Profiles in OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: Albert Hetebrink, Fullerton Rancher
If you were a proud, upstanding White man during the 1920s, joining a fraternal organization was a must. Catholics joined the Knights of Columbus or the Knights of Pythias; worldwide-domination types preferred the Masons. The Elks, the Kiwanis, and many, many others: they all did good and upheld American values.
Then you had the loser fraternal organization in town: the Klu Klux Klan, the only one stupid enough to stress white supremacy as its raison d'etre, even though the other fraternal organizations were practicing and supporting the same policies of segregation that the Klan desired. So it took a pretty stupid, racist baboso to join the Klan, especially in a place as lily-white as Orange County. As a result, the Klan's numbers weren't as large as those of the other fraternal organizations, and you had families that had Klan members and non-Klan members.
And that's where we find the Hetebrinks of Fullerton.
The Hetebrinks were a prominent Fullerton ranching family, with their family home still standing on the corner of Berkeley and Chapman avenues in the city. That house, seen above, is named the John Hetebrink House and remains in the family's possession even though it's surrounded by Fullerton College, parts of which sit on the old Hetebrink ranch. There's also a Henry Hetebrink House on the Cal State Fullerton campus (named after the patriarch of the family), a Hetebrink conference room at the university as well, and a Hetebrink Street on the development.
Neither Henry nor John were Klan members, but the Hetebrink that eventually received the most recent attention was: Albert. He lived to be 101 years old, passing away in 2001 after receiving all sorts of hagiographies in the Orange County Register for being one of the last connections to the good old days of Fullerton. Like the rest of his brothers, Albert was a rancher until that trade went away, then became a lovable old coot who never married and lived alone in that huge home his father built. By all accounts, Albert was a nice guy--but again: in an era when fraternal organizations were everywhere, it took a special kind of sick to join the Klan.
As pointed out earlier in this series, the Klan was at its nastiest not in Anaheim (where Orange County historians erroneously claim the Klan found its most enthusiastic members) but in Fullerton, where members actively campaigned to keep Mexicans away from their homes and eventually created Mexican-only schools as well. Why Albert joined the Klan and not the Kiwanis or other groups is known only to him, but the record stands...and not a single other Hetebrink joined the Invisible Empire.
Tune in every Monday at 5 p.m. for the latest entry exposing Orange County city fathers who were Klan members!
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