James William Cole Papers

1863, 1946-1967
Manuscript Collection #40
Cole, James William, 1924-1967
Physical description
1.3 Cubic Feet, 900 items , consisting of correspondence, speeches, news releases, pamphlets, tracts, broadsides, booklets, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
James William Cole Papers (#40), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1863, 1946-1967) including correspondence, speeches, news releases, pamphlets, etc. relating to a local leader in the Ku Klux Klan in Eastern North Carolina.

Biographical/historical information

James William "Catfish" Cole (1924-1967) attended Grainger High School in Kinston, N.C., and served in the European Theatre during World War II. In 1953 he and his wife, Carolyn, began Southern Bible College in Marion, S.C. Cole was ordained into the ministry by the Wayside Baptist Church in Summerfield, N.C. (1958). While in Marion, he toured North and South Carolina as a tent evangelist and broadcast a Sunday morning radio program (1956). During this period he became an active member of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, eventually becoming Grand Dragon in North and South Carolina. A Klan rally in Maxton, N.C. (1958), developed into a highly publicized confrontation with the Lumbee Indians and led to Cole's arrest and conviction. He served a prison sentence (1959-1960) for inciting a riot. Cole subsequently moved to Portsmouth, Va., where he worked as a private detective (1961) before returning to Kinston, N.C., in 1962, to operate a print shop. He began the Helping Hands C.B. Club and was also involved in the Committee for Better Government, a political action group with Klan overtones. In 1966, Cole attempted a takeover of the Klan organization through a move to Greensboro, N.C., but he died shortly thereafter of injuries received in a car accident (1967).

Scope and arrangement

The majority of the correspondence is addressed to Cole during his imprisonment (1959-1960). These letters concern details of his appeal efforts, the National States Rights Party, and KKK efforts to stem the tide of desegregation. Of particular interest is a letter from Carolyn Cole (1959) asking members of the Klan to donate money to pay for Cole's appeal.

Of significance are the numerous bulletins, leaflets, pamphlets, and newsletters pertaining to Klan operations. These papers give a clear view of the purpose of the Klan in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Also included are many broadsides advertising various Klan rallies in North and South Carolina.

The collection also contains material from Cole's period as an evangelist, including drafts of sermons and announcements of his services throughout North and South Carolina (1950s). Certificates of ordination to the ministry as well as a certificate of incorporation from the state of South Carolina for the Southern Bible College (1953) are also included.

Materials from his other business interests are also included in the collection, and consist of business cards, advertising fliers from his private investigation agency (1961), and samples of work from his printing company (1962-1967). Membership lists, minutes of meetings, announcements for rallies, and guidelines from the F.C C. are included for the Helping Hands C.B. Club (1961-1965).

The collection also contains materials pertaining to various elections in North Carolina including the campaigns of I. Beverly Lake, John East, Robert Curtis, and local (Lenoir County) officials. Also included are cards and posters for"Cole for Governor in '68." Of interest is an impeachment petition from citizens of Lenoir County, N.C., demanding the U.S. Senate charge Lyndon Johnson with treason (undated). There is also a certificate of incorporation (1955) from the state of North Carolina for the State's Rights League whose objective was to maintain the purity and culture of the white race and Anglo-Saxon institutions.

Miscellaneous items include business cards, membership cards, his fingerprint record (1961), and honorable discharge certificate from the Army (1946). A photocopy of a U.S. government transportation license from Hyde County, N.C., to Washington, N.C., granted by the Union Army of Occupation to Josephus Daniels (1863) is included in the collection. The license required that Daniels sign an oath of loyalty to the U.S. government and swear he never voluntarily gave aid to the Confederates.

Financial records in the collection include collection notices, doctor bills, and receipts from transactions at the N.C. State Prison.

Photographs of Cole, various family members, his printing company in Kinston, a World War II army camp, locations in Kinston, and Robert E. Shelton (Imperial Wizard of the KKK) are included.

The collection contains numerous newspaper and magazine clippings, most of which deal with race relations, Civil Rights, and Klan activities. There are many clippings concerning the Maxton Rally (1958) and the ensuing trial. These articles also focus on the Lumbee Indians.

Publications include The Constitution and Bylaws of the Klan, The Klovan, copies of Jet magazine (1957, 1963-1966), The Klan in Action, The Sins or Evils of Integration, and a copy of the Rules and Policies of the N.C. Prison Department (1958).

Administrative information
Custodial History

December 31, 1967, ca. 900 items; Papers (1946-1967) of James William Cole, consisting of correspondence, photographs, leaflets, broadsides, posters, newspaper and magazine clippings, printed material, and miscellaneous. Gift of Mrs. Carolyn Cole, Kinston, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Carolyn Cole

Processing information

Processed by J. Layne, February 1988

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Cole, James William, 1924-1967
Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973
Corporate Names
Helping Hands C.B. Club (Kinston, N.C.)
Ku Klux Klan (1915- )--North Carolina
Ku Klux Klan (1915- )--South Carolina
National States Rights Party (U.S.)
Evangelists--Southern States
Lumbee Indians--North Carolina--Race relations
White supremacy movements--History--20th century
Lenoir County (N.C.)--Politics and government
Maxton (N.C.)--Race relations
North Carolina--Race relations--History--20th century
South Carolina--Race relations--History--20th century

Container list
Box 1 Correspondence, 1947, 1952-1967
Box 2 Speeches, news releases, Klan printed materials, broadsides
Box 3 Church materials, detective agency materials, printing company samples, C.B. Club materials, election and political materials
Box 5 Newspaper clippings, magazine clippings
Box 6 Publications and booklets
Folder os1 Item 1 Congressional Record. Reprint of "Negro Revolution," February 3, 1965. pp, 1908-1918
Folder os1 Item 2 The Fiery Cross. Published by the United Klans of America. 2 undated issues
Folder os1 Item 3 Freedom's Voice. Undated
Folder os1 Item 4 Natural Health Guardian. Vol. 90, No. 8, August 1958
Folder os1 Item 5 The Augusta Courier. Vol. 2, No. 930. August 2, 1965. Reprint of "The Untold Story of Selma, Alabama," from May 17 and 24, 1965, issues
Folder os1 Item 6 The Thunderbolt. Issues #77, 81, 82, 84. May, September, October, December 1966
Folder os1 Item 7 The National Insider. Vol. 10, No. 73, March 26, 1967
Folder os1 Item 8 Cupid's Destiny. Published by Destiny League of Reno, Nevada. Vol. 29, No. 1, January 1963
Folder os1 Item 9 Look. "Intruder in the South," Vol. 21, No. 4. February 19, 1957. "Los Angeles: A Race Relations Success Story," Vol. 21, No. 6, March 19, 1957
Folder os1 Item 10 Saturday Evening Post. "Rugged Bachelors of Okinawa,, March 30, 1957
Folder os2 Item 1 Three diplomas awarded to James W. Cole by the School of Natural Science for courses in Criminology (1950), Hypnotism (1952), and Swedish Massage (1955)