PLAINVIEW – Nicholas Pruitt would like to make one thing perfectly clear: He does not now, nor has he ever condoned or supported the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. However, for a history buff who is particularly interested in the 1920s, the Klan is an interesting study.
It was this interest that led Pruitt to submit his research paper, “Broadening the Scope: The High Plains Klan of the 1920s” to the West Texas Historical Association for consideration in an essay contest. Pruitt presented his paper at a conference on April 1, where he received a first-place award for the essay contest.
Pruitt, a junior history major at Wayland Baptist University, originally wrote the paper for a Texas history class.
“I really like the early 20th Century history, the 1920s, and the Klan was part of the 20s and represented a lot of bigotry and racism,” Pruitt said. “People were scared of each other and were real opinionated.”
However, Pruitt said the stereotypical view of racially charged Klan activity wasn’t necessarily the case in West Texas.
“It was different than what most people think about the Klan,” he said. “It was more morally based. They fought for morals in the community … against bootlegging, loose women and things like that.”
In his paper, Pruitt says that although the Klan’s methods were controversial, it was “bent on upholding morality in communities.”
The first Klan chapter in Texas was organized in Houston as “Sam Houston Klan No. 1.” It eventually spread throughout West Texas, organizing chapters in Amarillo (No. 141), Lubbock (199), Slaton (228) and Plainview (260).
Pruitt said he has found little information on the Plainview Klan, but knows it existed and was active. He points to a series of articles in the Plainview newspaper in the spring of 1923 in which editor Jess Adams and a Captain T.J. Tilson, a Klan sympathizer, carry on an argument that reveals “the hostility and conviction felt by people against the Klan, and the solid assurance of men who saw the Klan as being genuinely acceptable.”
Pruitt states that while Adams argued against the Klan’s “threat of violent and unlawful mob activity,” he agreed with the Klan’s “ideological beliefs” on morality and patriotism.
Although he hasn’t found a significant amount of information concerning the West Texas Klan and its specific activities, Pruitt plans to continue his research, expounding on his paper in order to write his honors thesis.
“This was kind of just a brief glimpse,” Pruitt said. “I want to produce something that will really describe the Klan of West Texas.”