Battle of Hayes Pond
The Battle of Hayes Pond refers to an armed confrontation between the Ku Klux Klan and Lumbee counter demonstrators at a Klan rally near Maxton, North Carolina, on the night of January 18, 1958. Sanford Locklear, Simeon Oxendine and Neill Lowery were leaders among the Lumbee who challenged and routed the Klan that night.
|Battle of Hayes Pond|
|Knights of the Ku Klux Klan||Lumbee tribe of Maxton
* Local anti-KKK civilians
|Commanders and leaders|
|James W. Cole||Sanford Locklear
|36-100 Klansmen||500 Lumbee warriors|
|Casualties and losses|
|4 Klansmen injured
1 Klansman arrested (by police)
|Several disoriented or injured by tear gas grenades, none seriously.|
Events leading up to the confrontation
During the 1950s, independent chapters of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) conducted terrorist actions throughout the American South, in part in reaction to rising civil rights actions, economic progress by Black Americans, and the US Supreme Court ruling in 1954 calling for public school desegregation. Cars filled with KKK men traveled from South Carolina to small towns in North Carolina to intimidate people.
Cole targets the Lumbee
In 1956, the mixed race inhabitants of Robeson County who had long claimed Indian heritage succeeded in achieving recognition under the Lumbee label, outraging Klan Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole who considered the Lumbee a "mongrel" race of largely African origin.
In 1957, Klan Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole, an evangelist and radio preacher in South Carolina, began to harass the Lumbee Indians and other minorities of Robeson County, North Carolina. He had been charged with building up the Klan in the state. Cole told newspapers: "There's about 30,000 half-breeds up in Robeson County and we are going to have some cross burnings and scare them up".
On January 13, 1958, a group of KKK burned a cross on the lawn of a Lumbee woman in the town of St. Pauls, North Carolina, as "a warning" because she was dating a white man. The Klan burned a cross on the lawn of a Lumbee family who had moved into a white neighborhood. Cole spoke against the "mongrelization" of the races and announced plans for a Klan rally on January 18, 1958, near the small town of Maxton, intended “to put the Indians in their place, to end race mixing”. His speeches, referring to the "loose morals" of Lumbee women, provoked anger among the Lumbee. Robeson County Sheriff Malcolm McLeod met with Cole and told him that "his life would be in danger if he came to Maxton and made the same speech he'd been making". Cole proceeded with his plans.
On the night of the rally, only 50-100 Klansmen arrived at the private field, most armed with rifles or small arms. Before Cole began speaking, over 500 Lumbee men, many armed with sticks or guns, appeared and encircled the assembled Klansmen. First the Lumbee shot out the one light, then began yelling and attacked. They shot their guns into the air; four Klansmen were lightly wounded. With the light out, the remaining Klansmen fled the scene, leaving family members, the public address system, unlit cross, and various Klan regalia behind. James W. "Catfish" Cole reportedly left his wife behind and escaped through a nearby swamp. Curious onlookers had also shown up.
Afterward, the Lumbee celebrated by holding up the abandoned KKK banner; Charlie Warriax and World War II veteran Simeon Oxendine were shown wrapped in it in Life magazine photos. Oxendine, Neill Lowery and Sanford Locklear were acknowledged leaders among the Lumbee. Many local, state and national newspapers covered the event and captured photos of Lumbee burning the regalia and dancing around an open fire in nearby Lumberton. North Carolina Governor Luther H. Hodges denounced the Klan in a press statement. Cole was prosecuted, convicted, and served a two-year sentence for inciting a riot. Since then, the Lumbee celebrate the day of the Battle of Hayes Pond annually as a holiday.
The Klan ceased its activities in Robeson County thereafter.
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- Tyson, Timothy B. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black Power, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
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