Attempt at Murder

Image courtesy Vigo County Historical Society
Image courtesy Vigo County Historical Society

“Attempt at Murder in West Terre Haute Follows Threat Note” was a headline in the Klan newspaper, The Fiery Cross of October 3, 1924.  The report told of shots being fired at the Rev. C.A. Sanders while he spoke to “thousands” of Klansmen and supporters at the baseball field in West Terre Haute.  Though I am still researching the incident, my instinct is that this was likely a piece of Klan “theater.”

I say this for several reasons, including two particular examples of “spin” in the article.  The first was the reporting of the death threat.  The paper noted that Sanders was accustomed to receiving such threats and ignored it.  This sets up Sanders as a Christian of steely resolve who will let nothing deter him from delivering the important Klan message.  Before quoting the letter the author surmised that it was written in such a manner as to “impress that the writer was an illiterate.”

“We warned you once before not to speak in West Terre Haute as these d_____ Kluckers pay too much attention to what you say.  You may be a fighting parson now but if you try to speak you’ll be a dead parson.  Heed this warning or you will get what others have got.”

Image courtesy Vigo County Historical Society
Image courtesy Vigo County Historical Society

Granting that the writer likely “cleaned up” the prose, it still does not sound like something “written” by an illiterate.  What it sounds like is a letter written by someone (perhaps Sanders or his handlers) who wanted to impress others with how important Sanders was.  The phrases “these d_____ Kluckers pay too much attention to what you say” and calling him a fighting parson seem more like efforts to aggrandize the preacher.

So, after the threat a bodyguard of twelve men was formed to stand on the platform.  There they all stood when five shots were fired, all missing the mark.  No one was injured.  The “assailants” got away.  How did they escape when a posse of hundreds of men immediately went in pursuit of the culprits?  The article has an answer for that.  Evidently, the shooter had too big a head start and was not seen or captured by any of the 10,000 people they claimed were in attendance.

But the amazing Rev. Sanders was able to quiet the crowd within minutes.  He then had the rapt attention of  the crowd during a two hour speech (perhaps harangue might be a better descriptor).

The article ends with a regret that even though accounts of the incident were given to local papers by 11:00 they did not appear in the Sunday paper. 

Yep, sounds like a “staged” event.

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