OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: Harry E. Becker, Mayor of Brea

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Here's a dirty little secret about the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County during the 1920s: for one part of the Invisible Empire's reach, it was all about class warfare.

We're talking specifically about the city of Brea, which wasn't the genteel suburb we know today but rather a rough oil town whose residents wanted fair wages and guaranteed work--and to keep non-Whites far, far away in the citrus groves. They also wanted the ins to get their buddies work in the oil fields, which is where the Klan came in, specifically in the form of Brea Mayor Harry E. Becker.

I need to brush up on my non-Klan Brea history, but Becker was a major force in the formation of the city, having been president of the town's trustees (before it became officially incorporated) as early as 1915, and remaining mayor until 1924, leaving a Klan majority in the council that would remain until the 1930s. Becker worked with the Union Oil Company, the main employer in the area, and helped determined who worked the oil fields and who didn't. A sure way to work? Join the Klan!

Brea's KKK might've not been as big a bunch of Mexican-haters as those in Fullerton and SanTana (although tell that to Judge Cruz Reynoso...), or as anti-Catholic as those in Anaheim, but under Becker, Brea can claim the fame of being one of Orange County's few bona fide sundown towns. Now THAT'S leadership!

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

Previous entries:

Francis Allen Kidder, Santa Ana Father and Son
Leslie C. Rogers, Santa Ana City Marshal
Earl Sechrist and Burton Young, Brea and Yorba Linda Ministers
Rollin Marsden and Roy Davis, Fullerton Councilmembers
William French, Fullerton's First Deputy Police Officer
Rudolph Kroener, Co-Owner of Former Gas Station that's Now Orange's Filling Station
William E. Fanning, Brea Schools Pioneer, Namesake of Fanning Elementary
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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