HUAC vs. the “Greenville Benevolent Association”: Investigating the Klan in Eastern North Carolina, 1965-66
Durant, David M.
In 1965, with the civil rights revolution at its height, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) opened an investigation into the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). The committee found that the Klan’s largest presence was in North Carolina, especially eastern North Carolina. Pitt County alone contained seven Klan klaverns (chapters), operating under such innocuous sounding names as the “Pitt County Improvement Association” and the “Pactolus Hunting Club.” Every county bordering on Pitt also contained at least one klavern, usually more. During public hearings in September 1965, and again in January 1966, HUAC interviewed a number of witnesses who discussed KKK activity in Pitt County and eastern North Carolina. The hearing revelations were amplified through articles in the press, especially the Daily Reflector, and the News & Observer. The ensuing publicity documenting the extent of Klan activity in North Carolina greatly embarrassed the state’s political elites, and led to a crackdown on the KKK by state authorities that helped render the organization irrelevant within two years. While HUAC conducted a number of investigations pertaining to North Carolina, the committee’s 1965-66 Klan investigation is the only one in its history that directly involved Greenville and Pitt County.