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Daryl Davis speaks of racism and the KKK at chapel

Daryl Davis speaks of racism and the KKK at chapel
Daryl Davis speaks to students about racism and the Ku Klux Klan at Campbellsville University’s chapel service Feb. 12. (Campbellsville University Photo by Whitley Howlett)

By Holly Jo Evans, student news writer, Office of University Communications

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Daryl Davis, the author of the book, Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan, was the Campbellsville University chapel speaker recently.

Davis told the audience, “We are an impatient society. You have to be committed to your belief, your passion and your goals, and you stay on that path, and in time those things will come to you, if you put in those efforts.”

He told a story of his journey with members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), a part of his journey as he was writing his book in 1994.

He said he was going around to try to talk to KKK members to interview them and some members would talk to him, but many would not.

Davis shared about a KKK member, who was an Imperial Wizard, a leader of a Klan, who was trying to get a permit to burn a cross in a park. In the middle of the day, this Klan leader and a member saw a black man in the car with a white woman, and the two Klan’s members dragged the man out of his car and tried to beat him to death, leaving him in an intersection.

Once the two members were arrested, after they both fled, Davis attended the trial. He knew both members, but only the Imperial Wizard would talk to him.

Davis said there were 11 eyewitnesses at the scene of the crime. Each witness went to the police to share what they saw, but not a single witness showed up in court to testify against them.

Davis said, “The Klan visited them, talked to them, threatened them. It’s called witness intimidation, witness tampering.”

But, the state of Maryland held the charges. The Imperial Wizard was sentenced to seven years in prison, and the other Klan member was sentenced to 15 years.

Davis said when he tried to leave the courthouse, the Klan members were in front of the door that he was trying to exit. He said as he went around them, he felt someone hit him on his back. He turned around and someone tried to hit him again, Davis said he was “not going to let it happen twice,” so a fight broke out and Davis won.

The security showed up to break it up. Davis pressed charges on the Klan, and they tried to press charges on Davis with false accusations, but they were not successful and had to pay the fines, or time in prison for their actions.

A few months later, Davis said he got a call from a TV show, with Geraldo Rivera as host, asking him to come and be on a show with some KKK members and debate them. Davis agreed, and he knew some of the members there. One of the members on the show with him happened to be the Imperial Wizard with whom he had the fight.

On the show, the Imperial Wizard’s wife and two daughters also appeared. Davis showed the chapel audience a video of the interview of the two daughters of the Imperial Wizard who were 14 and 12 at the time.

He told the audience to “Listen to the questions Geraldo asks them, and listen to their answers, and you will see that their answers do not come from a 12-year-old or a 14-year-old, but they come from someone who is brainwashing them.”

In the video the girls say they want to join when they are old enough, and that they don’t think their parents are wrong. Davis said you can’t join the KKK until 15 years of age.

Davis said, “Racism is a cancer and if you do not address it will consume and destroy.”

Davis said when the two girls were of age, they both joined the Klan. He also said their father, the Imperial Wizard, had gotten into more trouble and was sentenced to 10 years federal prison in Maryland.

Several years later Davis, was invited to another TV show to debate KKK members and was asked if he knew any members who would be willing to come on the show.

Davis invited several members, including Tina, the wife of the Imperial Wizard, and her two daughters, Erica and Erin, to the talk show, and he offered to take them to see their husband and father who they hadn’t seen in over three years.

They agreed, and Davis took care of the family for a weekend in Chicago, taking them to see their father and husband, and showing them around the city.

When it came time for the debate, Tina and her family ended up defending Davis against the other Klan members, which he did not expect.

Not long after, Tina and the oldest daughter, Erin, left the Klan. When they returned home, they talked to their sister Erica and she too left the Klan. When their husband and father, the Imperial Wizard, was released from prison, he too left the Klan.

Davis shared two more videos of the wife Tina and oldest daughter. At a Martin Luther King Jr. event he invited Tina to come and surprise the audience as he shared their story.

In the video he shared of Erica, she sat with her husband, who was of color, and she shared about her journey from being a part of the Ku Klux Klan and no longer being affiliated with the group.

Erica said, “If you are a parent that teaches hate or racism to your child, you need to know you are committing the worst form of child abuse.” Erica said, “There is one race, the human race, and together we will overcome.”

At the event Davis said he then invited the mother, Tina, to the stage to talk. Tina reflected on her shame about how she raised her daughters, and how she was raised. She thanked and praised God for bringing her out of the Klan, and her gratefulness to Davis for taking them to visit her husband.

All chapels are open to the public free of charge and are televised live on WLCU (Comcast Cable channel 10 and digital channel 15) and are streamed live on the internet at

For information about chapel, call the Office of Campus Ministries at (270) 789-5227.

Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 11,600 students offering over 100 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has Kentucky based off-campus centers in Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville and Liberty with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville. Out-of-state centers include two in California at Los Angeles and Lathrop, located in the San Francisco Bay region.  The website for complete information is

Campbellsville University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award certificates, associate, baccalaureate, masters and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the status of Campbellsville University.