Klan cross blazes is Rising Sun, Md.: 1965
A Klan rally-goer holds a Confederate flag while watching the Ku Klux Klan cross blazing at a rally in Rising Sun, Md. November 6, 1965.
The rally drew over 3,000 people of all ages to the field owned by George B. Boyle about a mile and a half outside of town where tribute was paid to two fallen Klan members—Dan Burros and Matt Murphy. It was purportedly the largest Klan rally in Maryland in 40 years.
The rally also brought a few pickets and hecklers that were run off by Klan security before the rally began. A prayer vigil was held at two nearby churches decrying the Klan’s hate..
Burros was a New York Klan leader who took his own life after the New York Times published an exposure of Klan activities in the state that revealed Burros was Jewish. Murphy was an Alabama Klan attorney who died in an automobile accident.
Klan and other ultra-right groups largely hailed Burros as a hero. A statement by the National Renaissance party said in part:
“The late Daniel Burros is a martyr of the radical right! A true son of the white race, this lad descended from the blue-eyed, blond-haired stock that made the White Man supreme on the face of the early. Daniel Burros, racially, was not of mongrel half-Mongolian Khazar stock, but pure White Russian.
Robert Shelton, Imperial Wizard of the United Klans of America, issued a statement charging that Burros’ death was the result of “irresponsible snooping and prying of a sensation-seeking reporte4r.”
Shelton continued, “…it is regrettable that a brilliant young man—Dan Burros—whose love for his country and principles established and proclaimed by the Founding Fathers transcended all else…has been hounded into taking his own life.”
An account of the rally by Mae Rankin that resonates today appeared in the Afro American newspaper:
“I am really not the adventurous type, but I have a certain amount of intellectual curiosity about people and what makes them tick.
“This curiosity gave me the courage to ‘step where angels fear to tread’ and visit a certain peaceful cow pasture in Rising Sun, Md., on the evening of Nov. 6.
"Rising Sun is a small town, not far from the Pennsylvania line. On the streets pleasant people greet one another in a cordial manner as they shop in the few, scattered stores.
"When we stopped at the gasoline station to check the exact location of our ultimate destination, the attendant gave us directions in a friendly way.
"The sky was overcast that night. It was chilly. There was an unknown something that made me feel tight and cold. It was fear, real fear.
"I shivered in spite of the friendly faces and jokes from the platform. This was a large crowd, almost two thousand people, listening receptively to the speakers.
"As I looked around and observed the crowd—teenagers, young parents with small children, middle-aged men and women—I found it difficult to believe that this was a Klan rally.
"But there it was, right in front of me—the large cross with the petroleum soaked canvass wound around it. And there they were—the Klansmen and Klanswomen in their unmistakable robes, which they wore with pride.
"They mixed with the crowd, distributing their official publication, The Fiery Cross.’ Published by the United Klans of America, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
"The speakers, visiting Klan leaders from nearby states, were presented on a wooden platform, decorated with two black wreaths.
"Underneath one was the name, Dan Burros, and under the other, Matt Murphy.
"The flags were also conspicuous—American and Confederate.
"Ralph E. Pryor Jr., Grand Dragon of the Delaware Klan; Roy Frankhowser, Pennsylvania Grand Dragon, and Frank Rotella, King Kleagle of the New Jersey Klan, were the principal speakers.
"Vernon Naimaster of Essex, acting Grand Dragon of Maryland, said, 'I’m the bus driver they were talking about.' He was referring to news releases which had stated that he was an employee of the Baltimore Transit Company.
"Naimaster did not wear the Klan garb, but he was dressed in his Sunday best and seemed proud to be on this platform.
"Pryor presented the various speakers. He is a former policeman, in his thirties, who said that he had worked with the Vice Squad in Wilmington.
"He spoke with an air of authority when he quoted the alleged ‘startling statistics—regarding the number of white women raped by colored men there. There was no question in his mind as to how this critical situation should be handled.
“’The only answer is to organize a strong Klan,’ he thundered.
“’That’s right, that’s right,’ the crowd echoed.
"The visiting Klan leaders were unanimous in their hatred of President Johnson. They were furious because they were being ‘unjustly’ investigated by Washington.
"Said one speaker angrily, ‘See this ring on my finger?’ He held up his hand dramatically and paused…
“’In Washington they want to know who gave it to me. Well I won’t tell them, It’s none of their business. I’ll tell you. It was my mother,’ he screamed. The audience was silently sympathetic.
"I looked at the audience. Teenagers were everywhere; groups of young men with hard, tight faces. Yes this was definitely their cup of tea. Hate, hate. You get points for that.
"One speaker suggested that the only way to solve the ‘N__ah problem,’ was to send all the ‘N__ahs’ back to Africa…in a leaky boat.
"According to another authoritative Klansman, all Jews were Communists.
"Arthur Spingarn, former head of the NAACP, was feeding money from the Jews to the colored people in order to weaken America from within so that the ‘commies’ could take over. Marvin Rich of CORE, was also mentioned in this context.
"The Klan leader from New York had a very special and confidential message for the audience. He had worked for the Welfare Department during the day, but the Klan had his unquestioned loyalty at night. He had been dismissed from his job, he said, and was suing for his loss of income.
"He sounded most convincing when he told the audience about the colored people who would drive up to the Welfare Department in their Cadillac to collect their welfare checks.
"There was only one difference of opinion. One speaker stated that Daniel Burros, the New York Klansman who shot himself, was framed! Another leader stated that ‘Dan Burros was not a Jew. But for some unknown reason his parents were married in a synagogue.
“’He [Burros] wanted to protect the Klan, so he shot himself, twice. That took courage. He was a white martyr, for the white race.’
"At this point, the audience was reminded that part of the rally was to be a memorial to the Klan members who had died this year.
“’’Get away from the cross, we don’t want anyone to get burned.’ ‘Now, if it was a N____, that would be alright someone shouted.”
“’Amen, amen,’ echoed the audience.
"By now all eyes were focused on the giant cross.
"To most Christians this is a symbol of the brotherhood of man; to this audience it was a symbol of hatred and terror.
"I shuddered, sick inside. The sky was still overcast. Now came the slow, dull sound of taps. I could barely see the long-barreled rifle which startled me as it was fired upward into the darkness.
"Suddenly, the cross was in flames….
"The men who applauded, Amen, Amen, looked lie men you would meet in Anytown, USA. They wore casual flannel shirts, work pants, some wore work caps.
"The women mostly working men’s wives, were dressed informally. They all listened intently. They applauded loud and long when ‘white womanhood’ and the ‘purity of our white race’ was reaffirmed from the platform.
"The speakers were almost religious in their intensity. As they repeated one after the other that race-mixing was evil; this was mongrelization of the pure American race; that the Klan had the only answer—there echoed again loud and fervent, ‘Amen, Amen.’”
For another personal experience, one confronting the Klan, see washingtonareaspark.com/2013/01/02/standing-against-the-m...
For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHsjDhRPzT
The photographer is unknown. The image is an Associated Press photograph housed in the D.C. Library Washington Star Collection.