After witnessing a Ku Klux Klan motorcade drive through Tabor City, North Carolina in July 1950, journalist Horace Carter began Klan-related reporting and editorializing that spanned more than three years and nearly 130 items.

In May 1953 his efforts were recognized when his weekly paper, the Tabor City Tribune, received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, considered by many the most prestigious of the Pulitzers annually awarded for journalism. The Tribune became the first weekly paper to receive the esteemed award.

Sharing the Public Service Pulitzer with Carter was a neighboring publication, the News Reporter of Whiteville, N. C., and its editor Willard Cole. Cole, like Carter, editorialized against the Klan, risking his safety and the newspaper’s welfare.

Separated by eighteen miles, working together and alone, both men received numerous threats but persisted in their condemnation of vigilantism and bigotry. In addition to the Pulitzer, Carter and Cole received numerous other awards and recognitions. Cole died in 1965.

Below are several selections from the Tabor City Tribune that include Carter’s editorials and news reporting, and a front-page exchange between Carter and Klan Grand Dragon Thomas Hamilton.


These two items appeared in the July 26, 1950 Tabor City Tribune, the first issue published after Carter witnessed the Klan motorcade. The first item is news coverage of the event and the second is Carter’s editorial.

1. Ku Klux Klan Here On Saturday Night news article Jul 26,1950

2. An Editorial No Excuse for KKK editorial Jul 26, 1950

After editorializing against the Klan, Carter received anonymous threats by phone, mail and notes on his office door or car windshield. He also received letters to the editor in support of the Klan, though few were signed. Carter made it clear he was willing to print any signed viewpoint, and two weeks after his first editorial he published a letter from John Hardee, a local man whose viewpoint reflected a vein of community sentiment in support of the Klan. Note that Carter reprinted Hardee’s letter as it was received, keeping spelling and grammar intact.

3. John W. Hardee Writes Editor Open Letter On KKK letter to editor Aug 9, 1950

During the summer of 1950 numerous Klan motorcades drove through the small towns of eastern North and South Carolina. Five weeks after the Tabor City motorcade, the Klan drove through the resort town of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with disastrous results. A black-owned nightclub was shot-up and a police officer—wearing a Klan robe—was killed. Here is Carter’s initial coverage of the event.

4. Klansman Killed in Horry Gun Fight news article Aug 30, 1950

In the weeks following the Myrtle Beach shootout, a public feud grew between Klan leader Thomas Hamilton and Horry (pronounced OH-ree) County Sheriff Ernest Sasser. The sheriff arrested Hamilton and several others for the Myrtle Beach shootout. Hamilton responded by intensifying his prior claims that the sheriff was corrupt. A grand jury failed to indict Hamilton and his cohorts for the violence. At an ensuing public Klan rally, attended by as many as 8,000 people, Hamilton bashed the sheriff and many other public figures, including President Truman, Supreme Court Justices, United Nations officials, South Carolina’s Governor, local ministers and even newspaper editors. Carter attended the rally and logged the following report and editorial.

5. KKK Threatens to Expose Horry Officials news article Nov 15, 1950

6. An Editorial . . . . True or False editorial Nov 15, 1950

Klan members began 1951 with activity on both sides of the state line in proximity to Tabor City, assaulting a black woman in North Carolina and two white men (an uncle and nephew) in South Carolina. All were attacked at their homes, beginning a pattern for night raids, targeting black and white, which would continue for more than year. Read Carter’s initial reporting on these two events

7. Night-Riding Terrorists Beat Disabled Vet, Crippled Farmer and Elderly Negro Woman news article Jan 24, 1951

In response to the Klan attacks of early 1951, Horry County (S. C.) Sheriff Sasser arrested seven men, and claimed that he was adding special deputies to combat Klan violence. Soon thereafter, flyers were distributed in Tabor City and surrounding communities titled “KKK NEWS” which continued Klan charges of Sasser’s corruption. Carter, who was investigating both the Klan and Sasser, made the following editorial plea.

8. An Editorial – Bring The Charges to Court editorial Feb 7, 1951

Throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s, Supreme Court decisions began opening up graduate schools at all-white state universities to black students. When the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Carter’s alma mater) was directed to accept its first black students into its Law School, Carter was asked his opinion by many of his readers. He responded with this editorial, commenting on inequalities of the day and potential solutions, while admitting that his opinions might brand him as “out of place in the South where I have lived all my life.”

9. Carter’s Column (Desegregation of UNC Law School) editorial Apr 18, 1951

As Klan Grand Dragon Thomas Hamilton made allegations of corruption in local law enforcement, other scandals unfolded at the national level, including the firing or resignation of many members of Truman’s administration over financial misdealing and influence peddling. Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver’s investigative committee uncovered links between organized crime and elected officials in some cities and states. And, looming over everything was the persistent concern of Communist infiltration of American government, fueled by various congressional investigations and Senator Joseph McCarthy’s public crusade. In this editorial, Carter voices concern that such elements empower the Klan. He also criticizes the group’s secretive nature.

10. The KKK Another Step – Breakdown in Government editorial May 23, 1951

Carter’s “Breakdown in Government” editorial raised the ire of Grand Dragon Hamilton who was particularly unhappy with the editor’s observation that the only other group in America with secret membership was the Communists. Hamilton fired back a letter to the editor defending his members and strongly suggesting that Carter was the likely Communist. Race, religion, and Americanism—core elements of Klan rhetoric—are debated in this front-page exchange between Carter and Hamilton.

11. Hamilton Letter to Carter letter to editor Jun 27, 1951

12. Our Rebuttal editorial reply Jun 27, 1951

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