2017-11-22 / Features

President Trump's Father & The Ku Klux Klan

A Historic Question Answered
By Jason D. Antos

Queens County Memorial Day Parade was held on May 30, 1927. It was crashed by the Ku Klux Klan and a huge fight ensued as seen here in this archival photograph.Queens County Memorial Day Parade was held on May 30, 1927. It was crashed by the Ku Klux Klan and a huge fight ensued as seen here in this archival photograph.During the 2016 Presidential campaign the question was raised of whether or not President Donald Trump's father was a member of the notorious domestic terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan.

The allegation stems from an arrest record showing that the President’s father, Fred Trump who resided with his mother Elizabeth at 175-24 Devonshire Road, was arrested as a result of an encounter with the Klan at what the media erroneously called a Ku Klux Klan rally.

In fact, historians have confirmed that it was the annual Queen County Memorial Day Parade of 1927.

Here is a rundown of what happened and why history is sometimes blurred by politics.

It all begins in the year 1915 with the first narrative feature film, Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith. Based on the novel, The Klansman, the film caused a revival of the "Invisible Empire" otherwise known as the Ku Klux Klan and by 1924, there were an estimated four million Klansman.

In Queens, there was the Major Emmet D. Smith Klan No. 38, Knights of the Invisible Empire. The Klan even burned a cross on the lawn of the Holy Child Church at 111-11 86th Ave. in Richmond Hill in 1924.

Klan activity, although moderate in Queens County, was very strong on Long Island in the towns of Freeport and Bay Shore. The Klan even forced major political victories in Islip, Brookhaven and Oyster Bay. Due to a federal law created by New York Senator and future mayor of New York City, Jimmy Walker, the Klan had to provide a list of its members.

Known as the “Walker Law”, the statute revealed that there were 169 residents of Richmond Hill who were card-carrying members of the Klan. Other members hailed from Woodhaven, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and even Glendale, Flushing and College Point.

On none of these registries appears the name for Fred Trump or any relatives.

The annual Queens County Memorial Day Parade was held on May 30, 1927.

The Klan applied for a permit to march in what was then one of New York City’s largest Memorial Day parades. Their permits, however, were denied and in retaliation, the Klan did a cross burning, in Briarwood, on May 27.

The Klan persisted and applied again. Twenty four-hours before the parade was to begin word started circulating that although Mayor Walker was holding up the permit, the Klan would march anyway. Several community organizations pulled out of the march including the Knights of Columbus and the Allied Veterans Association due to the Klan's threats.

The Klan marched anyway. All 1,000 with 400 of them women and were accompanied by the one hundred person strong Nassau County Rangers and the Liberty Band.  

The parade began in Richmond Hill and concluded at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (Merrick Boulevard and Hillside Avenue). The monument was a bronze statue of victory, commemorating the fallen in the Civil War, sculpted by Frederick W. Ruckstall.

The parade was 3.7 miles long. At 89th Street came the first encounter with Klan and cops. Police Inspector George Haerie of Jamaica stopped the Klan contingent. Marshal Colonel Edward A. Watkins and Mrs. Adelaide Price representing the lady Klan headed the Klan.

To the sound of Onward Christian Soldier, the Klan broke through the police blockade and marched down into Richmond Hill behind the Triangle Hofbrau. In the triangle square where Jahn’s, the RKO Keith’s Richmond Hill and Salerno’s once stood, in 1927 standing in their future spots were a plumbing and hardware store, a livery stable and a grocers market.

And it was in this clear opening that the Klan encountered trouble. Youths from Jamaica High School threw rotten fruit and garbage onto the passing Klan members from atop 126ht Street Main Line LIRR trestle.

Shouts were now being exchanged back and forth between Klan marchers and the crowd. Individual onlookers darted into the parade route, yelling, pushing Klansman and women, who also pushed back. Fistfights broke out.

Captain McQueeney of the Jamaica Precinct stationed his men on both sides of the

Boulevard and allowed the rest of the marchers through and then allowed Queens Boulevard cross traffic to continue. The Klan was held up at the end. Ten minutes passed. The hostile crowd in upon the Klan marchers and struck men and women indiscriminately. Rotten fruit and vegetables were thrown at them.

The crowd also assaulted E.M. Peterkin, a Klansman, wrestling away his KKK banner. There were even Klan on horseback. George Whitsu, a Klan leader, jumped over a blockading police car and headed into Jamaica. The Klan saw this a pushed on. 

At the 165th Street a reviewing stand was set up on Hillside Avenue from which Congressman John Kindred, Rabbi Benjamin Werner of the Jamaica Jewish Center watched as police hit Klansman with Billy clubs and arrested numerous spectators for “failure to disperse” One of these spectators…was Fred Trump.

In all five Klan were arrested for assaulting a patrolman. Three were set free and two were convicted and served a small amount of time.

The Daily Star of June 1, 1927 reports that Fred Trump was “dismissed on a charge of refusing to disperse from a parade when ordered to do so.” Trump was the only one of the seven to have his charges dismissed at the arraignment. The parade went straight through Trump’s hometown of Jamaica and was attended by 100,000 people.

There is nothing at all connecting Fred Trump to the Klan other than his mere presence as a spectator to the largest Memorial Day Parade in the country.

The distance from the home at 175-24 Devonshire Road in Jamaica (which still stands today) and where he was arrested is only ¾ of a mile away or about a 10-minute walk from his front door.

Miranda warning would come 40 years later.

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