Arkansas Traveller [Ku Klux Klan Newspaper]

The Arkansas Traveller was a weekly Ku Klux Klan (KKK) newspaper published in El Dorado (Union County) and Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1923 and 1924. It was one of many Klan newspapers of the 1920s, joining such national newspapers as the Searchlight, Imperial Night-Hawk, Klan Kourier, and Fiery Cross. Many states and some cities had Klan newspapers similar to the Arkansas Traveller. The newspaper reported on activities of local Klan chapters and pushed the national Klan agenda against immigration, Catholicism, immorality, and racial equality.

The newspaper was first published around April 1923 in El Dorado by Elmer C. Croom and James D. Baynham, both of whom held jobs with the El Dorado Daily Tribune. Croom worked as the general manager of the Tribune, while Baynham served as the Tribune’s advertising manager.

El Dorado had one of the largest and most active Klan chapters in Arkansas. With the oil and gas boom in Union County in the early 1920s, El Dorado and neighboring communities of Norphlet (Union County) and Smackover (Union County) became boomtowns notorious for gambling establishments, brothels, and speakeasies. Between April and June 1923, the county sheriff, B. Allen Hancock, arrested Croom and Baynham multiple times for criminal libel for their allegations that local government officials profited by the vice and had thwarted efforts by the federal government to prosecute moonshiners, bootleggers, and drug venders. They had also accused some oilmen and local businessmen of direct involvement in illegal activities.

By October 1923, Baynham moved to Arkansas’s capital city, and he singlehandedly published the newspaper from Little Rock and El Dorado. He apparently affiliated with the Little Rock Klan No. 1—the state’s largest Klan chapter, with 8,000 members. He became so enamored with its Exalted Cyclops and Grand Dragon for Arkansas, James A. Comer, that he named his firstborn son James Comer Baynham.

It is not clear how long the paper continued to be published. It was still in print in February 1924, but by the following August, Baynham had moved to Memphis, Tennessee, to edit the Memphis Klan Kourier. By that time, the Klan’s influence was declining in Arkansas as well as elsewhere in the nation.

Only two copies of The Arkansas Traveller have apparently survived, both in New Haven, Connecticut, in the archives of the Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal order. The Knights led the counterattack against the circulation of a fake oath, purported to be taken upon membership in the order, in which members supposedly vowed to wipe out Protestants from the face of the earth. The October 15 and November 5, 1923, issues of the Traveller repeated the charges, even reprinting portions of the forged document. Luke Hart, the head of the Knights, collected and archived the issues with thoughts of suing Baynham for libel. When the Arkansas secretary of the Knights informed him that nearly all elected officials in Little Rock and Pulaski County were active Klan members, however, Hart dropped his plans for a lawsuit.

For additional information:
Barnes, Kenneth C. The Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Arkansas: How Protestant White Nationalism Came to Rule a State. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2021.

Baynham, James C. Where Does My Age Group Meet? San Jose, CA: Writers Club Press, 2001.

Kenneth C. Barnes
Conway, Arkansas

Last Updated: 11/10/2021

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