The black detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan
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He is retired, though still deeply loyal to the police force, and there is a grouchy rebelliousness to him:. Ron was 21 when he joined the police as a patrol officer — the only black person working in the entire department. The Klan investigation came out of the blue, four years later — what a gift to a spirited and ambitious young cop. At one point in our conversation he opens his wallet to show me a memento:. But shortly before I first made contact with Ron, the director Spike Lee had finally given the project the green light. Lee cast John David Washington as the younger Ron. The question arises, how could Ron, a black man, have possibly embedded himself in a white supremacist organisation?
What happened when he had to meet these people in the flesh? It was never actually intended to be a sting, explains Ron. The police were worried at the time, and wanted to find out more about Klan activities, so Ron did some homework. That said, he also made two howling errors:. Chuck now enters, stage left.
Ron decided there needed to be two Ron Stallworths:.
Chuck was game but senior staff were against the idea, arguing:. White supremacist groups and, at the other extreme, Black Panthers , covertly or not, advocated armed combat. In Denver, the Klan had recently burned several 14ft crosses in strategic locations; a black man escorting a white woman to the cinema had been shot dead; antisemitism was on the rise. African-Americans did not take well to Ron joining the police force, he says:. The grocery and bicycle store on Main Street, Colorado Springs, are no longer there, but the Kwik Inn is still standing. A s diner, it looks exactly as it did when Ken chose it as the location for his first meeting with Ron.
A mile or so later, the skinny cigar smoker pulled up outside a dive bar that the local Klan used as its recruitment centre. Ken was inside with another man, and a Klan membership form for Ron. Ken was 28, short and stocky — an army man. The military base, Fort Carson, was a short drive away.
Ken boasted that, under him, the Crusad er , the Klan newspaper, was now widely circulating in Colorado prisons and military staff were secretly joining in droves. What is certainly true is that many white military men resented the new black presence among their officers — a perfect opportunity for the Klan to widen its base. It was often, says Ron, very hard not to burst out laughing at the credulity and the petty officiousness of the Klan members. Only once did any members of the Klan get suspicious. He immediately said:. Ken proceeded to prescribe me a remedy. He said:. The deeper the investigation probed, the less laughable the inept Klansmen became.
Soon after that first meeting, Ken called Ron to invite him to his house. Plans to burn four 17ft crosses were discussed and finalised:. Publicly, the Klan were against violence. Ken gave White Ron the tour of his own personal arsenal, which included 13 shotguns, plus the weapons he carried in his vehicles.