Closing the fourth day of his probe into alleged masked outrages in Pottawatomie County, County Attorney Claude Hendon announced that 40 witnesses had been questioned, eight arrests made, two confessions obtained, and the responsibility for nine floggings in the county laid directly at the door of the Shawnee Ku Klux Klan.

HENDON ORDERS MORE ARRESTS IN PROBE OF MASKED MOB

Closing the fourth day of his probe into alleged masked outrages in Pottawatomie County, County Attorney Claude Hendon announced that 40 witnesses had been questioned, eight arrests made, two confessions obtained, and the responsibility for nine floggings in the county laid directly at the door of the Shawnee Ku Klux Klan.

Dr. G.C. Wallace, prominent dentist, was arrested on September 25, on a charge of perjury and was released on a $2,000 bond without formal arraignment in Judge Edwin Moore’s justice of the peace court. Dr. Wallace was charged by the county attorney with denial of his part in the alleged flogging of William Cross and Leonard Blair. They were taken away by a deputy sheriff and C.M. Reber, as they were being returned to Shawnee in 1922.

Witnesses stated that they were instructed by Dr. Wallace to form this party to whip the two lads while Dr. Wallace was emphatic in his denial. Dr. Wallace said his bond was made for him before he ever knew that a warrant was out for him. George E. McKinnis and Tom Haltom signed it.

 WALTON ATTEMPTS TO BLOCK STATE-WIDE PLEBESCITE

Preparation for the opening of polls in virtually all parts of Oklahoma moved on the night of October 1, 1923. It would be an election unprecedented in the history of the nation. Court action sustained by the force of arms brought by citizens who volunteered for service under regular county authorities in several instances carried forward the preparations for registering the will of the people as to whether the state legislature could be empowered to meet to consider the official acts of Governor J.C. Walton, without his sanction.

Barred by the governor through his proclamation and hampered by his 11th hour maneuvering of state and county election boards, the election was nevertheless a virtual certainty throughout the state on October 2.

Even Governor Walton’s sanction in calling a new election for December 6 failed to halt preparation for the balloting. Declaring he did not want to be governor “if the people want to amend their constitution to enable the Ku Klux Klan members of the legislature to impeach him, thereby removing all restraints on lawlessness of the Klan.” He reiterated his charge that the election would not be legal, but said he was willing to submit the question in a “fair and legal election.”

Only the initiative bill empowered members of the lower house to convene at their own call would be voted on in the December election. Taking up the challenge of the governor that he would place 22,000 special state police at the polls, opponents of the executive stated a hasty campaign to override his prerogative to stay the election and with the attorney general’s official opinion holding the governor without authority to change the date of the election, they obtained from the state at large a strong protest against the Walton stand.

Sheriffs throughout the state recruited their forces from hundreds of citizens who offered their service. The ballots boxes would be guarded by men who had taken up arms on authority of commissions of regular county sheriffs, upon whom the governor had announced he would rely to block the election.

The governor then executed a master stroke by reconstituting a state election board and with two members who were his friends, sent out orders to all boards to halt the election. However, the election machinery could not be stopped, and the scope of the reorganization was included to the county boards as well as the state.

60 ARMED MEN STOP OFFICERS IN ATTEMPT TO GET BALLOT BOXES

“We will have an election in Pottawatomie County tomorrow,” Sheriff Grover Butler announced shortly before midnight on October 1. “We did not feel that it would be necessary to kill 50 men here tonight to get the ballot boxes as we feel that there are peaceful methods to procure the supplies.”

The statement was issued after 60 men who spent the night in the courthouse threatened to shoot, and shoot to kill, any man who attempted to come to the second floor. It was said that at least 150 men were with the sheriff when the attempt was made to secure the ballots.

County Attorney Claude Hendon, on the evening of October 1, issued a statement in which he declared that there would be no election held in Pottawatomie County on October 2. He stated that he had received two orders, one from the governor and one from the attorney general. One directed him to stop all election machinery, and the other to put it in motion. He said he preferred to follow the dictation of the governor.

It was generally predicted that the election would be held. Rumors had it that national guard units had been mobilized in the county and would come to Tecumseh and Shawnee. However, with the governor’s announcement that no troops would be used, it was thought that the rumor was ill-grounded.

All election supplies were printed and in the hands of the election board at Tecumseh. Election board officials were in a quandary as to whether they were members of the board. It was said that they had been relieved of their duties and summarily reappointed. At midnight, no man was willing to say that he had been appointed secretary of the board.

The election was held, and the governor was repudiated by the electorate of Oklahoma. The legislative call was passed by 250,000 votes.

(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming in October. All three volumes are more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.