Profiles in OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: Charles McClure, Brea's First Police Chief

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Anaheim's Klan was more obsessed with temperance than minorities; Fullerton's Klukkers were mostly obsessed with booting out Mexicans from the city limits. But for a bit of the old Klan, the guys who hated blacks and wanted nothing to do with them, you'd have to travel up to Brea, the county's only verified city that was a sundown town, that peculiar Southern institution that forbade African-Americans from staying within a city's limits after sunset--or else.

The man in charge of enforcing the "or else" provision in Brea's early days was its first chief of police, Charles McClure, a Klan member long after the Orange County District Attorney's office discouraged public employees (if not outright banned; need to remember) from joining the Invisible Empire.

Years ago, I gave a talk to senior citizens and talked about Orange County history, touching only briefly on our sundown-town heritage (Orange, Huntington Beach, and Newport are also alleged to have been sundown towns, but there's never been any concrete evidence to support the assertion). An elderly lady raised her hand and promptly recalled segregated Brea in the 1930s, saying she remembered how the town had a few blacks workers--maids, a shoeshine man, and a couple of other people--who carried on fine until 4 p.m., when they hurriedly packed their belongs and high-tailed it out of Brea. "It was sad to see these people, happy, and talking, all of a sudden turn frightened, just because the sun was coming down," she said. When I asked her if any brutal crackdowns on tardy African-Americans ever happened, she said she couldn't remember but wouldn't have been surprised: "Brea in those days wasn't a nice place to live."

What's crazy about Brea is that, although it was a sundown town, it didn't mind Mexicans too much. In an oral history, former California State Supreme Court judge Cruz Reynoso remembered that the Brea schools didn't segregate him and his brothers from their gabacho peers. Then again, Mexis don't represent a threat to the status quo when only two families lived in town--but how to explain the ban on African-Americans?

The Klan. McClure was just the enforcer; he didn't set the laws. That would've been the Brea City Council--and that's an episode for another post...

Tune in every Monday around 5 p.m. for the latest entry exposing Orange County city fathers who were Klan members!

Previous entries:

John F. Pieper, Tustin feed store owner, councilmember
William Starbuck, Fullerton school trustee, druggist
Hoyt Corbit, Yorba Linda Pioneer, Fan of Richard Nixon
Lucien Proud, La Habra mayor/school trustee
Albert Hetebrink, Fullerton rancher
Henry W. Head, Orange County godfather
Dr. Roy S. Horton and Marshall Keeler, Santa Ana Unified trustees
Sam Jernigan and Jesse Elliott, Orange County sheriffs
Herman Hiltscher, Fullerton bureacrat

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