on the Klan, in the April 30thissue of Look magazine, your group only one of nearly a dozen Klan groups as I understand it... is the most powerful down there with about fifty-thousand members.

WALLACE: Now the area in which your Klan reportedly operates has a population of at least 17 million people, three and a half million in Georgia alone. What I don't understand is why you have so few members, Mr. Edwards, if the Klan as you say represents the South and is respected by the South.

EDWARDS: Well, for the same reason, Mike, I don't understand how they arrive at a number... an estimated membership there of fifty-thousand or a hundred-thousand...I don't know how they arrive at that.

WALLACE: Well...

EDWARDS: And no one has that information but me... I do not divulge it.

WALLACE: What's the reason for not divulging that information?

EDWARDS: Well... it's part of the secret of the organization. It is a secret fraternal order, you know.

WALLACE: And for that reason you feel perfectly within your rights not to divulge the numbers of your membership.


WALLACE: So you think that as far as this Look magazine article is concerned, fifty-thousand members probably is a... a gross understatement of..."

EDWARDS: Very much so.

WALLACE: "...a gross understatement of Klan membership."

EDWARDS: Sure...

WALLACE: Without going into specific figures, would you care to say percentage wise about how...there are three and a half million people in Georgia percentage wise about how large a percentage of Klan members?

EDWARDS: Well, you must understand for each member of this organization, there will be ten to twelve sympathizers and for various reason they might not belong. They might not become active members.

WALLACE: What kind of reasons?

EDWARDS: Well, for domestic reasons, several different reasons, of course.

WALLACE: Here's what Florida's Governor Le Roy Collins has to say about the Klan's political power in a series of articles on the Klan, in the Minneapolis Tribune, by Clark Mullinhof and Fletcher Neville. Quote Governor Collins: "For every vote a Klan tag candidate will get from the Klan in Florida, his opponent will get five. The Klan is not significant at this time...too many people laugh at it". There's that line again... about the Klan being comical.

EDWARDS: Well, that makes him the joke hisself. That makes the Governor the joke, for making a statement like it, if he made that statement now. Don't get me wrong. I don't believe anything Mullinhof would say anymore after the story in Look magazine.

WALLACE: The story in Look magazine that Mullinhof wrote, you said, you say is inaccurate.

EDWARDS: It's a fake and a phoney.

WALLACE: You have been quoted as saying: "There is an awful lot of Christianity and fraternity in our organization."


WALLACE: That was a Mullinhof quote also. That... quote... you do agree... you made that statement.

EDWARDS: I agree there.

WALLACE: You believe that the Klan fights for Christianity?

EDWARDS: It does.

WALLACE: Well let me quote from what we were told earlier this week in your own home town of Atlanta by a couple of white Baptist ministers, ministers of your own denomination. The Rev. 0. Norman Shanz, for instance, of the West End Baptist Church -- 2,750 members -- quote -- "Edwards does not have my support and I don't approve of the Klan's methods and philosophy. Most Baptist ministers I know were glad when the Klan was outlawed years ago. We favored a law not vigilantes and terror." And the Rev. Thomas J. Holmes of the First Baptist Church of College Park which is your own suburb, is it not, sir?


WALLACE: I disapprove of the Klan, he said, and its methods...of the secrecy of its actions and because it resorts to violence and near-violence; to say that most Baptists of the South would support the Klan would be dead-wrong.

EDWARDS: Well, that's evidence there that he didn't know anything about what he was talking about when he mentioned the violence in there. He was mostly wrong there, now, you must remember too there's a distinction between a preacher and a supposed-to-be preacher. And there's a distinction between a man that knows what this organization is and a man that doesn't know.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting the Rev. Thomas Holmes of the First Baptist Church of College Park is not a preacher... is not a responsible...

EDWARDS: He doesn't know what he's talking about.

WALLACE: Do you know the man?

EDWARDS: No...I don't know him.

WALLACE: Do you know the Rev. 0. Norman Shanz?

EDWARDS: No... I do not.

WALLACE: Tell me this, Mr, Edwards, this probably is the nub of the problem in a good many people's minds... what will the Klan do when the Supreme Court decision on desegregation in public schools is carried through say in Alabama or in Georgia. Is it your plan to oppose it by violence?

EDWARDS: No... it is not. This organization does not go in for violence... in no respect.

WALLACE: You are not involved and never have been nor do you want violence.

EDWARDS: Never will be.

WALLACE: I see... Well... what is your plan then?

EDWARDS: Well this plan is to fight the thing morally.

WALLACE: How do you fight it morally?

EDWARDS: It's a moral condition there -- desegregation is. God Almighty created the races and segregated them...sent them each on their own destiny.

WALLACE: Where do you find that information, sir?

EDWARDS: In Exodus 27 Verse 26...I believe it is.

WALLACE: I'm not suggesting that you can quote it... book, chapter and verse to me but what does the God Almighty say about the segregation of the races? In Exodus...what?

EDWARDS: I believe 26...27 -Verse 26.

WALLACE: What is the substance of what He says...

EDWARDS: Well...just right off I couldn't quote it to you.

WALLACE: But you do have the book, chapter and verse...

EDWARDS: Oh, yes...

WALLACE: But you're unable to quote the...

EDWARDS: In other words, if you read the Bible from lid to lid it preaches and teaches segregation. He created the fowl of the air. He created the fish of the sea. He created the animals. He created the man. He all... He sent them all on a separate...

WALLACE: And you believe then, therefore, from the Scripture that segregation is handed down by Scripture's laws.


WALLACE: And, therefore, when your Baptist ministers from your own hometown suggest that the attitude of the Klan in that respect is wrong. They're wrong -- they're interpreting the Scripture incorrectly.

EDWARDS: I regret to say that they're not my Baptist ministers. My Baptist minister upholds the God's law... the God's word...

WALLACE: You say...

EDWARDS: The teaching of the book...

WALLACE: Mr. Edwards, you say that the Klan rejects violence?

EDWARDS: It does.

WALLACE: Well...let me quote to you again from the series on the Klan in the Minneapolis Tribune: Your own Grand Dragon in Alabama who's here in New York with you tonight, the Rev. Alvin Horn is quoted in that article as having said not once but many times "Negroes who try to force their way into our white schools, are not looking for an education...they're looking for a funeral."

EDWARDS: Well...I didn't hear him say that.

WALLACE: You think that it's possible that he may have said that?

EDWARDS: I doubt that.

WALLACE: Mr. Mullinhof and Mr. Neville suggest that he said it...not once...

EDWARDS: I don't believe anything that one of those birds said on it

WALLACE: Will you believe your own papers from down South?

EDWARDS: No...I do not.

WALLACE: You don't believe your own papers?

EDWARDS: The news papers?


EDWARDS: Christ, no.

WALLACE: The Atlanta Constitution -- December 29, 1956. Quote: "The Director of the Camden High School Band said today he was beaten by hooded men who accused him of making a pro-integration speech. The Birmingham News November 1, 1956 -- Quote: "Armed, robed, and masked men pulled cripple from home near Negro area. The men were wearing white robes reaching below the knees, hoods with masks fastened under the chin." These are just two I can quote to you and I'm sure you understand that I can...

EDWARDS: I don't know anything about the last one now, but the first one in Camden, South Carolina, there was not a Klanman involved there.

WALLACE: You know this for a fact?

EDWARDS: I do know that for a fact. Had there been a Klansman involved there, he wouldn't have been a Klanman any longer.

WALLACE: Alright... let's get off of violence perhaps as you understand it... and get to violence of this kind. Robert Byrd. of the New York Herald-Tribune reported on April 19th in a series that he wrote on the Klan. He said: Character assassination, boycotts, open-warnings, anonymous telephone calls, threatening letters; all these are common techniques used by the Klan that help gain conformity to its views on matters local or national.

WALLACE: Now...if you preach non-violence and peace...and we must take you at your word that you do and that you do not want violence, do you employ those non-violent techniques to get your beliefs across?

EDWARDS: Let me set him straight there on one thing: This organization here itself -- and I refer to it as a protestant faith organization has been denied freedom of the press. We do not have freedom of the press. We are completely denied freedom of the press...and anything you read in any of the major papers... is mere propaganda... and not the true facts.

WALLACE: You say you don't have freedom of the press, Mr. Edwards and yet these are Southern people, a good many of them, who believe in segregation...believe in it sensibly and whole-heartedly. And their aims then are the same as your aims...why then won't they grant you, who have the same aims as they do, freedom of the press?

EDWARDS: Well...the smaller press does. The smaller papers. The weekly papers and things of that nature.

WALLACE: Well, who controls the dailies and why won't they grant you freedom of the press?

EDWARDS: Well, it is a controlled press...you well understand that.

WALLACE: Controlled by whom?

EDWARDS: Well...we had some presses where they were giving us fair publicity- stop all at once, you go ask them why. They tell you right quick pressure was put on them.

WALLACE: Pressure by whom?

EDWARDS: Well...we won't go into that at this time.

WALLACE: Why not?

EDWARDS: Well...the Anti-Defamation League.

WALLACE: Pressure by the Anti-Defamation League?


WALLACE: For what reason? How can they put pressure on...

EDWARDS: Put them out of business.

WALLACE: How can a newspaper down there, like the Atlanta Constitution or the Birmingham paper. How can they put them out of business?

EDWARDS: You must remember that this Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal there is owned by Cox in Ohio and it's financed and supported by the business of Atlanta. And then it's edited and published by the NAACP.

WALLACE: The NAACP edits and publishes the...

EDWARDS: Well... verbally speaking.

WALLACE: The NAACP edits and publishes the Atlanta Constitution.

EDWARDS: Well, they're more or less behind the editing and publishing of it that's what I mean.

WALLACE: What do you think of the NAACP, sir?

EDWARDS: Well, I don't think much of it.

WALLACE: What's wrong with it?

EDWARDS: Well, I've never found anything good about it.

WALLACE: Well, what...but specifically, what's wrong?

EDWARDS: Well, its... I think, commonly known that it's a foreign inspired organization from start to finish.

WALLACE: Foreign inspired?


WALLACE: Foreign dominated dominated by what foreign country?

EDWARDS: Well...it has a communistic leanings.

WALLACE: The NAACP has communistic leanings.

EDWARDS: That's right.

WALLACE: Foreign inspired and foreign dominated.

EDWARDS: I think that's pretty much established.

WALLACE: Well, may I quote to you then, sir, your opinion. Or may I quote something to you and then ask you for your opinion of this? This quote comes from J. Edgar Hoover; he is a devoted anti-Communist I think you'll agree?

EDWARDS: I agree.

WALLACE: Head of the F. B. I.?


WALLACE: Quote... "Equality, freedom, tolerance are essential in a Democratic government. The NAACP has done much to preserve these principles and to perpetuate the desires of our founding fathers." End quote...J. Edgar Hoover. How can you reconcile the fact that you say that it's a Communist dominated, a foreign dominated group, at the same time that the head of the F. B. I. of the United States would ...confounds you?

EDWARDS: I don't have the list at hand...here...I could give you the names and the citations of Communistic activities -- Communist affiliations of the officers...not all the officers but a majority of the officers of the NAACP.

WALLACE: Then J. Edgar Hoover has been taken in. He is a dupe.

EDWARDS: No...J. Edgar Hoover hasn't been taken in... he knows what's going on in this country.

WALLACE: Why in the world would he make a statement like that then, sir?

EDWARDS: Well, maybe he made it, maybe he didn't. I don't know.

WALLACE: He made it, believe me. In one piece of Klan literature that you furnished us it is charged... quote..."One drop of Negro blood in your family destroys your white blood forever". I take it that you believe that.

EDWARDS: Well, I wouldn't, I wouldn't define it down to one drop... now. But here it stands to reason as common sense, that Mongolization means destruction...it means the destruction of the white race...it means the destruction of the Nigger race.

EDWARDS: I sure will believe in segregation for the simple reason we believe in preserving and protecting God's word. He created the white man. He intended for him to stay white. He created the nigger. He intended for him to stay black. And we believe that Mongolization destroys both races and creates a Mongol which is not a race.

WALLACE: You do believe then, a mixing of the blood of Negro and white, will lead to the downfall of the white race and of the Negro.

EDWARDS: That's right. And eventually the destruction of this country.

WALLACE: Well, I'm sure that a good many Klan members, whether in the Armed Forces during the Korean War or the Second World War, Mr. Edwards, and that some of them were wounded and needed blood transfusions. We were told last Friday by Col. Bryant Fenton, Executive Officer to the Office of the Army Surgeon-General that quote" Blood segregation is not practiced in the Army Medical Corps."

WALLACE: In other words, some of your Klansmen probably have Negro blood in their veins, a fair amount of it right now, as a result of transfusions that they received in the Army. By those circumstances, under those conditions, does that mean that they are not white men any longer?

EDWARDS: Well, it could show up in the offspring.

WALLACE: Do you know this to be a medical fact, sir, or is this a mind...

EDWARDS: Well, you have conflicting reports there from the medical side of this thing. Some of them will go along with it. Some of them will not.

WALLACE: What political power, if any, does the Klan wield and where? What important politicians do you influence, or believe in you?

EDWARDS: I'd like to put this over. This is not a political organization.

WALLACE: I know... but there...

EDWARDS: By no means whatsoever.

WALLACE: What political people, for instance in Georgia, are sympathetic to the Klan and its aims? And its methods? The Governor of Georgia?

EDWARDS: Well, we're fortunate to have a government in the state of Georgia, I'll put it that way, we do have a state government in the state of Georgia... some states do not have...

WALLACE: The Governor of Georgia is on your side then?

EDWARDS: Well now... I wouldn't put it that strenuous... The Governor, may I say, is a good Governor.

WALLACE: We checked with Governor Marvin Griffin about a half an hour ago, he's the Governor of your state of Georgia, this is what he had to say, quote: "I don't know Eldon Edwards, never have seen him, I don't belong to the Klan. When I was Lt. Governor and President of the State Senate, we passed the Unmasking Law."

WALLACE: We asked him if he thought the Klan was a good thing --he said no. We tried to get a statement from Senator Herman Talmadge, Democrat, Georgia, your state. And after a spokesman conferred with the Senator, we were told as follows, quote "The Senator doesn't want to have anything to do with Eldon Edwards. He's a very objectionable character and we don't want to be associated with him in any way."

EDWARDS: Who said that?

WALLACE: A spokesman for Sen. Herman Talmadge.

EDWARDS: I don't think he was a spokesman for Herman Talmadge.

WALLACE: We talked to this man in Sen. Talmadge's office several weeks ago.

EDWARDS: I would like to put it this way that Klan-ish minded people sent Herman Talmadge to the office he holds. Also the Klan-ish minded people sent Marvin Griffin to the office he holds.

WALLACE: Let me ask you this, sir. I have here a statement in the official Communist newspaper in the Soviet Union -- Pravda, September 10, 1956.I wonder if you'd listen to it and then answer me out of your heart how you feel about it?

WALLACE: Quote from Pravda: "How can one measure the bitter cup of humiliation and suffering from which the Negro people in the United States have been forced to drink at schools, in buses and trains everywhere. There are restrictions on Negroes imposed by the whites alone.

WALLACE: There is the much praised democracy and freedom for you. It is this democracy which Washington, D. C. is trying to export." Now, sir, what is your reaction when your avowed enemy Communism -- grinds out anti-American propaganda based on the actions of the Ku Klux Klan?

EDWARDS: Well, I don't care to even answer a bunch of skunks of that nature, in the first place. But I would like to just make this one statement that if just such elements of death would leave the Negro alone in this country over here. For eighty-five years we have gotten along with the black race in this country. For eighty-five years we have raised the Negro up from you might say slavery to where he is today.

EDWARDS: We have educated the Negro. In my home state down there, the nigger faced 3% of the tax. He draws three dollars to every one dollar for the white, right back. That in my home state alone. And then this element of that nature over there... pushing the Negro around... kicking him... using him for a tool... and the nigger himself don't know that.

WALLACE: What do you want to do for the Negro, you of the Klan?

EDWARDS: The same thing that the white people has done for the last eighty-five years: continue to help the nigger, support the nigger, give him his education, pay his schools, pay his teachers...

WALLACE: Under the circumstances... but all separate but equal. All separate but equal.


WALLACE: And the fact that the Supreme Court thinks that's a bad idea, doesn't make a good deal of difference to you?

EDWARDS: Well, the Supreme Court in that decision tore down a pattern, a pattern that had been set for eighty...some seventy-eight years. Three different decisions was handed down and in this decision here the word equal was substitute for the same, well equal and same is two different words.

WALLACE: The Supreme Court's ruling read: To separate children from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone. And the Supreme Court went on: We conclude that in the field, of public education the doctrine of separate but equal has no place; separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. You people...

EDWARDS: I disagree.

WALLACE: One final question, sir, we have only about thirty seconds for an answer to this one. Today the activities of the Klan have been confined pretty much to the deep South. Do you have any plans or any reason to believe that sections of the North will organize Klan groups, and if so, where?

EDWARDS: I have been asked a question; was this organization confined to the South. No, it definitely is not and it is operating in Northern states.

WALLACE: Do we have a Klan here in New York City?

EDWARDS: Yes. I'm looking for a Grand Dragon, how about you? You would make a pretty good one.

WALLACE: Mr. Edwards, thank you very much for coming to New York and giving us the benefits of your views.

EDWARDS: It's been a pleasure to be here, Mike.

WALLACE: Tonight, defrocked of some silence and some mystery, you've heard what the Ku Klux Klan believes, extremist perhaps in its aim; nonetheless the Klan is large and determined. For that reason, the Ku Klux Klan should stand on its own merits, whatever they may be, open to public scrutiny and evaluation.

WALLACE: Tonight's guest has been here at my invitation, the views he expressed are his, not mine, not the ABC Network's, not those of this station, and certainly not those of the sponsor, Philip Morris, Inc. My acknowledgment goes to all these who have allowed me a reporter's freedom to go after some facts which seemed to be of national importance. In a moment, a rundown on next week's interview.


WALLACE: Next Sunday -- Mother's Day we'll go after the story of a social critic who has led an attack against that great institution, the American mother. He is Philip Wylie, author of "Generation of Vipers" -- a stinging portrayal of Mom as lazy, gum-chewing, over-weight, and to quote Mr. Wylie ..."With not enough sex-appeal to budge a hermit ten paces off a rock ledge".

WALLACE: Does Philip Wylie still charge that Momism is strangling the male ego with apron-strings? And why does he claim that Pop is Mom's stooge, slave and misguided worshipper?And what does Mrs. Philip Wylie think of her husband who has scathingly criticized everything from Momism to Christianity; from air-travel to our foreign policy in his latest book," The Innocent Ambassadors". This story next Sunday... till then for Philip Morris... Mike Wallace...good-night.


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