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William Joseph Simmons
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    (May 6, 1880-May 18, 1945)
    Born in Harpersville, Alabama
    Founded the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain, Georgia (1915)
    Served as Imperial Wizard (1915-22)
    He claimed to have studied medicine at Johns Hopkins, but the school records show otherwise.
    He was a Methodist preacher before being suspended for 'inefficiency.' (1912)
    He seems to have been something of a fraternity junkie, having joined a dozen fraternal organizations before reviving the KKK.
    He brought back the KKK forty years after the original group had petered out.
    Many of the trappings he adopted, such as burning crosses, came not from the original Klan but from D.W. Griffith's film 'Birth of a Nation.'
    He expanded the Klan from being anti-black and added anti-semitic, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant to the agenda.
    He was replaced as Imperial Wizard (kicked upstairs to 'Emperor for Life') over financial mismanagement of the Klan.
    He served in the Spanish-American War (1898).
    He was a rousing speaker.
    During Congressional hearings into the Klan, he successfully distanced the group from violent acts and stressed its fraternal nature, resulting in no formal condemnation (1921).

Credit: C. Fishel

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