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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel Duke, August 22, 1990. Interview A-0366. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Use of the press in garnering attention for action against the Ku Klux Klan

Duke describes the initial phases of the flogging case in Fulton County, Georgia. With the death of Ike Gaston in 1940, Duke worked with the press (most notably Tarleton Collier and Ralph McGill) in order to garner attention and support of the case. In going after the Ku Klux Klan and its use of flogging, Duke explains that most of the victims who came forward were white, although several African Americans also gave statements that they'd been flogged by members of the Klan (some of which were law enforcement officers).

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel Duke, August 22, 1990. Interview A-0366. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DANIEL DUKE:
Well, the way it was now, my father-in-law was city editor or editor or associate editor of the old Atlanta Georgia.
JOHN EGERTON:
Tarleton Collier.
DANIEL DUKE:
That's right.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's your father-in-law?
DANIEL DUKE:
That's right.
JOHN EGERTON:
Lord have mercy.
DANIEL DUKE:
I married his only child. And Ralph McGill. Well, they talked to each other, I think. They said Ike Gaston was found dead out there where they flogged him. He was a white barber. Now the papers . . . I don't know what his people do. His nephew was sheriff over here in Carroll County, but the last account of it said he was a black barber. It, of course, was untrue. Ike was a drinker and he drank and he didn't look after his family but was a likeable fellow. The committee decided to discipline him for not looking after his family. So they carried him out there on March 3, 1940, I think. So the next morning they found his body partially frozen, it was cold, with this big whip with the Klan thing carved on it with cleats on it. When that happened Ralph McGill and Tarleton Collier, no doubt they talked, because Mr. Collier, they had run one or two hard articles on him. Mr. Boykin, who was a good man, the last account said he had been a member of the Klan. He might have been but he was not a Klan man mentally or spiritually by any means just like a lot of others that got caught in that thing. He called me in and I remember he was a very stern fellow but I loved Mr. Boykin. He looked over and he said, "Duke, I'm going to give you Ernest Brewer, who's a good reporter," in other words a stenographer who had been on the Atlanta School Board but he had a drinking problem. He had stopped it and Mr. Boykin gave him a job as an investigator.
JOHN EGERTON:
Boykin was the district attorney?
DANIEL DUKE:
That's right and a good man and a powerful man.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was his first name?
DANIEL DUKE:
John A. Boykin. So Ernest and I and then he got a Captain Jordan on the county police force. He knew who to pick, he picked good people, Captain Jordan and a detective named John Carter. He said, "Captain Jordan and John Carter are going to help you. I want you to go down and call Paul Donahue who was the coroner. Paul was going to have a hearing down there in to the death of Ike Gaston. Mr. Boykin said, "I've called Paul Donahue and we don't have any right to go in there as a lawyer and ask questions. He said he'll let you come in there and let you ask some questions." There wasn't anything illegal about it. He said, "I want you to go down there and do that." Of course, the press and all the papers were there. The Constitution and The Journal were separate papers then and The Atlanta Georgian. They had their cameras and they had everything there. Donahue put out a call that anybody that had been flogged to come to that hearing. Two or three people showed up. A fellow named Young, I'll always remember him because I was asking the questions and of course, they had the evidence of the KKK with the whip there and the pictures of Ike Gaston where they showed he had been beaten so severely, dead, they took it of his body. They put Young up there. Young said, "I was flogged with this whip." How do you know, Mr. Young? He said, "I can pull my britches down and I can show you the cleat marks." So he pulled his pants down right there and the cameras got him. They had a picture in the paper of his back end with those cleat marks. So that cut the thing loose. The next day the papers . . . I did this, I remember Mr. Boykin said, "now, by gosh you told them this and it's put me on the spot and you'd better make this thing stick." I came out and we had two or three people and I said to the press - I was a young fellow and I didn't know what the hell I was doing and don't know if I would do any better now, I probably would do worse because I just let it flow out - I told them we had enough to get some indictments right then. Well, hell, we really didn't have it. I was affronted by what I saw and heard. I think it then that Mr. Boykin put Ernest Brewer with me and the police officers. I think up to that time the press hid it. I also made a statement that the press quoted inviting anybody that had any information about floggings to come to a certain place at the courthouse and report it to me. Well, they came in, a few blacks came but most of them were white. Several whites came and they would be almost defiant and they'd say, "we don't believe you're going to do anything, we've done been down here." One fellow in back of them was flogged over a girlfriend. He and his wife were divorced and he was living in a boarding house to try to pay child support. He would ride out to Eastpoint on Sunday afternoon to see this girl that he knew. He happened to get into the place where a fellow named Bryant, who had been running around with this girl - Bryant was a married man - so he got off at one Sunday afternoon and they grabbed him and they darn near killed him. He was a smart man. He came to the courthouse to report it. He was beat up then and he told me, "well, the man they had me reporting it to was in on the flogging. I recognized his voice, he was a tall man." So I called and wanted to know who was on that desk down there and they said it was . He fit the description. We wound up indicting three or four deputy sheriffs. We sent three of them to the penitentiary.