One movement for racial tolerance shone a ray of hope for minorities in Colorado Springs during a particularly dark period in the state’s history. The Ku Klux Klan wielded great influence and power in Denver and in state politics in the 1920s. In 1925 Governor Clarence Morley and most Republicans in the both the House of Representatives and Senate answered to the state Grand Dragon, Dr. John Galen Locke. Administrative appointments were made to Klan loyalists and appropriations to most state agencies cut, arousing the ire of two Republican state Senators from El Paso County, Lewis Puffer and David Elliot, who led a fight against Klan-backed legislation.
City leaders woke up after a near-win by Klansmen in municipal elections on April 6, after which a Civic League quickly formed to fight Klan influence in El Paso County (Note that an earlier Civic League existed from 1909 to 1914 that advocated for women’s suffrage and acted as a shadow government to scrutinize elected officials). Thousands of local residents signed on with this movement that spread statewide, and Colorado Springs arose as the leader and home of an anti-Klan rebellion. National Klan leaders came to the state to discuss the problems caused by the anti-Klan movement in Colorado Springs.
Klan leaders in state government vowed to undermine Colorado Springs elected representatives and eliminate any support for the city. The Gazette ran articles and editorialized against this menace, calling it a civic duty to purge government of this threat to democracy. Eventually Klan influence diminished in the state. Although the anti-Klan movement was largely led by business interests worried about the ill-effects on attracting commerce and industry, there were genuine concerns about racial tolerance, social tranquility, the general prosperity, and the very real threat to representative governance. The community stance against the Klan, while largely unknown today, stands as a bright moment in the city’s history.
Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs