In This Biography
William Joseph Simmons Biography, Networth, Career, Family.
William Joseph Simmons (May 7, 1880, to May 18, 1945) was an American preacher and fraternal organizer who established and was the leader of the 2nd Ku Klux Klan from Thanksgiving night 1915 until he was removed in 1922 and replaced by Hiram Wesley Evans.
- Real Names: William Joseph Simmons
- Date of Birth: May 7, 1880
- Date of Death: May 18, 1945
- Nationality: American
- Establishment: Ku Klux Klan
- Education: Johns Hopkins University
Childhood and early life
Simmons was born in Harpersville, Alabama, to Calvin Henry Simmons, a physician along with his partner Lavonia Simmons born Lavonia Simmons Davis who was the sister of Thomas C. Davis. When he was younger He attempted to pursue medical school through Johns Hopkins University, but in the absence of funds, decided to join his time in the Spanish-American War instead. After being discharged with honor as a soldier, he was a teacher at The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, however, he was debarred at the time of the 1912 church meeting due to inefficiency.
Simmons later was a member of two churches as well as twelve various fraternal associations that flourished during the first decade of the twentieth century. Simmons was known by the names of “Joe”, “Doc” (in reference to his medical school), and “Colonel” (referring to his position within his rank in the Woodmen of the World).
After recovering in 1915 from being struck by a car, Simmons decided to rebuild the Klan which he’d previously seen in the recently launched movie The Birth of a Nation directed by D. W. Griffith. He snatched a copy of the “Prescript” of the Klan’s “Prescript” and used it to create his own prospectus for a new version of the group.
At the core of his newly revived Klan, Simmons organized a group of fellow members and two old men who were members of the first Klan. On the night of Thanksgiving 1915, they took to Stone Mountain to burn a cross and launch the new group. It was comprised of 15 founding members. Simmons’s later report of the formation included a dramatic account about “a temperature far below freezing” but the records of the weather indicated that it had never been below 45 degrees (7 degC) the night they climbed Stone Mountain. He declared himself to be the Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The image of the burned cross that had never been used by the first Klan, was first presented through Griffith during Birth of a Nation. The film had taken this image from the writings by Thomas Dixon, Jr. on which the film was built. Dixon was influenced by the traditional customs of Scottish clans, who used crosses for fire as a way of indicating from one hill in the direction of the next. The picture is also featured in Lady of the Lake (1810) the long poem written by Walter Scott. The distinctive white robes of the new Klan are also believed to be a result of Dixon through Birth of a Nation.
At the beginning of the formation of the Klan there were only the Klan had a few thousand members and a large number of them later joined the Klan, especially in cities with industrialization in the Midwest. The group initially portrayed itself as a social group, it was in opposition to the new immigrants from eastern and southern Europe. They comprised mainly Jews and Roman Catholics. They also opposed anyone another person who wasn’t native Anglo-Saxon or Celtic Protestant.
When he was the leader of the Klan, Simmons was a “professor of southern history” at the sluggish Lanier University in Atlanta.
Death and later life
After The New York World exposed the violent activities of The Ku Klux Klan, Simmons was summoned to testify before members of the U.S. House Committee on Rules. The hearings started in October 1921 and lasted more than an entire week. Simmons was adamant about the incident and emphasized the group’s fraternal character. The congressional hearings did not have negative implications for the Klan but Simmons had lost his influence.
After he had expanded his own circle that he controlled, Hiram Wesley Evans took over from Simmons his position as the Imperial Wizard on November 19, 1922. Simmons was simultaneously elected to the position of Emperor for the rest of his life. The Klan began to shrink following a high in influence and membership in 1925, in particular, due to the scandal that occurred when D.C. Stephenson, one of the top leaders was found guilty of murder. Madge Oberholtzer.
Simmons passed away in Atlanta on May 18, 1945.
- “The 20th Century Ku Klux Klan in Alabama”. Alabama Department of Archives and History. Archived from the original on 2017-11-15. Retrieved 2008-02-16.
- Alabama Confederate Pension request dated 6 Dec 1920, completed by Lavonia Davis
- “The Various Shady Lives of the Ku Klux Klan”. Time. April 9, 1965.
An itinerant Methodist preacher named William Joseph Simmons started up the Klan again in Atlanta in 1915. Simmons, an ascetic-looking man, was a fetishist of fraternal organizations. He was already a “colonel” in the Woodmen of the World, but he decided to build an organization all his own. He was an effective speaker, with an affinity for alliteration; he had preached on “Women, Weddings and Wives,” “Red Heads, Dead Heads, and No Heads,” and the “Kinship of Kourtship and Kissing.” On Thanksgiving Eve 1915, Simmons took 15 friends to the top of Stone Mountain, near Atlanta, built an altar on which he placed an American flag, a Bible and an unsheathed sword, set fire to a crude wooden cross, muttered a few incantations about a “practical fraternity among men,” and declared himself Imperial Wizard of the Invisible Empire of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
- Lehr, Dick. Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War. Public Affairs Press, 2014.
- “A 1905 Silent Movie Revolutionizes American Film—and Radicalizes American Nationalists”. Southern Hollows podcast. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
- “KU KLUX KLAN TO BE REORGANIZED THROUGHOUT SOUTH”. St. Landry Clarion. 20 November 1920. p. 1. Retrieved 8 March 2022.
- “Klan Makes Simmons Emperor For Life; Dr. H.W. Evans of Dallas Is the New Imperial Wizard–Clarke Imperial Giant”. The New York Times. November 29, 1922.