John F. Kennedy's Women

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The Hooded Remedy for Social Misbehavior

by Thomas R. Pegram


Family Intervention, Ku Klux Klan Style

FAMILY INTERVENTION, KU KLUX KLAN STYLE

For Audrey Harrison, 1923 was shaping up to be a difficult year. The thirty-year-old mother of two young children had recently, in the frowning language of 1920s journalism, “separated herself from her husband” and set up housekeeping in Goose Creek, Texas, a rough-and-tumble oil town on Galveston Bay some twenty-five miles east of Houston. Now, just a week into the new year, Mrs. Harrison had fallen ill. As her two girls played in the house with two neighbor children at nine one evening, a welcome admirer, Mr. R. A. Armand, arrived with a basket of fruit to comfort the ailing woman. Armand, twenty-eight and an oil-field worker, was known to Harrison’s disapproving neighbors as a regular companion of the still-married young mother. As Armand settled into a seat at Harrison’s bedside, another knock sounded at the front door. Bonnie Lee, Harrison’s seven-year-old daughter, opened the door to reveal a frightful caller dressed, in the little girl’s description, “all in white.” A whipping squad from Goose Creek’s Ku Klux Klan No. 4 was on the doorstep.

Although the local Klan had been organized for more than eighteen months, this group of night raiders was not arrayed in the familiar white sheets and hoods of the Invisible Empire. Instead these male intruders, numbering around fifteen menacing figures, resembled the participants in a nightmarish costume party. The leader of the group, armed with a revolver, was dressed as a circus clown. Two members of the mob were incongruously disguised in women’s clothing while others wore white commedia dell’arte costumes or other outfits typically associated with revelry. Despite their outlandish attire, the Klansmen had not arrived to play a prank. They intended to punish Harrison for leaving her husband and entertaining another man in her bedroom. Armand would also receive a stern lesson in standards of Southwestern moral comportment.

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