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  • Writer's pictureGabriel San Roman

Slingshot: An Anti-Klan Clue on OC's Most Controversial Document?

Two years ago, I found myself at the Anaheim Heritage Center pouring over the most controversial documents in Orange County history.

Alone at a table, I sifted through thousands of names belonging to a pair of OC Ku Klux Klan membership lists from the early 1920s; they were donated to the Anaheim Public Library by the late historian Leo J. Friis in 1972.

One name stood out to me, if but for a brief moment. Only, it was scribbled on the original donation folder and not on the lists themselves.

Ed Miller of Fallbrook.

"Who's that?" I asked a librarian, pointing to the name. She offered a quick shrug in response.

The fleeting curiosity passed. I continued my research elsewhere at other repositories before writing a cover story on the fight over an elementary school in Brea named for William E. Fanning, an educational pioneer who appeared on the infamous Klan lists.

Amid a national racial reckoning last summer, the Brea Olinda Unified School District board of trustees finally voted to rename the school at the behest of the Fanning family, but without acknowledging the history at the center of the controversy.

I would've been well-suited to never consider the lists again. But a few months ago, a bit of intellectual wanderlust gnawed at me, seemingly out of nowhere. I returned to my copies of the material--and most importantly, that mysterious name scribbled on the folder along with a phone number and a mailing address.

"Who is that," I asked, this time only of myself.

My initial digging brought me to a San Diego Reader profile written in 1987 about a man named Ed Miller, a hardnosed Democrat who served as conservative San Diego County's longtime district attorney. The article briefly mentioned Miller's connection to OC; he attended Newport Harbor High School before moving down south. Better yet, Louis Miller, his grandfather, was the mayor of Anaheim during the Great Depression.

An Anaheim connection? My curiosity only grew stronger.

One of the Klan membership lists on file at the Anaheim Heritage Center is a derivative of the original copy compiled by the USA Club long ago. That list became the group's ultimate anti-Klan weapon. Without it, the successful recall of four Anaheim Klan councilmembers in February 1925 wouldn't have happened 96 years ago.

Curiously, the original list disappeared from the Library of Congress and hasn't been seen since 1982. As for the Friis version, the question of provenance remains a mystery. Could Ed Miller be the key?

His grandfather wasn't just the mayor of Anaheim during the Great Depression. In 1925, Louis E. Miller formed part of the anti-Klan slate of council candidates that booted the Hooded Order from the dais in the recall election!

Unfortunately, the former district attorney passed away in 2013. I did track down Steve Miller, his son, who served as a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney's Office. He confirmed the Fallbrook address written beneath Miller's name but corrected me that it was the longtime home of Ed Miller, Sr.

It's admittedly a bit confusing, but Steve's father's full name was Edwin Louis Miller, Jr. The name and address that appears on the donation folder is that of Ed Miller, Sr., a contemporary of Friis' in Anaheim before leaving in 1931.

Why did Friis jot down Miller Sr.'s name and contact information on a folder holding the names of OC Klansmen? Steve didn't have an answer for me.

The Anaheim Heritage Center also informs the Slingshot that it's had no updates from the Library of Congress since the investigation into the missing Klan lists began two years ago.

But Friis' connection to the anti-Klan activists in Anaheim becomes clearer in the meantime. Not only did he work in a law firm in 1926 with attorney Thomas McFadden, a USA Club member who helped assemble the original list, but he also had some sort of connection to Ed Miller, Sr., the son of anti-Klan councilman Louis E. Miller.

Now, the Miller clue isn't the only one that appears on the Friis folder. The name "Tate" is written on the flap. A Klansman by the name of C.G. Tate from Anaheim is on the list as a decorator.

But that's a Klan list clue for another day!

- Gabriel San Román

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Your Mouse Muckraker / Photo by Federico Medina

Mouse Muckraker

Local assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Buena Park) spurred hope among the Disney deprived when she introduced legislation last week aimed at re-opening theme parks in California sooner rather than later. Assembly Bill 420 proposes that such businesses, small and big alike, be allowed to operate once the state enters the moderate orange tier, instead of the minimal yellow tier, of its Blueprint for a Safer Economy guidelines. Though the rate of coronavirus infection is falling in Orange County since the crest of the winter surge last month, the orange tier is still awhile away. And the uncertainty of new, more infectious strains loom in the immediate horizon. Is it safe and scientifically sound to expedite the re-opening of Disneyland along with Adventure City? Quirk-Silva, the chair of the Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media Committee, thinks so. She's joined by assemblywoman Suzette Valladares (D-Santa Clarita), who's co-sponsoring the legislation.

The bill's text claims that "amusement parks in other states and in other countries have successfully reopened and currently there are no known COVID-19 outbreaks that have been traced back to the parks." To shore up the argument, it points to an Oct. 9, 2020article in the New York Times about Disney World with a headline supportive of the notion.

But buried deeper in the writeup is the opinion of Anne Rimoin, an epidemiology professor at UCLA, who states that community spread promoted by tourism is nearly impossible to track.

“Just because we don’t have ample evidence of it happening — yet — doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” Dr. Rimoin said. “There is simply no zero-risk scenario here. When you create opportunities for large numbers of people to come together, you are providing opportunities for the virus to spread.”

If there's ever a timetable to speed up, it's the county's own goal of completing vaccinations by July 4. Given the dismal statistics showing 42 percent of all those vaccinated being white compared to just 11 percent being Latino, health equity sure could use a booster shot along the way!

By the Byline

This week, I definitely showed Santa Ana some love!

First, I published an in-depth article for KCET's "Power and Health" series looking at the intersections of overcrowded housing, lack of green space and coronavirus infections in Santa Ana. Even before the pandemic, activists pointed to health equity issues in advocating for affordable housing and more parks. Now that coronavirus has run roughshod over Santa Ana's working class, the need, they argue, is more dire than ever.

Following up that story is my monthly "Off the Page" column for LibroMobile. This time, I feature The Saints of Santa Ana, a new book by professor Jonathan Calvillo that looks at how religion and ethnic identity intertwine among the city's Mexican majority. Superbly written and expertly researched, it's a welcomed contribution to the study of Santa Ana and its people!

In Memoriam

Santa Ana lost a remarkable man last week. For decades, David Vazquez taught Nahuatl to the community before passing away at 65. An immigrant from the Nahuatl speaking community of Tlalmotolo in Mexico, his free Saturday morning classes took place in the choir room of the Episcopal Church of the Messiah.

More than just language instruction, Vazquez's measured voice also imparted the wisdom and history of Mexica Indigenous culture.

Back in 2016, I had the privilege of attending Vazquez's classes as part of my research for an OC Weekly cover story on his remarkable life. We also spoke for three hours at his French Park home. Vazquez recounted how he came to develop a Nahuatl alphabet as the original writing system didn't survive Spanish conquest. It was premised on a "letter zero" representing the inhalation that makes all spoken language possible.

During one class, Vazquez taught that Nahuatl begins with the word "hehecatl" (air) as life, itself, is sustained by it. Students, young and old, reverently referred to Vazquez as temachtiani (teacher). He's also credited with popularizing the activist slogan "Mexica Tiahui!"

With Vazquez now gone, the legacy of preserving and propagating Nahuatl belongs to the community.

Whatever words I can couple here are admittedly insufficient. For a fuller treatment of temachtiani's life and deeds, please revisit my cover story about him in memoriam.

Lead photo: A Klan car advertises a kluck talk in Anaheim / Photo credit: Anaheim Public Library

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