Battle of Hayes Pond

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Battle of Hayes Pond
Date January 18, 1958
Location Near Maxton, North Carolina
Result Lumbee Victory. Ku Klux Klan meeting disrupted. KKK ceases activity in area.
Belligerents
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Lumbee Tribe of NC
* Local anti-KKK civilians
Commanders and leaders
James W. Cole Sanford Locklear
Simeon Oxendine
Neill Lowery
Strength
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.

The Battle of Hayes Pond refers to an armed confrontation between the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and counter demonstrators from the Lumbee Indian tribe at a Klan rally near Maxton, North Carolina, on the night of January 18, 1958. Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole was the organizer of the Klan rally. Sanford Locklear, Simeon Oxendine and Neill Lowery were leaders of the Lumbee who attacked the Klansmen and successfully disrupted the rally.

Events leading up to the confrontation[edit]

In reaction to the US Supreme Court ruling in 1954 calling for public school desegregation, the revived Ku Klux Klan (KKK) undertook a campaign of terrorist actions throughout the American South designed to intimidate blacks from demanding even greater civil rights.[1] Grand Dragon James W. "Catfish" Cole led the South Carolina based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cole targets the Lumbee[edit]

In 1956, the mixed race inhabitants of Robeson County, North Carolina, who had unsuccessfully claimed Indian heritage under various tribal identities, succeeded in achieving limited federal recognition under the Lumbee label. The Lumbee campaign for federal recognition attracted the attention and outrage of Catfish Cole who considered the so-called Lumbee a "mongrel" race of largely African origin. Cole worried that the Lumbee, if successful in portraying themselves as Indians, would next attempt to "pass" as white, further blurring racial lines in the segregated South.

In 1957, Cole began a campaign of harassment designed to intimidate the Lumbee.[2] He hoped to use his campaign against the Lumbee to build up the Klan organization in North Carolina.[1] Declaring war, 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".

Klan violence escalates[edit]

On January 13, 1958, Klansmen 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. A third cross was burned at a tavern frequented by the Lumbee.

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”.[3] His speeches, referring to the "loose morals" of Lumbee women, provoked anger among the Lumbee.

The Battle[edit]

On the night of the rally, only 50-100 Klansmen arrived at the private field near Hayes Pond, which Cole had leased from a sympathetic farmer. Cole set up the public address system and erected the cross, all under the illumination of a single light bulb. Before Cole could finish the arrangements, over 500 Lumbee men, many armed with rocks, sticks and firearms, appeared and encircled the assembled Klansmen.[2] First the Lumbee shot out the one light, darkening the field and panicking the Klansmen. Then the Lumbee began yelling and attacked. Four Klansmen were wounded in the gunfire. The remaining Klansmen fled the scene, leaving family members, the public address system, unlit cross, and various Klan regalia behind. Cole reportedly left his wife behind and escaped through a nearby swamp.

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.[4] Oxendine, Neill Lowery and Sanford Locklear were acknowledged by the Lumbee as leaders of the attack, which they called "the Klan rout."[1] Many local, state and national newspapers covered the event and captured photos of Lumbee burning the regalia and dancing around an open fire, as if they were Indians. A posse of Robeson County deputies led by the sheriff arrived on the scene, dispersing the Lumbee with tear-gas grenades and terminating the celebration.

The Aftermath[edit]

In the days after the confrontation, a defiant Cole called the Lumbee "lawless mongrels" and denounced local law enforcement for failing to intervene earlier in the confrontation.[5] Public opinion, however, turned against Cole. 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.[2] With Cole imprisoned, the Klan ceased activities in Robeson County.

Cole's wife, Carol Cole, in an April 3, 1959 letter raising funds for her husband's appeal, described the battle: "A group of kinky haired so-called Indians invaded on leased land, shot up the segregation meeting with shotguns, rifles and pistols and stole my husband's speaking equipment."[6]

The Lumbee celebrate the anniversary of the disrupted Klan rally, which they call the "Battle of Hayes Pond," as a holiday.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Chick Jacobs and Venita Jenkins, "The Night the Klan Met Its Match", Fayetteville Observer, January 18, 2008, reprinted on Action Center for Justice, accessed September 29, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Jefferson Currie II, "The Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and the Battle of Maxton Field", Tar Heel Junior Historian 44:1 (Fall 2004), North Carolina Museum of History, accessed September 29, 2010.
  3. ^ Nicholas Graham, "January 1958: The Lumbees face the Klan", This Month in North Carolina History, January 2005, accessed September 29, 2010.
  4. ^ "Bad Medicine for the Klan", Life, January 27, 1958, accessed September 29, 2010.
  5. ^ Cole Says His Rights Violated", Greensboro Daily News, 20 Jan. 1958: A1.
  6. ^ http://catfishcole.weebly.com/1/previous/3.html

Further reading[edit]

  • "Raid by 500 Indians balks North Carolina Klan rally", New York Times, January 19, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Indictment of Kluxers to be Urged". The Morning Herald (Hagerstown, Maryland). 20 Jan 1958. p. 1. 
  • "Cole Says His Rights Violated", Greensboro Daily News, 20 Jan. 1958: A1.
  • "The Lumbees Ride Again", Greensboro Daily News, 20 Jan. 1958: 4A.
  • Morrison, Julian. "Sheriff Seeks Klan Leader's Indictment: Cole Accused of Inciting Riot Involving Indians and Ku Klux", Greensboro Daily News, 20 Jan. 1958: A1-3.
  • "Cole faces indictment; disgusted . . . quits", Robesonian, 21 Jan. 1958: 1.
  • Ryan, Ethel. "Indians who crushed rally were mature tribesmen", Greensboro Record 21 Jan. 1958: A1.
  • "Judge deplores Klan entry into peaceful Indian land", Robesonian 22 Jan. 1958: 1.
  • "Redskins whoop Lumbee victory." Robesonian 23 Jan. 1958: 1.
  • Brown, Dick. "The Indians who routed the ‘Catfish’." News and Observer 26 Jan. 1958: Sec. 3 p. 1.
  • "North Carolina: Indian raid", Newsweek 51 (27 Jan. 1958): 27.
  • "Bad medicine for the Klan: North Carolina Indians break up Kluxers’ anti-Indian meeting", Life 44 (27 Jan. 1958): 26-28.
  • "When Carolina Indians went on the warpath–", U. S. News and World Report 44 (31 Jan. 1958): 14.
  • "Indians back at peace and the Klan at bay." Life 44 (3 Feb. 1958): 36-36A.
  • "Cole Case is Slated for the Jury Today". The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina). 13 Mar 1958. p. 1. 
  • "Klan Wizard Cole gets 2-year sentence; Titan Martin draws 12 months. Both free on bond; both file appeal", Robesonian 14 March 1958: 1.
  • "Heap bad Kluxers armed with gun, Indian angry paleface run", Ebony, 13 (April 1958): 25-26, 28.
  • Craven, Charles. "The Robeson County Indian uprising against the Ku Klux Klan", South Atlantic Quarterly 57 (Autumn 1958): 433-42.
  • Henderson, Bruce. "Robeson civic leader dies at 69: Simeon Oxendine won fame confronting Klan", Charlotte Observer 28 Dec. 1988: 1B.
  • Tyson, Timothy B. Radio Free Dixie: Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black Power, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

External links[edit]