Grandaddy called out KKK

Published 1:04 am Saturday, October 11, 2014

Back in January, I went through the local Smithsonian Way We Worked exhibit with my parents, niece and nephew.

As I scanned a timeline of significant events in Opp, I pointed out a piece of family history to the kids.

“See that. 1924 – Jesse L. Kimbro purchases The Opp News,” I read to them, ever mindful that I should be teaching them something. “That was Grandaddy’s granddaddy.”

“Oh, yea,” Daddy chimed in. “That was the year he wrote that editorial about the Ku Klux Klan.”

This was some family lore I hadn’t heard. I was all ears.

No telling what this man – who was at different times in his life a rural mail carrier, a newspaper man, and a Primitive Baptist minister – had written the week before, but apparently it didn’t agree with local Klansmen, who had issued some sort of the threat against him in return.

Granddaddy Kimbro, according to family sources, responded in kind with an editorial in which he waxed eloquent on the power of press, assuring his readers he would not be silenced by men wearing sheets.

At the conclusion, it is said, Granddaddy wrote something to this effect: “If anyone sees Mr. (last name of Klansman who threatened him), please read this to him, as it is doubtful he would be able to read it himself.”

I haven’t had time to go to the State Archives and search for a copy, but doing so is certainly on my bucket list.

Later, Granddaddy Kimbro’s daughter, Lucille Kimbro Woodham McRae, a sister of my paternal grandmother and the second generation in the family in the business, wrote something critical of Lurleen Wallace in The Florala News, which her grandchildren still own.

Daddy, along with our cousin Larry Woodham, worked for her. His recollection is that every advertiser cancelled their ads for one week, but came back the following one. They figured she could write what she wanted in her newspaper, but they let her know they disagreed.

I was thinking about all of this family history because it is National Newspaper Week. I am pleased to be a member of the fourth generation in a family of newspaper folks, and even more pleased that the Woodham line has produced a fifth generation.

I can’t imagine that a job could be any more interesting that the ones we do in the community newspaper business. Even on long football Fridays, I am not sorry that I left a state job with great hours and lots of holidays to come back to this work.

Just like with Grandaddy Kimbro, Aunt ‘Cile, Daddy, and others, people get mad with me sometimes. Fighting mad. I’ve been threatened, too. But all of that is worth it when our paper has a story that touches someone, that leads to good, or helps correct a wrong.

Happy Newspaper Week, y’all, and thanks for reading.