Skip to comments.(Howell, MI) Auction house to start bidding on KKK robes (And a hometown rant at this media circus)
Posted on 01/29/2005 4:24:52 PM PST by Dan from Michigan
Auction house to start bidding on KKK robes
1/29/2005, 6:13 p.m. ET
By DAVID EGGERT
The Associated Press
HOWELL, Mich. (AP) Gary Gray said he felt more like a teacher than auctioneer Saturday, as visitors perused Ku Klux Klan robes and other KKK items ahead of an auction that has attracted a level of interest he's never seen before.
He said a steady stream of people visited the auction house in Howell, about 35 miles east of Lansing and 55 miles west of Detroit, in the hours leading up to the big evening auction. He plans to sell seven KKK robes and other paraphernalia, including buttons, books, movies and a lantern.
"Maybe I have taught more people about history, at least this week, than some schools," the 51-year-old said in a phone interview. "It's not a question of racism. That's intertwined. But it's not the main focus."
Gray said the auction is a sale of history.
But the NAACP branch in neighboring Oakland County and other civil rights groups have blasted it as insensitive. And community and business groups say the auction does nothing to fix the town's racist reputation. A KKK leader lived on a farm outside Howell until his death in 1992.
A local diversity council, which plans to protest peacefully outside the auction, is raising money to buy a robe, then ship it out of town to an anti-racism museum exhibit.
Jerry Gowlan, 46, of Livingston County's Howell Township, said he planned to bid on KKK literature and pamphlets, but said he wasn't a supporter of the Klan. He said the items being sold are a part of history that should be preserved.
"If we as a society don't learn from past mistakes, we repeat them," Gowlan said.
The auction was originally scheduled for Jan. 15, but was delayed after Gray learned it was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. Since one robe was consigned for sale in early January, dozens more items have poured into the gallery because of the publicity.
Howell is a growing city of more than 9,000 people in Livingston County, one of Michigan's least diverse counties. About 97 percent of the county's 157,000 residents in the 2000 census were white. Only a half-percent fewer than 800 people were black. In Howell itself, only 29 blacks were counted.
I grew up in the County one town over from Howell where I live here now. I'm familiar with the legacy of Robert Miles and his followers and their affect on the perception it has given both Howell and to a lesser extent, Livingston County as a whole.
A little background:
In the 50's or 60's, Robert Miles moved to Cohoctah Township in Livingston County. Cohoctah is North of Howell, but Howell is the closest town to it, and parts of Cohoctah have a Howell mailing address. Robert Miles was some Grand Jackass of the Ku Klux Klan. He wasn't just a parader. He was the real thing and was convicted of conspiring to bomb busses in Pontiac, and he was convicted of tarring and feathering a black principal in Ypsi. He wasn't an 'inbred', but he was a bad guy. Miles died in 1992. To this day, rightly or wrongly(I say wrongly), Livingston County has a bad racial reputation because of Robert Miles.
Recently, some one from Saline in Washtenaw County got an estate with one Klan Robe. The estate hired a Howell auctioneer to sell the estate, including that item. He expected $2000 for it. In Howell, selling a Klan Robe is a newsstory because of Miles. He also picked some Saturday which also happened to be January 15th(whether it was intentional or not, I don't know). That happens to be Martin Luther King's birthday. The auctioneer moved it to today.
The media went NUTS, as did some local blowhard politicians. The worst brayers were the liberal Livingston County Press newspaper and Howell city council member Steve Manor (a Democrat who wins since council elections are non-partisan with low turnout). They wern't the only ones. This was on the Detroit and Lansing media stations. This even became national news for some reason, and it on the Fox News website.
The media kept going. The local paper was writing on this EVERY SINGLE DAY ON THE FRONT PAGE FOR AT LEAST TWO WEEKS. Steve Manor was the usual quote. Around a week ago, Manor brayed to the world(which made the AP wire) that he wanted to raise money to buy the single Klan robe and burn it to "send a message" that this is not welcome here. Thanks, Steve - you gave this nationwide coverage, and once again tied Howell-Klan. Give yourself a hand. That's not mentioning that you drove up the price of these robes that will be fetched. In fact, I wrote a letter to the editor on this circus and commented that this circus will likely cause more robes to be auctioned off here. Free Advertisment. Well, 6 more robes are now being auctioned off, and likely for big bucks as you can't have better advertising for an auction than national news. Thanks, Steve. Thanks papers. /sarcasm
We don't hear the good things here. This same so called racist county elected blacks and Latinos to public office. Best of all was that ethnicity was never an issue in those races. Issues (particulary the life and gun issues) were what mattered. But that doesn't matter since we're still getting crap tossed at us because of some dead guy.
And thanks to the media and idiot pols, we now have had over two weeks straight of nonstop Howell/Klan coverage. All this braying acclompished was to once again equate this town and county with the legacy of a guy who is dead and buried.
If Howell wants to repair its reputation, we need to tell some of our idiot pols and media to put a sock it it and use discretion in our coverage.
My personal opinion is that I think the Klan robes are trash and people shouldn't get rewarded with big bucks for owning them. I also understand that there are many historical collectors of these items who want them as strictly history. I respect that.
That said, I wish the ghost of Robert Miles would rest in peace in the PAST, and that the media, particulary at home, would not have him haunt us any more. He's dead, Jim.
Robert Byrd's lost luggage turns up in Ohio.
And then went to Michigan.
What a save!
Wish I'd known. I'd have liked a sheet. I'd put it in my study along with my Soviet flag.
And speaking of Byrd. Why doesn't the media mention his past. They love to attack us.
Oh yeah. We're mostly Republican and Byrd's a democrat.
Did they have Robert Byrd's robes and pointed hat at the auction?
I think this would be a great opportunity for the NAACP to buy this stuff and hopefully "desecrate" it as they wish. Not that you can desecrate the stuff anymore than it has been by the KKK.
I suggest that they cut the robes into strips to be used as toilet paper.
I once knew a vet from Howell.
He told me that Owosso was the KKK captial of Michigan. And I think he told me of the grand dragon guy also.
Anyway, I wonder how controversial it would be to auction items from Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, or any other murderer.
The local old timers tell me that my little town was once a hotbed of communism. They tell me that many of their fathers drove the communists out and that there were rumors of a lynching or two.
One of the old boys tells me that the some of the street names are a holdover from those days.
Murder art is very popular in some circles. That is where a convicted murder paints something and then it is sold at auction. The more notorious the murders the more money.
Humans are strange creatures.
..He lost his lost luggage b/c he had to hurry to his next Klan Mtg. @ the Charleston Chapter of the
..maybe the local GOP could buy it/them and present them to the NAALCP. ...or present them to SHEETS.
That's probably a better idea.
"Robert Byrd's lost luggage turns up in Ohio."
I was going to ask....any word on the rumor that a high bid for the whole lot was received from WV?
I can see these things belonging in a museum somewhere. Just as Jewish & Holocaust museums may have Nazi paraphenalia to explain history, these things should belong in a museum of 20th century lunacy.
That's what should be done with communists. Take them out in the deep woods and hang them. When they're gone, America is a better place.
Howell's citizens should have taken up a collection to buy the robes etc. and then burned them in front of TV cameras.
It was bad, and actually they are still around, just as the Nazis are still around after all these years, but no one takes them seriously any more. All this fuss is for nothing.
Hiz Honor from Detroit is the only one who appreciates this non-story being turned into news.
The press missed an opportunity to have an honest discussion about race relations. Instead, they turned it into evil intolerant white guy won't burn the robe.
I don't understand why anyone would have a problem with this piece of history, ugly as it is.
My Son and I were in Howell last year. It was a very nice place and the people were very friendly.
The best thing possible was to lowball them so they don't make any money off that shit.
Unfortunatly, the idiot politicians didn't let that happen. They went for big bucks. The blue robe went for $5400+
They are. Especially the old timers. I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that 99% of us don't think like Miles.
I'm glad you saw our real side of our county.