Battle of Hayes Pond

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Battle of Hayes Pond
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
White men and Robeson County indians (Lumbee Indians) in fight-armed skirmish (State's Exhibit No.6). Photo taken by Bill Shaw, Fayetteville Observer newspaper photographer. Photo used as state's (8224422682).jpg
Lumbee Indians fighting Ku Klux Klansmen during the Battle of Hayes Pond
DateJanuary 18, 1958
Caused byKu Klux Klan violence against the Lumbee tribe, culminating in cross burnings and racist threats against the Lumbee community.
Resulted inKu Klux Klan ceases activity in area
Parties to the civil conflict
Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina
Anti-Ku Klux Klan locals
Lead figures
Sanford Locklear
Simeon Oxendine
Neill Lowery
50–100 Klansmen
500 Lumbee
Injuries4 Klansmen injured in exchange of gunfire; several Lumbee disoriented and/or injured by tear-gas grenades, none seriously.
Arrested1 Klansman arrested by police.

The Battle of Hayes Pond was an armed confrontation between members of the Ku Klux Klan and the Lumbee Native Americans 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 and discourage them from demanding greater civil rights.[1] Cole led the South Carolina-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Cole targets the Lumbee[edit]

In 1956, the Native American inhabitants of Robeson County, North Carolina succeeded in achieving limited federal recognition as the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. The Lumbee campaign for federal recognition attracted the attention and outrage of James Cole, who considered the 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] He believed that the Lumbee—marginalized even within the Native community—would easily be frightened. 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]

Robesen County Klansmen in robes with burning cross, c. January 1958

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. Emboldened, he gave a speech denouncing the "loose morals" of Lumbee women and warned that "venereal disease" could be spread to the white population by their noted promiscuity. The Klan then struck at Lumbee men, burning a cross at a tavern frequented by the Lumbee. Cole denounced the Lumbee men as "lazy, drunken and prone to criminal activity." After the tavern, the Klan burned a cross on the lawn of a Lumbee family who had moved into a white neighborhood as a final warning for the Lumbee to remain in "their" areas.

Believing that he had the Lumbee on the run, Cole 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, in which he called the Lumbee "half niggers" and denounced "mongrelization" of the races, provoked anger among the Lumbee.


Lumbee Indians confronting Klansmen

On the night of the rally, 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] The Lumbee shot out the one light, darkening the field and panicking the Klansmen. The Lumbee then began yelling and attacked the group, firing shots at the Klansmen, several of whom briefly returned fire to no avail. Four Klansmen were wounded in the exchange of 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 Klas." Many local, state and national newspapers covered the event and captured photos of Lumbee burning the regalia and dancing around an open fire. A group of Robeson County deputies led by the sheriff arrived on the scene, dispersing the Lumbee with tear-gas grenades and terminating the celebration.


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, and Cole was later convicted for inciting a riot and given a two-year sentence.[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.


  1. ^ a b 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" Archived July 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, 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. ^[permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

  • "Raid by 500 Lumbee balks North Carolina Klan rally", The New York Times, January 19, 1958, p. 1.
  • "Indictment of Kluxers to be Urged". The Morning Herald. Hagerstown, Maryland. 20 Jan 1958. p. 1 – via
  • "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 – via
  • "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]