Gov. Walton's fight with Ku Klux Klan raises questions

In 1923, John Calloway "Jack" Walton became the first Oklahoma governor to be impeached. His less-than-a-year tenure was dominated by two forces: corruption and the Ku Klux Klan. Corruption ultimately led to his downfall, but his dealings with the latter may be his lasting legacy.

Walton spent most of his days as governor waging war against the KKK " that is, when he wasn't battling the Legislature to keep his job.

But, historians are skeptical of Walton's motives for clashing with the Klan. Was he trying to rid the state of a scourge he believed was evil, or was he just trying to rally public support in the hopes of remaining governor?

"I think his first concern was with his own welfare and hoping to deflect public interest in his situation so he wouldn't be impeached," said University of Oklahoma history professor and noted Oklahoma historian William Savage Jr. "The result was positive, but the motivation was questionable."

Larry O'Dell, a research specialist with the Oklahoma Historical Society, has similar views in regard to Walton's motives. O'Dell sees Walton as a political opportunist.

"I'm surprised he stood up to the Klan the way he did because he shifted in the wind so much," O'Dell said.

By the time Walton was forced out of office, Oklahomans felt like a tornado had swept through the state. "Scott Cooper

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