Profiles in OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: William Starbuck, Fullerton School Trustee, Druggist

With the eyes of America turned to Orange County yet again for our hilarious haters, let's take a moment to focus again on the city that inspired the Obama-as-ape email lunacy: Fullerton. Man, I'm starting to believe that GOP operative who told me a couple of years ago that Fullerton is the most racist city in Orange County--and when OC Republicans are uttering truths, you know something is wrong with this world.

The operative made his assertion before I found out about the Alex Bernal case, before I discovered that Fullerton was much more a hotbed of Klan activity than Anaheim, before Marilyn Davenport pushed the Send button on that Obama-as-ape email. Put those incidents in perspective, and the analysis makes sense. And that's before I found out about William Starbuck.

Starbuck was one of the most important men in early Fullerton, on the same level as an Amerige, a Chapman. He opened the city's first drug store, helped Fullerton get its own Carnegie Library and opened the first, published postcards extolling Fullerton's beauty, and served as the young town's postmaster and school trustee for 15 years. The druggist also helped lead the efforts to protest Mexicans moving into Fullerton, sat on a school board that created Mexican-only schools, and played a prominent role in an episode involving the Klan, corruption, and city officials.

On November 19, 1924, law enforcement and Prohibitionist types staged a massive raid against bootleggers in Orange County. What wasn't proclaimed at the time was the Klan's heavy hand in planning the raid, and that the raid mostly targeted its opponents--including a focus on Latino bootleggers. All would've been fine--except the Klan got greedy. Its leaders began publicly proclaiming that the raid was the work of the Klan, a response to the Orange County District Attorney's office and its enemies being lax on enforcing Prohibition. They also began presenting bills to various city councils asking they recompense the Kluckers for their valiant action. Starbuck, acting on behalf of the Klan, asked Anaheim (then run by a Klan-dominant council) for $2,800. Fullerton, also with a Klan majority on the klowncil, also received a bill.

The Klan's attempt to bilk taxpayers with their friends brought an angry response from the Klan's opponents. Charles S. Chapman (son of Charles C. Chapman, the Chapman behind the Chapman streets in Orange and Fullerton, and the university) filed an injunction in Orange County Superior Court to stop the Fullerton council from paying the KKK. Starbuck appeared alongside the Rev. Leon Myers, reviled in the Orange County history books as the man who brought the Klan to Orange County, and attacked the lawsuit. On the witness stand, Starbuck admitted to discussing the raid with his fellow Kluckers on the Fullerton City Council but wouldn't answer if he had conspired with them to have the Klan reimbursed for their raid.

The injunction worked. In retaliation, Starbuck, Myers and the rest of the Klan asked the California attorney general to investigate OC DA Alex P. Nelson, a move that the Anaheim Gazette--the Klan's fiercest public opponent, and one run by Henry Kuchel, father of future U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel--said was an attempt "to pose as martyrs before the people to the glorious cause of Ku Kluxism." Such moves turned the public at large against the Klan--although not in all cities, as we'll see later in this series.

As for Starbuck? His legacy is secure in Fullerton. His book case where Fullerton's original collection of library books is safely kept in the current library. And despite trying to rip off Fullerton taxpayers with his hooded buddies, city officials named Starbuck Street after him in 2000, oblivious to the man's past.

Tune in every Monday around 5 p.m. for the latest entry exposing Orange County city fathers who were Klan members!

Previous entries:

Hoyt Corbit, Yorba Linda Pioneer, Fan of Richard Nixon
Lucien Proud, La Habra mayor/school trustee
Albert Hetebrink, Fullerton rancher
Henry W. Head, Orange County godfather
Dr. Roy S. Horton and Marshall Keeler, Santa Ana Unified trustees
Sam Jernigan and Jesse Elliott, Orange County sheriffs
Herman Hiltscher, Fullerton bureacrat


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