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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 >>

The Klan's effort to uphold a Scotch-Irish moral code

Duke describes the kind of people who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan in Fulton County, Georgia, during the 1930s and 1940s. Many of the white citizens of Fulton County were of Scotch-Irish heritage and Duke describes their strong tradition of upholding a certain kind of "moral code." According to Duke, although Klan activities were increasingly racially motivated, they also used flogging as a way to keep in line those who had strayed from the moral codes, especially when it came to matters of family responsibility. From there, however, Duke argues it was a slippery slope towards using the Klan as a vehicle "to wreak private vengeance on people."

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

JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, who were the powers in the Klan? Were they rich or poor folks? I don't mean rich but middle class.
DANIEL DUKE:
Let me put this in its proper perspective. There was a family, a good family of people, one of them is my neighbor up here. He didn't live in here then. He is the son of some of them. He's a fine man. Some of them were young fellows just on a lark having a big time. They were people whose income was above the average. Educationally, high school, that's about all. Some of the older members of the Klan who believed in flogging people for not looking after their children, drinking too much liquor and stuff like that, they were what you'd call hard-liners that believed in this. I understand it and it has been a long time since I studied that. A lot of the people through all this region and north Georgia and North Carolina and all were Scotch-Irish people. There was a tradition of Scotch-Irish people . . . [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
DANIEL DUKE:
He was a deputy sheriff. He served in the courtroom. He was watching every move that was made. A fellow named Mont Aldridge was sheriff and we got him to move Scarborough. Finally, Scarborough had to resign. We didn't ever indict Scarborough because they couldn't every put him right in the middle. He tolerated this type thing. He had that viewpoint. He was a strict man, went to church on Sunday, paid his debts. He had a fine upstanding family. He believed that if a fellow would neglect his family it was better to go out here and give him a good beating and tell him to straighten up than it was to prosecute him or do something.
JOHN EGERTON:
Out of this Scotch-Irish tradition of internal enforcement of morality they saw this almost as a religious . . .
DANIEL DUKE:
I wouldn't go quite that far but there were one or two of the older people in it that tolerated it and all, that had that viewpoint. See, Warren Scarborough that I was talking about, was a man that I would believe him on almost anything. He paid his debts, he was an efficient man, he had a fine family, many of them still living here. This thing forced him out, he got out, they made him do it. There were others that I could name. They didn't sit down and direct these people. Somebody told them they could do it. It probably started out with flogging a few people that didn't live up to the moral code and then they saw the opportunity to wreak private vengeance on people. That's one of the evils of the thing. It's evil anytime you get outside the established system of the law, you're in deep water, because you put too much discretion and all that sort of thing.
JOHN EGERTON:
And certainly when it got to be a racial thing it got out of hand.
DANIEL DUKE:
Racial thing had a lot to do with it.