Sunday, December 07, 2008

Forgive Us Our Trespasses...

I believe I've passed the age
of consciousness and righteous rage,
I've found that just surviving was a noble fight
I once believed in causes too,
had my pointless point of view,
Life went on no matter who was wrong or right.

- Billy Joel, 'Angry Young Man'

Local activist Jacob Richards wrote a letter to the Sentinel over the weekend criticizing this week's dedication of a statue commemorating Sentinel owner and publisher, aviation pioneer, and local political figure Walter Walker. Mr. Richards cited several sources in highlighting Mr. Walker's affiliation with, and support of, a well-known organization given to racial and religious intolerance.

Throughout history, there are those that have distinguished themselves in the community or the world through their actions for the common good. These individuals, by definition, were all flawed in some way.

Walter Walker was one of these people. Like all of us human beings who make mistakes and do regrettable things, it is apparent through historical record that Mr. Walker did indeed embrace the Ku Klux Klan. He also backed away from that endorsement.

When the statue of Dalton Trumbo was dedicated last year, several in the community were critical of both Trumbo's alleged duplicity as a member of the 'Hollywood Ten' and his open embrace of Communism. Among many older, long-time Grand Junction residents, his skewering of early 20th Century Grand Junction in 'Eclipse' was also not forgotten.

Yet the community at large embraced Trumbo's considerable accomplishments as a screenwriter and novelist, and the now-famous 'bathtub' sculpture now sits near the Avalon Theater.

Mr. Richards' attempts to remind the community of Mr. Walker's less-than-admirable past associations is interesting, but not unexpected. It's also irrelevant to the task at hand, which is to honor Mr. Walker's contributions to the community, which far exceed his temporary lapse of reason that Mr. Richards brought attention to.

Mr. Richards will likely continue his efforts on the public stage later this week. I would hope that he will not endanger himself or others, and that he will exercise his First Amendment rights in a responsible manner. I would personally enjoy reading a special edition of The Red Pill dedicated to this issue.

I'm hopeful that Mr. Richards will overcome his tendencies toward self-righteousness and trying to bring attention to himself to understand the proceedings this week. I also hope that he will eventually learn the value of calm, reasoned public discourse, working with others across ideological boundaries, and achieving compromise for the good of as many citizens as possible.

Perhaps he will, and use his considerable intellect to achieve great things, for which future community leaders will erect a statue of him. It might be dedicated with hardly a mention of Sarah Palin's motorcade.

As High Country News contributor Michelle Nijhuis so eloquently wrote about Dalton Trumbo's tribute two years ago:
"In reprinting "Eclipse,'' and embracing the truths of Shale City, Grand Junction deals a blow to the blacklist mentality. It also shows that small towns -- despite their many faults -- can be generous of heart, and large of mind."
It sounds to me as if the community is about to do the same thing with Walter Walker, and that sounds good to me.


Rebecca Davis Winters said...

Hi John! I was not aware that Walter Walker had repudiated his connection with the KKK. Could you give us any more info on that, or direct your readers to a source where we can learn more of the actual history involved in this issue? Thanks!

John Linko said...

Hi Rebecca:

I located two online references: The first is from a BLM Website detailing local history:

"In Grand Junction the Klan continued to expand its influence during 1925. Both the city manager and police chief were sympathizers and recruited members to serve in city jobs. The police were used to raid and harass anti-Klan groups and clubs. The Klan was opposed by the Editor of the Daily Sentinel, Walter Walker, and it was this opposition that eventually broke the KKK's hold over the city. The editor was attacked and when the police did not act swiftly, he started a new campaign that exposed local Klan corruption. While the organization's power dropped quickly, as late as 1927, membership still was used by politicians to attract voters. The entire Ku Klux Klan experience, in many ways gave vent to frustrations felt by many local residents who had been disappointed by the economic failures after World War I."

The Second is from a Mesa State publication, printed in 2006:

"Dr. Paul Reddin, professor of history at Mesa State College, said.."He (Walker) was a civic leader. Obviously his newspaper was influential. He was conservative, generally political"..He was one of the fellows instrumental in promoting the Klan within the newspapers, but after two years he noticed the Klan was bad.

According to Reddin, the Klan was a bad influence. He eventually used the newspaper to get rid of them. "Grand Junction is a better place to live because of him".

I would prefer to dig into the Sentinel archives and locate specific examples of how the paper was instrumental in eliminating the Klan's influence, through editorial statements etc.

I would also prefer to know Mr. Walker's heart, and whether or not his distancing from the Klan was due to a true change of that heart or just political expediency.

Either way, the community and history seems to have given him the benefit of the doubt.


Teresa Black said...

Hey John. Long time since I heard your name. How is Evan?
Thanks for posting these references on WW and the KKK link. I was discussing this with someone here, and they had no idea. I completely agree that one needs to look at the contributions and accomplishments of the whole man, and not just his affiliations at the time. It was a different time for certain. I was amazed I couldn't find more information on the subject. I detest revisionist history. I feel we should acknowledge the past and learn from it.