Profiles in OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: William E. Fanning, Brea Schools Pioneer, Namesake of Fanning Elementary

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The legacy of school segregation in Orange County really needs no introduction 'round these parts. But what still needs to get examined is the political allegiances of the architects of such policies--beyond the mere racism that existed in Orange County before the 1950s, and toward the Coast to Coast territory of bona fide conspiracies. Many educators during the 1920s belonged to the Ku Klux Klan and took the KKK's philosophy of white supremacy to heart by creating Mexican-only schools with subpar education. Of course, those stories don't get into the history books--and here we are.

We already talked about Roy Horton, the SanTana trustee who wanted to fire school employees who weren't Klan. And then there's a titan of OC education who's name I won't reveal until I end this series, which probably won't be for three more years, inshallah. But today, the educator we'll focus on is William E. Fanning of Brea.

Fanning was first head of the old Brea Grammar School when it first opened in 1917. As the oil town grew, so did Fanning's responsibilities; by the time he retired in 1942, he had served as the superintendent of Brea's elementary schools for more than a decade.

Brea's schools were never segregated because there was no need to. The city, of course, was a sundown town, where African-American families couldn't legally leave. Mexicans were okay, but they all feared the racial animus in town. As former California Supreme Court Judge Cruz Reynoso recalled in a 2002 interview, his family was one of two Mexican families in Brea during the 1930s. Two, in a county that even then had a sizable Mexican community. They got the hell out while they could--and with a Klucker like Fanning at the head of education, who could blame them?

Tellingly, Brea named William E. Fanning Elementary school after the pendejo--what a town!

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

Previous entries:

Jesse L. Hunter, San Juan Capistrano Innkeeper, Owner of Mexican Restaurant
John A. Leuzinger, Brea Mayor, Founder of Brea Electric
Newton E. Wray, SanTana Rancher, Failed City Council Candidate
Samuel F. Hilgenfeld, Buena Park Minister, Founder of Anaheim's Hilgenfeld Mortuary
Elmer E. Heidt, OC's First Scout Executive for Orange County Boy Scouts Council
James W. Newell, Fullerton-area Miner/Mason
Garland C. Ross, Santa Ana dentist, batted against Walter Johnson
Ferris F. Kelley, San Juan Capistrano Postmaster
Clyde Fairbairn, Longtime Olive resident/nice guy
Charles McClure, Brea's first police chief
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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