This story was published July 30, 1972, in “Florida,” the Sunday magazine of the Orlando Sentinel. Reporter Tom Fiedler and I had been visiting Klan events and members working on a story about its recent resurgence in Central Florida.
The most visible action the Klan took was a parade in full KKK garb down the main streets of Lakeland, Fla. It was the first of several trips to the area Tom and I made to photograph and interview Klansmen and their families.
One of the first rallies it held after the parade was a cross-burning where white-robed and -capped Klansmen paraded in a circle around a burning cross after hearing a collection of speeches espousing its racist tenets.
Tom and I arrived at dusk and immediately split up as I had little time to take photos before it got too dark for anything other than the cross-burning. Tom wanted to talk to the principals, most of whom I’d already photographed.
After a few minutes, I was approached by a robed Klansman, his white hood in hand.
“Who do you work for?” he asked as he stepped just inside my social distance.
“The Orlando Sentinel,” I replied.
“You’re not Tom Fielder are you?” he asked.
After I answered I wasn’t he wanted to know if Tom was at the rally. I lied and said id he was at the rally he came alone and I didn’t know where he was or even if he was there.
As he turned to walk away he leaned into my face and told me he was very angry with Tom about the story he wrote about the parade.
Tom’s lede for the story read – “The bedsheet shenanigans of the KKK were revived Saturday as more than xxx marched through downtown Lakeland.” (I don’t remember the exact number.)
Tom wasn’t surprised that he’d angered a Klansman. He was properly proud that one of their numbers had been offended.