Posted by Jim Fitzgerald
Rotary clubs are non-government-organizations (NGOs), and as such are not allowed to take sides on political issues.  Individual Rotarians, however. are free to choose whatever candidates or parties seem appropriate to them, and support the laws enacted by them.  but, politically biased programs or campaigning for office are not permitted at club meetings. 
Nonetheless, controversial issues are as important to individual Rotarians as they are to any other public-spirited citizen, so programs to enlighten and inform the members are frequently included in the regular meetings and occasionally an issue rises to the point that the club must take action, either defending it or denouncing it.  In this case the Ku Klux Klan, (sometimes referred to as “the Invisible Empire) had crossed the line.
The Klan was at the height of its infamy, blatantly flaunting its moral agenda behind the mask and sheet emblazoned with a burning cross.  Law enforcement was either complicit, inept, or non-existent in most of the South and the highest offices of government, both state and federal, turned a blind eye to their actions. The Attorney General of the United States, said that he could not find where the Ku Klux Klan had violated any law, and the United States Secret Services rendered the same opinion.  The United States Congress adjourned without finding fault with it.  Even religious leaders were complicit. The Rev A. S. Harwell, pastor of the Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said, “I cannot find one thing in the platform of the Klan which I cannot endorse.”
The mood was no different in Marshall Texas,  January 28, 1922, when 371 masked Klansmen marched down Bolivar Street to the square of downtown Marshall carrying banners proclaiming: "WE ARE THE LAW", "IF YOU ARE WRONG, WE ARE AGAINST YOU",  "ASSOCIATION WITH NEGRO WOMEN MUST STOP", and "HOTEL PORTERS, NO MORE DATES", while a “jolly” crowd estimated at 10,000 people watched with little or no negative reaction.  A few even cheered or waved back when the marchers called them out by name.  
 Three weeks later, Monday February 19, 1922, a citizen of Marshall, (black man, named Ray Daniels) was attacked by six men on the steps of the post office, wearing Klan uniforms, dragged into a car, taken out of town, striped to the waist, tarred and feathered, brought back, and dumped on the sidewalk.  
Five days later on February 24, 1922, “The Marshall Morning News” ran this headline:
Rotary Club Offers $1,500 Reward At A Meeting Last Night.  Goes On Record Strongly Condemning The Klan
That story demonstrated the Rotary concept of “Service Above Self”, but an editorial by Phil Latham in the Monday edition of The Marshall News Messenger, Monday, April 20, 2009, brought home the courage implicit in the action taken by the newspaper and those early Rotarians, when he said:
“If the Klan had immediately boycotted the News (i.e. owner Homer Price), it could have easily put Price under.  The News was likely saved by the fact that the Messenger (a rival newspaper) was also anti-Klan, but not nearly as virulent as Price’s newspaper, which would, in the end, take on the role of crusader against the Klan.”
But it was the Marshall Rotary club that would be the most outspoken opponent of the Klan and it was the speech of Rotary Club president that let the Klan know that there were those in Marshall who would not back down.  Enraged by the Klan’s blatant disregard for basic human rights and the law, Rotary Club President Frank Davis said:
”When a government fails to protect its citizens there is not much left and as for me if that time has arrived in Marshall, I am ready to take those with me whom I love to the cemetery.”
Then he directly challenged any members of the Rotary club who might have any sympathies or ties to the Klan:
“I do not believe we have a member of this Rotary Club who is a member of the Klan.  If we have I hope he will never attend another meeting”.
Davis then read the resolution calling for the reward and called for a vote, asking all in favor to stand.  Price, who was a founding member of the Rotary Club, noted in his newspaper that two members did not stand, but did not name them. 
It was a wake-up call to the members that the duty of the Marshall Rotary club was to stand up for the rights of all of its citizens, not just the favored few, and the courage of those men is what we will be celebrating a year from now, August 24, 2019, when we “Celebrate A Century of Serving Marshall and Beyond”.