The night the Klan came calling.

Know who you are

Let me tell you about Jesse Coats, my father. He was a hard man that usually pointed out what you did wrong long before every noticing anything good. That is if he ever told you that you did anything right. In other words, he was normal for a man born in 1926. He had an amazing work ethic and a very strong sense of responsibility. Both go hand in hand. He felt that it was his responsibility as the business owner to be first in the shop and last to leave. That the success of the business, the employees, and our family rested on him and the work he did. His other driving treat was a moral compass of right and wrong that could not be shaken. There was not a gray area for him and held himself and others to that standard.

Do hard things

These treats served Dad well until the late 1960s. We had just moved from Memphis to take over my Grandfather’s chainsaw dealership in 1968. These were the Civil Rights years of separate bathrooms, separate waiting rooms, and separate schools. The freedom riders had come to town and the schools were about to be integrated.

One night the Ku Klux Klan came to see my father and told him not to extend credit to our black customers. Dad had to decide what was the right thing to do. Was it standing up for his fellow man or taking care of the business and us? His sense of responsibility was rushing through his head. He could agree to the Klan’s demands and no one would blame him. The business would continue to grow and we would be safe. If we refused, we would very likely find a cross lit on our front lawn and our place of business burn to the ground.

This is when I learned that there are certain decisions that must be made regardless of the consequences. Dad told the Klansmen that our black customers paid the bills just as well as our white customers and that he was proud to work with any honest man. Then he told them to get out of his shop.  We would spend many nights afraid of what may happen and worry about when it would happen. As it were, they never lit a cross on our lawn, nor did they burn our place of business. It wasn’t until years later that I found out why.

The real quality of a person is displayed when no one sees

2 thoughts on “The night the Klan came calling.

  1. OK. I’m hooked! I gotta know…Why didn’t the Klan burn a cross on your lawn or burn your business to the ground?

  2. Thanks for asking. I sent you a LinkedIn message to answer the question. The answer shows how doing the right thing does pay off. I also think the answer is very funny.

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