The Ku Klux Klan felt it was being put on the defensive in America. After the uproar of the Scopes trial, the security of fundamentalism was feeling a little shaky. Even women could vote. The great waves of immigrant Jews and Greeks and Italians were steadily becoming assimilated. Black men were going to college! America was in danger of becoming a pluralistic society.
Imperial Wizard Hiram Evans proposed a march on Washington. When sixty thousand white-robed Klansmen marched down Pennsylvania Avenue they would show the nation that the power of the Klan was not on the wane.
On August 7 Klansmen started arriving in the capital by cars, trains and buses. It was hot – ninety degrees – and the visitors camped for the night in tents set up on a twenty-three acre plot in the northeast section of the District. They had a good time, the same as the Shriners or Elks might have at their summer conventions. About thirty thousand folk showed up – about half what had been predicted, but still a large crowd. There were many young people – couples with their children, as many women as men. It was a homogenous crowd and everyman felt comfortable: “There was not an individual among its white-robed tens of thousands who was not a Protestant, nor one who had not declared his faith in Christ!”
The morning of August 8, the Klansmen formed in white-robed ranks at the head of Pennsylvania Avenue. The instructions were clear – March with your visors raised and show your faces. They marched forth state by state, with large banners proclaiming their faith. The long white robes made the procession extra hot – more than a hundred men and women wound up in the hospitals with dehydration and heat stroke.
As the columns wheeled south to march the final leg to the Washington Monument, large thunderheads started to roll ominously overhead. The columns kept marching. Rain started to spit – first a few sprinkles, then a brief shower. The crowd started to get a bit edgy and the nervousness worked its way up to the podium.
L. A Mueller, the Grand Kleagle for the District of Columbia, thought he could calm the parading Klansmen. He picked up the microphone and proclaimed through the loudspeakers: “It will not rain. We shall pray. Never yet has God poured rain on a Klan assembly!”
Thunder crashed overhead. Minutes later, the heavens opened and heavy rain deluged the parading Klansmen. The parade started to break rank.
The Rev Dr. Gulledge from Columbus Ohio, the ranking clergyman on the rostrum, got down on his knees. “Oh God” he intoned into the microphone, “I pray that the remainder of this service be conducted without rain.”
The rain intensified into “a damp penetrating rain that soaked the Klansmen to the skin”. The Klansmen streamed back to their cars and buses and trains.
Before the parade, the Ku Klux Klan boasted a membership of four million. Five years later, that number had washed out to forty-five thousand.
Source: The Fiery Cross: The Ku Klux Klan in America by Wyn Craig Wade