PEMBROKE — The Lumbee Tribe on Friday night will honor surviving American Indians who chased the Ku Klux Klan from the county on the 50th anniversary of that event.
“I am excited about Friday night and the chance to honor the Lumbee warriors who helped rid the county of a message of bigotry and hate,” Tribal Chairman Jimmy Goins said. “I hope everyone brings their children so that the oral tradition and stories will be passed on.”
The last time the KKK tried to spread its message of hatred here, on Jan. 18, 1958, more than 500 Lumbee Indians, many carrying weapons, crashed the party in what is known as the Battle of Hayes Pond. That night about 50 Klansmen sprinted away, leaving some of their belongings behind.
On Friday, the Lumbee Tribe and the Indian Honor Association will honor surviving Lumbees who were there that night by presenting them with medallions. The ceremony will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the gym at the Indian Resource Center next to The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Members of the Lumbee Boys and Girls Club will perform, along with the drum group, Southern Sun.
In 1957 and 1958, the KKK frequently left burned crosses in the yards of Lumbee Indians as a threat. On Jan. 13, 1958, a group of Klansmen burned a cross on the lawn of a Lumbee woman in St. Pauls. They claimed she was having an affair with a white man.
When Klan leader James “Catfish” Cole planned a rally at Hayes Mill Pond near Maxton, the Lumbee Indian community, along with local and federal officials, tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Klan to hold the rally elsewhere. Cole predicted that 5,000 Klansmen would be at the rally; only 50 showed up.
As Cole began to speak to the assembled Klansmen, a Lumbee man shot out a solitary bulb that was providing light, and dozens of American Indians fired weapons into the air. The Klansmen fled into the woods. Four Klansmen were injured, but none seriously. The Klansmen left being their public address system, unlit cross and various regalia.
Later arrested for inciting a riot, Cole appeared before Lacy Maynor, the sole Indian judge in Robeson County. The Klan leader was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison. The incident received national television and print coverage, including coverage in Life magazine.