The LAW MOVES IN

the fall of fowler

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s was marked by expansion of rights for African Americans, with courts striking down “separate but equal” doctrine, the passage of federal laws prohibiting racial discrimination, and the 24th Amendment removing barriers for Black voters. The period also saw incredible and often violent backlash. In 1965, Civil rights activists marched multiple times from Selma to Montgomery to raise awareness about voter suppression, and on March 7 at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, protestors were met with violence from State troopers and local police. That August, in the Watts area of Los Angeles, a drunk driving arrest unfolded into six days of civil unrest. The National Guard sent the all-white Glendale unit to Watts in part because “they didn’t know what the reaction would be to interracial troops.” The McCone Commission would later identify Proposition 14 as a direct cause of the Watts Uprising (See “All American City” for more on Prop 14).  Tommy Jacquette, a participant and resident of Watts, would later reflect, “People keep calling it a riot, but we call it a revolt because it had a legitimate purpose. It was a response to police brutality and social exploitation of a community and of a people.”

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The KKK’s resurgence in the 1960s was also part of the backlash to the Civil Rights Movement.  Even though the KKK regained their status to assemble, the Klan met resistance and Fowler and his followers struggled to gain a footing.  After the unsuccessful reactivation rally in Soledad Canyon, law enforcement, protesters and civic leaders worked to undercut any effort the Klan made towards gaining followers and spreading their message. When a second rally was scheduled for November 19, 1966 on private land near Cajon, law enforcement was on high alert and the fallout from that rally would mark the fall of Fowler.

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There were consequences for Klan members caught in the fall of Fowler. Rev. Thomas J. Warren, who had denied he was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, eventually pleaded guilty to unlawful assembly charges arising from a rally that was held on November 19, 1966 in Cajon Pass.

Warren said Fowler had misrepresented himself using the church name to lease the land in Cajon Pass for the rally without authorization. However, Warren attended the rally as well as the earlier KKK rally on September 17, 1966 in Saugus. Warren can be seen wearing KKK robes in photos from the Saugus rally and his voice can be heard in recordings from both rallies. 

William Fowler is the Klansman holding the microphone while making a speech in Panorama City.

Throughout 1966, law enforcement in different Southern California counties such as Orange County and San Bernardino would cancel rallies or revoke permits for the Klan to assemble. Fowler’s renters would refuse to renew their leases. An auto mechanic in Panorama City cut the wires to Fowler’s loudspeaker during a rally. On another incident, Fowler was arrested after attacking a Black man who threw his racist literature away. Fowler was again arrested for playing a tape-recording of himself in public at the San Bernardino Courthouse after his permit was denied.  He was removed as a member of his church,  the Covenant Church of Jesus Christ, because of his affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan.  

 

The KKK in the greater Los Angeles area had lost its steam.  

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Copyright notice: Any materials under copyright in this exhibit are covered by the Fair Use provision of the Copyright Act.  Permission and preferred attribution were requested of all copyright holders.

"Flaming Symbol of Klan Blazes: Burning Cross on Hillside Alarms Residents of Northern Section." Glendale Evening News, 23 May 1924, p. 8. Internet Archive. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times. 

 

"Interracial Couple Gets 'KKK' Warning." Glendale News-Press, April 28, 1967. Glendale Central Library. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times. 

 

"2 Suspected in Glendale Cross-Burning Incident." Daily News, 16 Feb. 1984. Glendale Central Library. Glendale Library, Arts & Culture. Reprinted by permission of Southern California News Group.  

 

Willman, Martha L. "Police Seek Motive in La Crescenta Cross Burning." Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 1990. ProQuest. Reprinted by permission of the Los Angeles Times.