All right, kids, calm down. Yes, that is a man posing in a Ku Klux Klan robe on our cover and in our pages. Sí, the outfit is incredibly offensive, code for racial terror and doesn’t belong in polite society, let alone a family paper such as this one. Yep, the man beneath the hood is Congressman Dana Rohrabacher . . . okay, maybe not, because we hear he prefers dressing up as the Taliban.
But we trot out the outfit of the hooded menace to speak truth to an uncomfortable part of Orange County life: We continue to honor KKK members and will likely do so forever.
Nearly every Monday for the past two years on our Navel Gazing blog, I’ve written “OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members,” an award-winning series identifying the city councilmen, school-board members and celebrated citizens of yore who just happened to belong to the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. During that decade, the group used death threats and burning crosses to try to take over Orange County, only to find defeat in the form of District Attorney Alexander P. Nelson (see “Klanbuster,” Jan. 12, 2012). Nelson shut down the group by obtaining the Klan’s membership rolls and threatening to publish names in the press; the move worked, and the list had largely stayed hidden since until the Weekly obtained a copy and did what Nelson never dared to do.
OC society has largely forgotten this terrorist past, so much so that the ensuing decades found Klukkers rehabilitating their image and hiding their past so that future generations immortalized them in the form of buildings, parks, schools and streets named in their honor—a quiet victory for the Invisible Empire. So what better way to remind us of this rancid history than to get a model to pose in a Klan robe in front of their monuments? The following is just a smidgen of the many Klan names that are part of Orange County civic life—a far more insulting reality than wearing a Klan robe for a sensationalist cover story. Find more pictures on our Navel Gazing blog, and enjoy!
(Or click on place names below to be taken to each photo.)
This majestic building sits on the campus of Fullerton High School and is named after Louis E. Plummer, longtime superintendent for Fullerton schools. Many of Plummer’s Klan friends—William Starbuck, Harry Byerrum, Joe Royer, among others—also have Fullerton streets and parks named after them. 201 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton.
ORANGE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT
Sam Jernigan and Jesse Elliott were two former OC sheriffs who were Klan members, and we have their membership forms to prove it! 10 Civic Center Plaza, Santa Ana.
John F. Pieper was a Tustin councilman and, according to the Klan’s membership rolls, its only Tustin Klukker.
“Hoyt Corbit’s face is strong and wise and kind,” read a Life story from 1970, “and he is one of those who really hold this country together.” And one of those who really joined the Klan, too! The Yorba Linda farmer knew Richard Nixon’s father, Frank , and helped to spearhead the Nixon Birthplace Foundation, the precursor to the Nixon Library.
The Hilgenfeld name is renowned among the city’s Mexicans as a wonderful place to pay respect to the dead. Far less known is that its founder, Samuel F. Hilgenfeld, was a Buena Park minister who was one of many holy men who joined the Klan during the 1920s. That sound? Hilgenfeld rolling in his grave at the thought of Mexicans using his premises. 20 E. Broadway, Anaheim.
William E. Fanning was a longtime teacher in Brea, as well as schools superintendent. The school recently had an African-American principal, proving that not only does God exist, but his sense of humor is wicked. 650 N. Apricot Ave., Brea.
Clyde Fairbairn “led a quiet life in Olive [now Orange] with relatively few personal changes, and was regarded by many citizens as a community-minded individual,” one historian wrote. He didn’t mention, though, that ol’ Clyde was Klan.
PLAQUE OF LUCIEN PROUD
Outside La Habra City Hall is a plaque listing Proud’s many accomplishments in his civic career—why not the Klan part? 201 E. La Habra Blvd., La Habra.
Named after Joseph Lowell, a Santa Ana farmer and Klanman.
Named after former Huntington Beach mayor Eugene Edward French, the city has it misspelled as “E.B. French” Park. Guess it’s better to have as a mayor a Klanman than a felon, right? 3482 Venture Dr., Huntington Beach.
 Frank Nixon was misidentified as Donald Nixon, his son. Corrected Jan. 21, 2013.