James William Cole Papers, 1863, 1946-1967

Manuscript Collection #40

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: James William Cole Papers
Creator: Cole, James William
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: 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.
Extent: 1.3 Cubic feet, 900 items , consisting of correspondence, speeches, news releases, pamphlets, tracts, broadsides, booklets, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs, and miscellaneous.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

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.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

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

Preferred Citation

James William Cole Papers (#40), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Mrs. Carolyn Cole

Processing Information

  • Processed by J. Layne, February 1988

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services

Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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).

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

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).

Subject Headings Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Card Catalog Entries Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Reading Room's card catalog. This system is no longer maintained, but it is left in place to help on-site researchers locate particular topics in the collection.

Geographic Entries :

  • North Carolina, Lenoir County
  • South Carolina, Marion County

Autograph Entries :

  • Fountain, L[awrence] H[unt] 1967
  • Lake, [Isaac] Beverly 1963
  • Maddox, Lester 1965

Subject Entries :

  • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT--Inciting a Riot--1958
  • CRIME AND PUNISHMENT--Prisons--Ahoskie, N.C.
  • ELECTIONS--Lenoir County, N.C.
  • ELECTIONS--N.C. Governor--1964, 1968
  • ELECTIONS--U.S. Congress--House
  • ETHNIC GROUPS--Indians of North America--Lumbees
  • KU KLUX KLAN--North Carolina--1950s-1960s
  • KU KLUX KLAN--Publications
  • KU KLUX KLAN--South Carolina--1950s-1960s
  • ORGANIZATIONS--Helping Hands C.B. Club--Kinston, N.C.
  • POLITICS--National States Rights Party--1960
  • PRINTING--James W. Cole Printing Co.--Kinston, N.C.
  • PUBLICATIONS--Periodicals--Jet
  • RELIGION--Education--Baptist
  • RELIGION--Revivals
  • SEGREGATION--White Supremacy
  • SOCIAL PROBLEMS--Race Relations
  • WAR--CIVIL--Occupation

Date Entries :

  • 1952-1959
  • 1960-1967

Images below are listed alphabetically by subject. This list reflects only those portions of the collection for which negatives have been prepared.

Description: Cole, James William"Catfish"
Call Number: p-40/13(1298)

Description: Cole, James William"Catfish"
Call Number: p-40/22(1300)

Description: Cole, James William"Catfish"
Location: Maxton, NC
Date: 1956-1957
Call Number: p-40/18(1303)

PRINTING--James W. Cole Printing Company
Description: Independent St., Kinston, NC
Location: Kinston, NC
Date: 1960's
Call Number: p-40/15(1299)

Description: Tent meeting
Date: 1956-1957
Call Number: p-40/20

Description: Carlyle's Drive Inn, N. Queen Street
Location: Kinston, NC
Call Number: p-40/32(1301)

SOCIAL PROBLEMS--Race Relations--Ku Klux Klan
Description: Cole and two men in truck speaking to a group
Call Number: p-40/31(1302)

Description: Tents, barracks
Location: USA
Date: 1940's
Call Number: p-40/2(1297), 3(1296), 4(1295), 5(1294)

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Box 1#0040.1
Correspondence, 1947, 1952-1967
Box 2#0040.2
Speeches, news releases, Klan printed materials, broadsides
Box 3#0040.3
Church materials, detective agency materials, printing company samples, C.B. Club materials, election and political materials
Box 5#0040.5
Newspaper clippings, magazine clippings
Box 6#0040.6
Publications and booklets

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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