The Day the KKK Visited the Lumbee

KKK Lumbee Article

Some days, thing just don’t go as you have planned.  That’s exactly what happened to one James “Catfish” Cole, the Grand Dragon of the KKK in South Carolina in January 1958.

Cole, having just embarrassed himself in late 1957 in a failed attempt to intimidate a black doctor was looking for easier prey, someone easy to intimidate, and he mistakenly selected the Lumbee who had only recently, in 1956, been recognized as an Indian Tribe by the state of North Carolina.  Many believed they were mixed race, a mixture that included African ancestors.

Cole advertised his upcoming hate-filled rally by driving through the streets of Lumberton and utilizing a loud speaker on a flat-bed truck.

The Lumbee decided to do anything but take this laying down.  The day of the rally, between 100 and 500 armed Lumbee surrounded the few people who did attend and after Cole and the Lumbee leader, Sanford Locklear, exchanged words, a scenario which quickly deteriorated into a physical altercation, Neill Lowery shot the floodlight which darkened the entire area.  The Lumbees then shot into the air, terrifying the KKK members who ran for their lives, often leaving their wives and children to their own devices.  Cole’s own wife was so terrified that she drive into a ditch and had to be rescued by none other than several Lumbee men.  It was described as a “total rout.”

The KKK not only embarrassed themselves, terribly, but Catfish Cole was also prosecuted for inciting a riot and spent 2 years in jail.

Time Magazine even featured the event.  You can see photos beginning on page 24, including this one of Charlie Warriax and Simeon Oxendine victoriously wrapped in the KKK banner they confiscated that evening.

Lumbee in KKK Banner

Here is an interview with Sanford Locklear discussing the clan gathering of 1958 which he attended as a child.

You can read more at the following links.

Lyrics to the song, “The Battle of Maxton Field.”

Malvina Reynolds performing “The Battle of Maxton Field.”

About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
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4 Responses to The Day the KKK Visited the Lumbee

  1. Karen Marcum says:

    Loved the story.

  2. Linda Dail says:

    There is a “fiction” book written around this event and the lost colony that is an entertaining read entitled “Indian Wood” by Richard Folsom.  Linda Dail – Researching: Alexander,Allen,Berry,Bethea,Carraway,Commander,Dail,Deal,Dew,Dial,Exum,Finklea,Finckley,Fore,Forrest, Haselden,Hayes,Hunnings,Ives,Jackson,Jones,Lane,Mace,Mann,McCotter,Meekins,Murphrey,Phelps, Roberts,Rountree,Speight,Spivey,Smith,Sanders,Saunders,Tart,Tingle,Turnage,Williams

  3. Steve Chism says:

    My wife and I have the original Press foto of Simeon and Charlie..The night that happenned, one of my wife’s daddy’s brother stopped by their home to see if he would go with them for the “meeting”,,and he didn’t want to have anything to do with it, as he was a very peaceable and quiet man..He did have siblings and cousins attend, however. It is an honor to own the original photograph, and a copy of the life magazine it appeared in, of something important to her tribe, the Lumbee. my wife was raised in the Tribe in Rowland, NC. She is a Ransom. Her paternal grandmother was a Lowry, the grandniece of Henry Berry Lowry.

  4. The Museum of the Southeast American Indian at UNC Pembroke is also recording interviews with people who were present at the event. We have a Vimeo album, Battle of Hayes Pond. There are two videos now and we’re working on a third.

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