Down at the Radio Café – Cast of Characters: Part 1

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Baker, Ulysses "Speed"

African-American policeman who joined Denver’s force in 1896 as a patrolman and made detective in 1916. However, due to discrimination, he was busted down to traffic enforcement and became known as “Speed” Baker after 1920. He went from bicycles to being the first motorcycle cop in Colorado. He also formed one of the first Auto Theft departments in the United States.


By 1925 Denver's police had pushed out or fired so many minorities that Speed was left as one of only 9 black officers in Denver – all on traffic patrol. However, he retired as a detective in 1933 after hanging on through the disgrace of the KKK and because his consummate professionalism could not be denied. He died a few months after retirement in 1933.  

Police Detective Ulysses "Speed" Baker, 1869-1933
Police Detective Ulysses "Speed" Baker, 1869-1933

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Bellow, Harry (NOTE: this name has been changed)

A favorite sergeant of Chief Candlish because he actually did the work of running the department and even investigating crime sometimes. In Denver at the time, the Detective Sergeants were the leaders of the police force. Bellow's last name (and Peterson’s) was changed for Down At The Radio Café, although the descriptions of their characters is historically accurate.

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Candlish, William "Koka-Kola"

Named "Manager of Safety" - in other words, Chief of Denver Police - in March 1924, when Mayor Ben Stapleton acquiesced to KKK Grand Dragon Locke's demand. It's unknown how many of Stapleton's Klansmen appointments were his own, and how many were Locke's picks, but Candlish was never anyone's but Locke's to command.


Candlish designed his own uniform that was so over the top that the Denver press nicknamed him "Koka-Kola-Kandlish" for all its braids and ribbons, including explicit KKK symbols.

William "Koka-Kola" Candlish
William "Koka-Kola" Candlish

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Clarke, Edward Young

Clarke was the son of a former Confederate colonel and was raised with money and an excellent education. His family was recognized by Atlanta’s social elite, especially after his father became the owner of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper (later the Journal Constitution). However, Clarke was never interested in hard work, and had already developed a reputation as a con man when he met Bessie Tyler and became a partner in her business, the Southern Publicity Association, which started as an event-planning business but turned into an early version of a marketing and public relations firm – unfortunately, one without ethics. Tyler and Clarke became lovers as well as business partners, although Clarke was married throughout their association. When Bessie needed a man to “front” for the business, Clarke served, although contemporaries all agreed that she did the work. 


When Bessie was ousted by Hiram Evans, Clarke took over and became sole head of the business, continuing to rake in money until the KKK faltered in late 1925 over crime and scandal. Evans eventually fired Clarke, too. Later, jailed for his grifting, in 1949, at 73 years old, Clarke escaped custody during a prison transfer, and disappeared from history.

Edward Young Clarke
Edward Young Clarke

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Elrod, Milton

 Editor in Chief of The Fiery Cross and the Fiery Cross Publishing Company from 1922 until it was discontinued around 1925. Also called the Klan Kourier (due to lawsuits, the names were never resolved). The national newspaper of the Klan had pretensions to become a tabloid for general audiences; Elrod’s description of his and Evans’ plans as outlined in Down At The Radio Café is accurate although happily, ultimately unsuccessful. One could argue that today’s right-wing leaning media outlets are fulfilling Elrod’s and Evans’ dreams, even using the term “fair and balanced” in a deeply cynical way. Just like today's outlets, the Klan media concentrated on driving outrage and a sense of victimhood in order to galvanize its audience, while at the same time emphasizing their nationalistic patriotism and sense of superiority. 

Milton Elrod was editor in chief of The Fiery Cross
Milton Elrod was editor in chief of The Fiery Cross

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Evans, Hiram Wesley

  

Hiram Evans was a political man, and pushed for the KKK to become active in national politics as he wrested control of the organization from Bessie Tyler and Edward Young Clarke (who in their turn had stolen control and finances away from William Simmons). He moved the KKK headquarters from Atlanta to Washington D.C. and organized a gigantic KKK March on the Washington Mall on August 8, 1925. However, by that time the sensational scandal in Indiana and the smaller scandals across the country (such as Locke’s embezzlement) were already souring the country on the KKK. 


His efforts to create a media empire stalled in lawsuits. By the time Evans left the KKK leadership in 1939, he himself was under indictment in a price fixing scandal in Georgia (he was allowed “no-bid” contracts through sweetheart deals with the state government). Evans was always surrounded by chaos; in fact his press agent murdered Simmons’ lawyer in 1924 (Evans always denied involvement). The KKK was formally “disbanded” in 1944 by Evans’ Imperial Wizard successor. Evans died in 1966 in Atlanta. 

Hiram Evans on the cover of Time, June 23, 1924
Hiram Evans on the cover of Time, June 23, 1924

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Ford, Justina "The Lady Doctor" (also often called “The Baby Doctor”)

She was the only African American woman doctor in Colorado until her death in 1952. She arrived in Colorado in 1904, moving in support of her then-husband, after medical training in Chicago. Because she could not get hospital privileges she worked through house calls for her 50 year career. She mainly practiced obstetrics and gynecology, delivering thousands of babies, and was much beloved in her community. Her home (moved from its original location) is now the location of the Denver Black American Museum and Heritage Center. 

Justina Ford, "The Lady Doctor"
Justina Ford, "The Lady Doctor"

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Friedman, William - Rabbi

The Rabbi, who lead the influential Temple Emmanuel (southwest corner of 16th and Pearl Street) – opposed all attempts by Ginsberg & Hornbein to hold the Klan to account. Rabbi Friedman was a member of Rotary, regularly met at the anti-Semitic Denver Athletic Club, and was one of proponents of “educating” Klan about Jewry in expectation they would listen. Many Jewish leaders in America believed that assimilation and accommodation would eventually end anti-Semitism, until the Holocaust destroyed half the world's Jewish population at the time in Nazi controlled Europe. 


Rabbi Friedman died in 1944 in San Diego, after serving the Jewish community in Denver until 1930.

Rabbi William Friedman
Rabbi William Friedman

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Ginsberg, Charles

Only 30 years old in 1924, but already a successful and respected defense attorney who went on to be a prominent figure in Colorado Democratic politics. Ginsberg was an outspoken critic of the Denver Klan, Locke and Stapleton. He originally campaigned for Stapleton and was instrumental in his initial election, but was disgusted to learn about the July declaration on Table Mountain. The scene there, and described in City Park, did happen. 

Charles Ginsberg, age 20, upon passing the bar.
Charles Ginsberg, age 20, upon passing the bar.