Byrd's Albatross--The Kleagle and the Klan
Perhaps now we know why Robert Byrd keeps standing up and ranting for what seems like hours about absolutely nothing of any import on the floor of the Senate...He needs the face time because he has a new book out on Monday!! (Or it could just be that he is as totally senile as he appears, take your pick). I will be neither buying nor reading it, as I hope the West Virginia University Press loses its shirt on this one. This doorstop is 770 pages long, and is entitled, "Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields".
The "Child of the Appalachian Coalfields" is once again trying to explain away his involvement with the Ku Klux Klan--now, to understand how difficult this is for him, let's not forget that the "Child" was not just a hooded nobody on the outskirts of the KKK, a lost babe wandering through the Appalachian coalfields, an ignorant nobody who was recruited under false pretenses...the "Child" was the organizer of his local chapter of the KKK. And far from being taken in by a recruiter, Byrd was an official recruiter for the Klan, a "Kleagle." So as you might expect, his book appears to be another flight into fancy for the "Child," as his remembrances don't seem to have much to do with reality.
In the book, according to MSNBC and the Washington Post:
"Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites -- doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other 'upstanding people' who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan."
Now this is thin enough on its face...there was no Elks club in West Virginia? The boys wanted to make a fashion statement in their oh-so-chic sheets and hoods around the poker table? The "elites" didn't know what the Klan stood for? But that's the "Child's" story and apparently he sticks with it for 770 grueling pages.
Even the Washington Post can't quite swallow this, however--Eric Pianin points out that "the account is not complete. He does not acknowledge the full length of time he spent as a Klan organizer and advocate. Nor does he make any mention of a particularly incendiary letter he wrote in 1945 complaining about efforts to integrate the military." In the letter in question, the "Child" says that he would never fight
“with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."
And although the "Child" asserts that he was just a kid with "a jejune and immature outlook," let's not forget the "Child's" later escapades: Into his 40's and beyond he was an outspoken opponent of civil rights, filibustering the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in his mid-40's), and opposing the nomination of Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court on the basis of his race three years later in 1967.
The Kleagle/Child says his affiliation with the KKK is an "albatross around his neck"...maybe somebody should put this book on a string and make him wear it, so he can see what carrying a 770-page albatross feels like.