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Written letter from Clarence Darrow collection
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Clarence Darrow Signature

The Clarence Darrow Letters

D. C. Stephenson to Clarence Darrow, April 18, 1930

Click on the image to view as a PDF. A transcription of the letter is on the right.


April 18, 1930

Hon. Clarence Darrow

1537 East 60th Street

Chicago, Illinois

My dear Mr. Darrow:

Your letter was the happeist bit of news I have received for sometime. Please do come to see me.

Before you get far into this case - if I am so fortunate as to secure your services - you will learn that my trouble is due entirely to the fine machavallain methods of one H. W. Evans, leader of the "hate faction" of the Klan, and some of his obsequious devotees. For the most part they are men who ally themselves with Evans because of financial gain. Some of them are not even qualified to join his organization because of professed creeeds, or for other causes. Yet these chaps will look you in the eye with the solemnity and feigned righteousness of a Tennessee judge and assure you that they are not affiliated with the criminal faction of the Klan, then they will start a tirade of abuse of me because of my opposition to Evans and the organized crooks who constitute his present following. This, of course, is incidental to any discussion leading to your taking charge of my legal fight, but it is important. I mention these facts because I am reasonably certain you will meet one of these peculiar characters before many days -- possibly before you see me.

Please do not construe the foregoing as a weak apology for my conduct during the three months that I was the official head of the Klan in Indiana - from July 4, 1923 to September 28, 1923. There was nothing in my brief leadership for which I would apologize - no more that I wish to apologize for my war record. It is, however, a matter of profound regret to me that I became identified with an organization where leaders - professing high scruples - were in fact sinister and dangerous criminals who sought power only to abuse it; and while preaching patriotism and law enforcement they controlled the agencies of justice to protect themselves and punish those who had the courage to oppose them.

My only excuse for writing a letter so long is the importance of acoiding a misunderstanding with you, whom I regard (as the peopoe of this country generally do) as one of the few lawyers in the republic who is never false to his own sense of duty. I would rather remain in prison - literally - than to be haunted by a sense of guilty conscience in deceiving you. Your views on the Klan - or what you have heard was my activity in the Klan - are yours to cherish unchallenged by me; except where they are based upon incorrect information. I have enjoyed many hours of brilliant reading where your clear logic was in sharp conflice with the opinions of noted men. You stood your ground, as did your more or less worthy opponents. By the same process of reasoning that I grant you the unchallenged right to your viewpoint, I am sure you will madnanimously concede me the privilege to maintain a position in which I am wholly sincere. My position - in my brief leadership of the Klan - was not one of blind and unreasoning hate agains nmy fellow man, nor was it one of antagonism in any degree. The Knights of Columbus, the N.A.C.P. (colored people) the Greek Alliance, the Jewish societies, and others, admitted only people of a certain sect, or race, to their ranks. That is their right under our system of government. I had no quarrel with any of those groups. The hate element was injected into the Klan by leaders from the "bible belt" (Temm, Ga., La., etc) after I resigned all connections with the Klan. That element, rapidly becoming the xxxxxx national program of the Evans gang, was one reason or contributing cause - for my severing relations with the Klan. Thousands of other Indiana retired for the same reason. This is all known to the hundeds of thousand who were members, but press sansa-

ntionalism has painted a different public picture.

All of the foregoing is "another story," and has nothing to do with the instant discussion. Please come down to Michigan City and take complete charge of my legal affairs. When you get me out of prison - and you will get me out -- I shall be pleased to discuss the merits - or demerits - of my earlier activity.

Yours truly,

D. C. Stephenson.