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The Ku Klux Klan and My Father


Image via Wikipedia

At my first and only meeting with my Father in Georgia in 1997, I did not ask him about his participation in the Ku Klux Klan. I was too busy weeping.

There were other more important questions: “You denied that I was your child, so am I or am I not yours?, What was the highlight of your life?” The question I didn’t ask, “Why did you not want this little girl?”

Certainly,  race wasn’t high on my list.

To my Mom’s credit, she had never said a single, bad word about my Father during my first eighteen years. She said not a single word at all.

When Mom finally did open up, I learned of the shock she experienced as a newly married woman, during a visit to her Georgia in-laws for the first time in the ’40’s.

“Your Father and his brother (a local mayor) came into the kitchen with a rope…a white woman had just been raped and they were heading out”.

My Mom asked me to please never look for him, “because he’s dangerous”.  Her friend told me several reasons why.

I honored her request for decades, until a dream shook me loose from that vow.

For my Father’s sake and my own, it was important that I make peace with him after forty years of his absence.

Faith is such a vital part of my daily life, I searched for signs of it in our two hour conversation;  for a place where we could connect, where we could talk about our faith together. But the divide was too deep and had taken us to far different places.  Attending church had been a big part of my Father’s life, yet, his inner life seemed to have been unchanged.

My life had been transformed by Jesus and talks by  social activists like Tom Skinner, Rene Padilla, and Samuel Escobar at Urbana ’70. My Father’s relatives asked me not to mention that we had adopted a “brown” child from South East Asia!

My political views during the past election were alarming to many of my Christian friends and even relatives.  It might have seemed that I was being swept away, brainwashed, or simply trying to shock people by taking an opposing position, but I certainly was not!

The fact that I, the child of a racist, could help elect a good man to become the first Black President of the United States was my great honor!  I had learned something from John Perkins, another good, black social activist and a Christian, which helped me to resolve my life long stance as a one issue Pro-life voter (my father had wanted to abort me). John Perkins famous quote, “I am pro-life in the womb, and pro-life in the slums”. This is the view of many African Americans who elected Barack Obama.

For more information on the Klu Klux Klan in Georgia see:



6 Responses

  1. Profound story and life experience Mary. Many of us have gone through lives of shame, hurt, turmoil, guilt, whatever it may be, but somehow the light always finds a way for truth to shine through.

    • I’ve learned that shame is a type of bondage, led to by by keeping secrets.
      Yet, with a larger family, I’m sure it’s so much more complicated because each individual will have their own level of comfort with what they want to reveal.
      In that way, I’m fortunate, not to have anyone left in my family of origin.
      To forgive without all the pieces in place, perfectly. That’s a work of God.

  2. In spite of the emotional pain that comes with feeling unwanted, it seems that your life has been much healthier and happier than it might have been with this particular man. I’m very glad that my friend did not have to live under his influence!

    • I know that’s true! I’m very, very grateful for friends who became more than family for me.

  3. Thank you for sharing your remarkable story, Mary -painful as it has been. I hurt with you as a young girl as well as with the lovely women you have become. I rejoice with you that you were able to have that two hour meeting and find some degree of connection after 40 years. I pray your earthly father will be drawn into God’s Light and find His peace. I rejoice with you in how our Heavenly Father – The King of Kings- has made you His – His precious treasure and cherished daughter. How He walks beside you daily, surrounds you with His love, mercy and grace and holds your hand. How He has bless your dear family and made you a blessing to so many.”Our Lord is close to the brokenhearted and rescues those with crushed spirits… He binds up their wounds.” Ps 34:18: 147:3
    My prayers & a big hug, Joy

    • Dear Joy, Thank you, for your heart and prayers.
      Unfortunately, after my dream, and six months of searching for him, then the two hour conversation, my father died three months after we met.
      God’s providence and timing.

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