T hroughout the Roaring Twenties, two themes ran concurrently during that decade of questionable prosperity. On the one hand, prohibition prompted Americans to quench their thirst with the proscribed elixir of the speakeasies. At the same time, millions were drawn into the web of waspish intolerance as exemplified by the revival of a pseudo-respectable Ku Klux Klan. In both of these respects, Madera mirrored the rest of the country.
The revived Ku Klux Klan made its public debut in Madera on Jan. 8, 1924. On that date, the Madera Tribune received a letter from one M.B. Haver, Kleagle of the Klan Klavern in Merced, informing its editor that Madera was the home of a vibrant chapter of the “Invisible Empire,” and its readers would hear more from the robed and hooded racists in the near future. Haver was as good as his word.
On March 24, 1924, the Klan applied for permission to use the Lincoln School auditorium for a rally, but the request was denied. Turned away at the school door, the Klan turned to the churches, and two congregations allowed them to use their facilities to hold meetings in which James Rush Bronson, a national speaker for the Klan, delivered two fiery speeches. In both of them, he dropped a bombshell.
After thanking the ministers of the host churches for “their liberality” in allowing him to deliver his message, Bronson informed the audience that the Klan was interested in the upcoming city election, in which three council seats were up for grabs...