The Eagle [Newspaper]
The Eagle was an anti–Ku Klux Klan (KKK) newspaper published from November 21, 1923, through 1929, one of three weeklies published in Marshall (Searcy County). With four pages and six columns, the newspaper was published on Fridays for $1 a year paid in advance. The words carried on its masthead proclaimed its opposition to the Klan, whose activity was increasing during this time: “The Idea of An Invisible Empire In a Free Republic Is Nothing Less Than Visible Nonsense.” Besides anti-Klan articles, news, and editorials, the Eagle was active in supporting anti-Klan candidates in both the Democratic and Republican parties. While anti-Klan candidates showed considerable success in the party primaries, the Klan candidates ran as Independents in the general elections and won the county judge and county clerk offices in the 1924 election and the county judge office in 1926. Anti-Klan candidates won sheriff, assessor, and surveyor in both years, and the Eagle editor defeated the Klan county clerk in 1926. The Eagle was the only anti-Klan voice for candidates, as the other two Marshall papers—the Marshall Republican and the Democratic Mountain Wave—supported the Klan.
The local KKK was organized by concerned Searcy County citizens in the summer of 1922; by July, it was reputed to have between 100 and 250 members. Formed to curtail the county’s alcohol-fueled violence, it soon assumed a social conscience, threatening men who did not provide for their families with whipping. During the Missouri & North Arkansas Railroad strike (February 1921 to December 1923), it sided with management and persecuted the strikers and their supporters. In 1922, the local KKK successfully supported Daniel J. Patterson for sheriff. The elected county judge died in July, and Governor Thomas C. McRae appointed replacement Zeb V. Ferguson with Klan support.
Many Searcy County citizens were offended by the Klan’s interference in their lives. By August 1923, an anti-Klan organization had formed called the Order of the Anti-Poke Noses, appropriate for people who felt intruded upon. They formed a stock company that raised money for a newspaper. Funded by $10 to $20 subscriptions, the organization raised enough funds to purchase the printing equipment of the failed Cabot Record. By November 16, 1923, the equipment was installed in the Jennings building on Main Street, and the first issue was published on November 21, 1923. It was called the Eagle, after the founders rejected another proposed name, Anti-Poke Nose News. The editor was Republican W. Frank Reeves (1877–1958)—prominent lawyer, former county clerk, former Fourteenth District prosecuting attorney, receiver at the U.S. Land Office, and organizer of the stock company. Another lawyer, Democrat A. J. Parks, was associate editor, and Nelle Huffines was publisher.
The Eagle published local news, ran professional advertisements, and featured the County Agent’s weekly column. By 1924, it promoted anti-Klan candidates in both parties. In February 1924, Sheriff Patterson announced in the Eagle that, although elected in 1922 with Klan support, he rejected and opposed the Klan and would run as anti-Klan. (He died before the election, however.) Klan candidates lost in their parties’ primaries, but county judge, sheriff, and county clerk Klan candidates ran as Independents. County Judge Ferguson ran with Klan support but was defeated in the Democratic primary by the anti-Klan J. Con Medley. In the general election, Ferguson ran as an Independent, Medley dropped out, and anti-Klan Republican J. C. Evans lost to Ferguson. Klan-supported Independent Alf Henley defeated anti-Klan Democratic and Republican candidates. Anti-Klan Democrat J. C. McCall defeated Klan-supported Republican Riley Baker for sheriff. In the 1926 general election, KKK candidate Zeb Ferguson won county judge as an Independent, but anti-Klan Democrat W. M. McCall beat KKK Independent J. Dorsey Treece for sheriff, and Republican W. Frank Reeves defeated incumbent Klansman Independent Alf Henley as county clerk. The 1926 elections were the last year the Klan submitted candidates.
The Eagle’s sixty-seven stockholders were principally Searcy County residents, but three resided in Oklahoma, one in Kentucky, and one in Springdale (Washington and Benton counties). Some stockholders ran for public office as anti-Klanners. Abe Treece, whose store sold products to M&NA strikers, was whipped by the Klan on January 14, 1923; his oldest brother, W. C. Treece, was an Eagle stockholder. H. G. Treece, another brother, placed significant advertisements in the Eagle as cashier of the Bank of Marshall.
By 1926, the staff had changed. Reeves remained editor, but Parks dropped from associate editor, and Nettie Horton replaced Huffines as publisher and business manager. Horton married and then resigned on December 27, 1928.
After the 1924 primary elections, the Klan lost membership, according to the August 19, 1924, issue of the Eagle. One hundred were dropped for failure to pay dues, sixty from the Marshall Klan No. 88. Waning Klan influence meant that the raison d’etre for the Eagle began to disappear. Editor Reeves replaced Klansman Alf Henley as county clerk in 1927, and by the end of 1929 the Eagle ceased publication, its goal achieved. During the Eagle’s last year, income from subscriptions declined, and job printing became more important.
For additional information:
“‘Anti-Poke Noses’ to Fight the Klan.” Mountain Wave, October 5, 1923.
Arkansas Union List of Newspapers. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Libraries, 1993.
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.
The Eagle on microfilm at Arkansas Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas. Assorted copies June 20, 1924–September 8, 1924; May 30, 1924; October 15, 1926; March 30, 1928.
Hempstead, Fay. “W. Frank Reeves.” In Historical Review of Arkansas, Vol. 3. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1911.
Searcy County Arkansas: Eagle Newspaper Ledger, 1923–1929. Marshall AR: Jim G. Ferguson Searcy County Library.
James J. Johnston
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