John Kasper, The Intruder: Part 2, Kasper Goes to Tennessee

[See here for Part 1: Ezra Pound’s Kindergarten]

Why Tennessee? Possibly because of the widely-publicized integration of several schools there in 1955. The atomic city of Oak Ridge integrated under federal rules and there were no problems. Some small communities also moved to integrate early. These were rural districts that had a split schedule to allow students to work on their family farms during harvest. Generally, these districts would save money by integrating, rather than having to pay for separate black/white schooling. It is worth noting that Governor Frank Clement vetoed bills meant to stop de-segregation, and that Senators Kefauver and Gore both had refused to sign the Southern Manifesto.

Arkansas also integrated some rural districts in 1955. Everything went smoothly except in Hoxie, which was the subject of a Life Magazine photo essay. A local group, White America, Inc, formed to oppose integration. The courts upheld the school district in 1956, but the threat of violence remained. Governor Orval Faubus refused to help the local district — a critical point of difference between Arkansas and Tennessee. Many pupils, white and black, stayed out of school. The district won in court, but the school lost.

So school desegregation could be interrupted, perhaps stopped, with the proper tactics.

A model for Kasper’s Southern incursion was Bryant Bowles, founder of a National Association for the Advancement of White People. There was at least one other such organization — the concept was too obvious not to be used — but probably the groups did not know of one another in 1954. Bowles was a small-time contractor from Florida who had various petty crimes on his sheet. Some have accused him of starting the NAAWP as just another scam, but Bowles was also a true believer in segregation.

School segregation was written into the Delaware State Constitution but people weren’t too excited about it. One of the cases rolled into Brown vs. Board was that of a Delaware school that had integrated after a state order. The State Supreme Court had upheld the order, and of course, so did the Federal Supreme Court in the Brown decision. So Delaware started to desegregate in 1954, a year before the Supreme Court’s implementation order. This went fairly smoothly except in Milford, a town of five thousand. People were upset there for various reasons, but everyone thought things would settle down. Still, the Lakeview Avenue High School, where eleven black children were attending, had to cancel a dance for fear of race-mixing.

Comes now Bryant Bowles who had amassed six thousand dollars to fund his battle against race-mixing. He appears to have been aided by Conde McGinley, publisher of Common Sense, which printed articles by people like Eustace Mullins. Bowles hired airplanes with loudspeakers to fly over Milford announcing a public meeting at a nearby airfield. Three thousand people, including many from Virginia and Maryland, showed up.

Bowles made an impassioned speech defending segregation. He urged parents to boycott integrated schools, keep their children home and not to worry about truancy laws, the NAAWP would provide lawyers. He held his three-year-old daughter up to the crowd and said:

Do you think this little girl will go to school with Negroes? Not while there is breath in my body and gunpowder burns!

from Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers, p.19
Bryant Bowles and daughter, September, 1954 in Milford. Photo: Edward Clark, Life Magazine

The next day, less than a third of the Lakeview Avenue School students showed up. One of the eleven black students dropped out and registered at the William Henry School in Dover, nineteen miles away but the only black high school in Delaware. The boycott spread to other towns in the area that had “sympathy strikes”, while Bowles travelled the state, stirring things up. His speeches always contained references to violence, though Bowles was careful in his wording. Eventually all black students were removed from Lakeview Avenue School. This area of Delaware did not desegregate until after 1959.

So, Bowles won in Milford, but when he attempted similar tactics in Baltimore, he was shut down right away by local authorities. As he was also in Washington, D.C. The mayor of Philadelphia warned Bowles he would be arrested if he entered the city. Segregationists in other places froze Bowles out of the actions they were taking — he smelled like violence waiting to happen and people didn’t want him in their town. He was, after all, an outsider — an accusation Bowles had constantly to answer. And his past was catching up to him: reporters uncovered Bowles’ convictions for forgery, fraud, and stiffing his employees. He moved to Milford but there was nothing for him to do there because Lakeview School was now segregated. Florida authorities were after him for forgery and there were other crimes to answer for and the IRS was asking about taxes, so Bowles decamped to Texas. In 1957, he picketed the Harry Belafonte movie, Island in the Sun. A year later, he went to prison for murder.

But Bryant Bowles won — for a little while — and he created a model scenario that John Kasper was to imitate. Bowles created it, or perhaps somebody else did. Bowles’ lawyer was none other than Robert Furniss, sometime attorney for Ezra Pound and Cadmus Books, who had sent John Kasper to Alabama to campaign for Admiral Crommelin. [see Part 1]

Kasper in Clinton

Clinton, Tennessee, had a population of around four thousand in 1956. The high school also served the rural area around Clinton. The principal, D. J. Brittain, had begun preparing the school for integration during the previous Spring term. Papers on integration, the Constitution, and US history were assigned and discussed. The Mayor, the town Board, and the school board had worked out a plan. On August 20, eight hundred twenty students, including twelve African-Americans, were peacefully registered at the school. Classes were to begin a week later.

On August 25, Kasper burned a cross in Charlottesville, then drove all night in his battered white convertible to Clinton. There he went house-to-house, handing out leaflets. That evening, Kasper addressed a crowd of about fifty people. He said that the Supreme Court decision was not “the will of the people”, that parents should keep their children out of school, and that principal Brittain should be fired. Kasper slept in his car that night and the next day, Sunday the 26th, was arrested for vagrancy and inciting to riot.

Kasper posing in Clinton [Photo: Robert Kelley, Life Magazine Sept 10, 1956]

On Monday, Kasper was in jail when the high school opened. Some people did show up with signs to demonstrate, but everything went smoothly in the school.

On Tuesday, Kasper’s charges were dropped for lack of evidence. Immediately on his release, Kasper went to Clinton High and confronted Brittain, demanding that he re-segregate or resign. Brittain refused.

By the time school let out, a crowd had formed that booed the black students as they left for home. That night, Kasper addressed several hundred students and adults at the courthouse. Nora Devereaux, Seaboard White Citizens’ Council member and manager of Cadmus Books, excitedly wrote to Ezra Pound that five thousand people showed up to hear Kasper, that Asa Carter was on his way up from Alabama after the legislature there passed some anti-integration measures, and that Admiral Crommelin had offered to make bond if Kasper was arrested again. It was true that Carter was coming to Clinton.

On Wednesday, the 29th, a crowd of five hundred had formed and some black students were roughed up. An hour before school closing time, the sheriff of Anderson County removed all twelve black students for their own safety. That night, the sheriff attended a meeting held by black families and offered to personally drive students to school each day. The offer was declined. At any rate, he had not been re-elected and his term would end that weekend.

Meanwhile, Brittain petitioned a federal judge for an injunction against those hindering integration. That night, Kasper was haranguing a crowd of around a thousand people, when US Marshals served him with a restraining order that demanded his appearance in a Knoxville courthouse. Kasper told the crowd that the order was meaningless, just like that of the Supreme Court. The crowd yelled for the marshals to be killed and burned a black man in effigy.

The next day, black students were brought into the high school via a side door. A mob of around two hundred was circulating in the area, and when school let out, began screaming and throwing rocks at the black students walking home.

Kasper busted! Again. [Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock]

Kasper appeared in court in Knoxville. He was immediately charged with violating the injunction by continuing to speak the night before and thrown in jail, awaiting a hearing in a week. Then a Federal judge found him in violation of a State court order and sentenced him to a year in prison. Kasper could not make the $10000 bond and stayed in jail during the events of the next few days.

The Clinton situation hit the news and people began converging on the community. Among them was Kasper’s old comrade-in-arms from Admiral Crommelin’s Senatorial campaign, Asa Carter. Carter whipped up the crowd, but did so with words that carefully skirted the terms of the injunction.

US Highway 25 was Clinton’s main street as well as the link to other places. The crowd began assaulting cars that contained blacks, some heading from other states, just driving through. Another group surrounded the mayor’s house, threating to dynamite it. Eventually, early Saturday morning, the crowds dispersed. A Clinton resident:

If you can imagine the courthouse, it was so thick with people that cars couldn’t move. Now, this was before any interstate, so the main route going south was coming through Clinton, right through Main Street. And, cars were being stopped, cars were being jostled. The people coming through were terrified. A gang of ruffians had taken over.

. . .

It was on a Friday night. Can you imagine driving through a little-bitty, sleepy town, and, all of a sudden, being surrounded by people stopping your car and shaking your car and threatening to turn it over? And, pulling the people out of it? Well, that was what was going on. That’s why they needed the extra policemen.

John G. Moore, Jim Crow History
Clinton, 1956 [Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock]

Because of the recent election, the Anderson County sheriff’s office changed hands at midnight and was unable to mobilize what few officers it had. Clinton had a six-man police force. The Chief was in hospital, so only five were available. They made no arrests because they lacked the personnel even to take prisoners to jail. The acting police chief, Joe Wilson, called together those he could find willing to bolster his force. Forty-seven men, most of them veterans armed with their own weapons or with billy clubs, were sworn in. A few of the ex-sheriff’s force signed on. Saturday night, this small force was called to face a mob of more than two thousand.

Auxiliary police in Clinton [Photo: Robert Kelley, Life Magazine, Sept.17,1956]

One volunteer auxiliary recalled:

We didn’t want a lot of people from outside the town, even outside the State. We had cars with every tag in the South you can imagine there. We were prepared for integration, and we didn’t think these people should come in and stop what we had decided. This [integration] was going to happen. It woulda been completely smooth, completely smooth, if we had not had the outside interference. But, it was the most terrifying experience of my life. Never seen such hatred…. They would have kicked us, killed us, anything. It wouldn’t have mattered to them.

John G. Moore, Jim Crow History

Saturday the first, Mayor Buford Lewallen and the Clinton Board of Aldermen declared a state of emergency and begged Governor Frank Clement for help. A mob began forming that would build to over 2000. The auxiliary police force kept people moving but by 8 PM, the crowd began to storm the courthouse. The police used tear gas and repelled the attack. The mob formed for another assault and then the cavalry arrived in the form of a hundred State troopers dispatched by Clement. The State Police managed to secure the peace. The next day, six hundred Tennessee National Guardsmen with M-41 tanks arrived in Clinton. This was the first time that the National Guard was activated over school de-segregation in the South.

Although mob action was discouraged, there were still problems. On Sunday, a crowd was dispersed by Guardsmen wielding bayonets. During the week, things were quiet enough so that some of the troops were removed. Others had to be dispatched to Oliver Springs, twenty miles away, to put down a riot there. And more than half the Clinton students failed to attend school.

National Guard in Clinton. Photo: Robert W. Kelley The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Across the border, in Sturgis, Kentucky, a mob halted the enrollment of a black child. Governor “Happy” Chandler, with the Clinton example before him, immediately sent the Guard into Sturgis. Soldiers escorted the child and her family to school to be registered. Then Sturgis and nearby Clay County segregationists adopted boycotts as a tactic. White parents kept their children out of school.

Kasper was in and out of jail, but between court appearances, he stirred up all the trouble he could. That was his stated purpose:

The people of Clinton needed a leader. I’m a rabble-rouser, a
trouble-maker. I’m not through up there. We want trouble. We want it now.
We need lots of rabble-rousers. Some of us may die and I may die too. It may
mean going back to jail, but I’m going back to fight. We went as far as we could
have gone legally. Now is the time to fight, even if it involves bloodshed.

from a speech in Birmingham, September 13, 1956, quoted in Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.171.

Kasper reminded his listeners that outsiders sneered at them, mocked them as incestuous hillbillies. One national story has this about them:

Poverty, isolation, inbreeding, ignorance, the cumulative effects of their traditional cornpone and fatback diet—all are reflected in their gaunt faces, their toothless gums, their gnarled and stunted bodies.

James Rorty, “Hate-Monger with Literary Trimmings: From Avant-Garde Poetry to Rear-Guard Politics”, Commentary, Dec.1956

Dehumanizing people is a racist mechanism, and doesn’t look any nicer when it is used to stigmatize poverty. (Do I need to point that out?) People in Clinton were aware of disdainful outside opinion and became defensive about living where they did. Kasper tried to mobilize these feelings but failed. He failed because he himself was an outsider, an Ivy-League educated Yankee with an agenda.

Kasper made incendiary speeches in Birmingham, Knoxville, and Battle, Alabama where he shared the stage with Asa Carter and one of the men who had attacked Nat King Cole. By late October, he was back in Washington, DC. He sent Pound birthday greetings (October 30):

Illustrious Prince:
Glorious, deathless of many names; Grampaw aye seeing all things, seer of
the inborn qualities of nature, of laws piloting all things.
Yr mighty Ldshp, please accept this bookshop on this 70th birthday and
please may the gods bless Grampaw always.
Also, Magnificent Capitan, our Treasured Lord, we ask the gods to help guide
us ever to you, O great light, brave Genral.
ARRIBA GRAMPAW, GOD BLESS GRAMPAW.

letter from JK to Pound, Marsh, Saving the Republic, p.173. Pound actually turned 71 in 1956.

The first dynamite bombing in Clinton took place September 26. It was meant to intimidate blacks from going to school. It was not the only method of intimidation used by the segregationists. Cars full of hooded Klansmen drove in cavalcade through black neighborhoods. Slowly. There were threats. Windows were smashed. Lights were shot out. Nasty phone calls. Petty vandalism. Businesses run by anti-segregationists were boycotted. The Mayor’s son was attacked. There were more bombings. Principal Brittain and his wife began going to hotels in other towns where they could get a night’s sleep. The Brittains were unable to have children and now Principal Brittain wondered, if he did have children, how could he protect them?

Meanwhile, the Clinton 12 continued to attend school and do their work as they were yelled at and spat on. Their leader was Bobby Cain, a Senior who would rather have traveled the seventeen miles to Knoxville each day and graduate with his friends. Every day now, he walked through crowds of jeering whites. At night, when he got home, he would sit and tremble. “I had to rush home, eat really fast and do my homework before it got dark. . .The lights were out in the neighborhood from being shot out or turned off and our lights were out too.” He wanted to quit, but his mother asked, “Where are your brothers and sisters going to school if you don’t stick?” So he stuck. But he told his parents, if I go, I won’t be the same Bobby Cain. He thought, if someone shoved him, he’d shove back. He says now, “I went to war.” One day a picketing woman called him a nigger and he turned away from her. She hit him across the back with a stick. Other members of the crowd moved in to attack Bobby and he pulled out a pocketknife. He was arrested right away. But that was the experience that changed him:

“After that day,” he says, “I found a little courage of my own. I won’t say I wasn’t afraid after that. But it came to me for the first time that I had a right to go to school. I realized that it was those other people who were breaking the law, not me. That night I determined to stick it out for Bobby Cain, and not for anybody else.”

George McMillan, “The Ordeal of Bobby Cain”, originally appeared in Collier’s, November 25, 1956
Bobby Cain leads black students through the gauntlet. [Photo: Thomas J. O’Halloran, Library of Congress]

Streetlights or no, the black community had its own warning system, should a mob swarm up the hill, and the community was armed.

Kasper organized a teen-age auxiliary to the Seaboard White Citizens’ Council, The Tennessee Youth Council. They were instructed to harass the black students and paid to beat them up. Things were not as bad in school as the walk there and back where attacks occurred. White citizens began to walk groups of black students to the school to protect them.

Kasper had been indicted on charges of sedition — essentially, for inciting the riot of August 31 — in September, a few days before the first bombing. In mid-November, he was found Not Guilty, since he had been in jail the night of the 31st and, so, it was reasoned, could not have been responsible. Pound wrote:

Kasper acquitted of sedition/public cheers. . .None of the kikecution witnesses stood up under Xexam. At least got a little publicity for the NAACP being run by kikes not by coons.

letter to Olivia Agresti, Anglo-Italian facist sympathizer, November 1956.

Through the last week of November and into early December, Kasper led crowds who yelled and catcalled at the black students as they went to school. Some black families had enough and decided to boycott the school. But the court order sending these students to Clinton High meant that they could not enroll somewhere else. Boycotts meant losing the opportunity for an education.

Reverend Paul Turner, a Baptist minister, talked to black families about ending the boycott. There seemed no options if their children were to be educated. On December 4, Turner and other white men escorted some black students to Clinton High. After seeing the students safely inside, they split up. Turner was walking to his church when he was seized by a crowd who began to beat him. But Turner fought back, charging into the mob, until he was thrown against a parked car. “His head was being bounced against the fender of the car,” said a witness. A white woman tried to help him and had her face clawed by a woman who was with the segregationists. The police finally intervened and Turner was taken to hospital. That Sunday, face battered, he was back in the pulpit, “There is no color line at the cross of Jesus,” he preached.

December 4, 1956. Turner is in the black overcoat in back. [Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images]

Arrests were made on December 4, and a man charged with assault. The SWCC paid his bail right away, then gave complimentary KKK stickers to the arresting officers. Also on the 4th: some of the crowd that beat Turner tried to invade the high school; the wife of Principal Brittain was threatened when she tried to stop them; the High School was closed down and students sent home; the Klan drove a slow cavalcade through black neighborhoods; a black-owned business was dynamited. And John Kasper was arrested — not in Clinton, but hundreds of miles away on the highway headed to Washington where he was charged with speeding. Possibly he wanted not to be in Clinton when trouble happened. Some noticed that Kasper was always somewhere else when there was a bombing.

The beating of Rev. Turner seemed a kind of turning point in Clinton. Fourteen people were arrested for the crime, six were convicted. The same day Turner was attacked, there was a local election. Several segregationists ran for office; none were elected. Whether for or against segregation, most people were opposed to violence. A massive dynamite bomb exploded on February 15, 1957, damaging thirty homes and injuring many people. This was the eighth bombing since September. Now even segregationists wanted Kasper to stay away.

Kasper Becomes Famous

On January 30, 1957, the New York Herald Tribune began a four-part series on Kasper by Robert Bird that focused on his time in New York:

Kasper, a carpetbagger from Camden, N. J., and the cold-water-flats of bohemia lower Greenwich Village, is executive secretary of the Seaboard White Citizens Council of Washington. Former social intimate and confidante of Negro literary aspirants in Greenwich Village, he became overnight in Clinton, Tenn., September one of the most reckless and dangerous segregationist rabble-rousers in the South.

His racist propaganda is shot through with Ezra Pound’s ideology of race hatred.

Robert S. Bird, “Segregationist Kasper Is Ezra Pound Disciple”, NY Herald-Tribune, Jan 30, 1957

In the second article of the series (“How John Kasper Fights Integration”), Bird quotes “Virginians On Guard”, the flyer Kasper printed for his Charlottesville campaign. Bird spots the Poundian prose and notes that “whole phrases come from the Cantos”. Pound is referred to as “the insane poet and indicted traitor”. All this was very troubling to those working for Pound’s release.

Also troubled were Kasper’s black friends. The third installment of Bird’s series “Kasper: High-Brow To Rabble Rouser”, has the sub-head “Former Negro Friends in Village Can’t Understand His Turnabout”. Quoted in the article was one black man who had shared a Greek dictionary with Kasper: “I was very shocked when I found out what he was. I can’t understand it.” Readers of the black New Amsterdam News and the Pittsburgh Courier read interviews with people who had known Kasper, who were all astonished and hurt by his revealed racism.

In several accounts of the beliefs of Ezra Pound and his followers, there is an attitude that might be summed up as, “He wasn’t racist. Anti-semitic, yes, but not racist.” That’s nonsense. This kind of hatred is not a single-target matter. It’s easy enough for an anti-Semite to add blacks, browns, gays, Masons, or any other human division you can name to the Hate List. The haters need targets for their own anger and disturbed feelings. There is nothing peculiar about Pound, Kasper, and their ilk adding blacks to their other hatreds.

Kasper had actually tried to get people to join the NAACP in September of 1955, according to Bird and the FBI Reports. He said that, if he were black, he would join. But he refused to do so as a white man because the organization was run by Jews. Two months later he opened his Washington bookstore. There he met Robert Furniss, who would send him to Alabama campaigning for Admiral Crommelin. That is when, Kasper said later, he became a segregationist, in the months between September 1955 and the summer of 1956. Marsh tries to understand this as an intellectual shift brought on by reading Pound’s standbys, Louis Agassiz and Leo Frobenius. I think this is misguided. Kasper was trying to develop his personal destiny.

When Kasper apologized to Babette Deutsch (see Part 1) he said that he had once been drawn to Nietzsche, Machiavelli, and the “political” Ezra Pound; that he had once believed “That the weak have no justification for living except service in the weak. What is a little cruelty to the innocuous when it is expedient for the strong ones who have the right to alter the laws of life and death before their natural limit?” But, Kasper said, he had become aware through the “living example of another that the myth of Fascism is ‘a clear and present danger'”. Deutsch politely said this was “insincere”. I say it’s open mockery.

Kasper wants to be a political force, a rabble-rouser. He wants to be Important. “[Kasper] declared that, as for himself, he was prepared to go to any extreme to make his name known to history, and was convinced that sooner or later his chance would come.” He is a “strong one” above the laws meant for the weak. Kasper is shaping a personal variant of the lone hero fulfilling an intense destiny beyond good and evil. Kasper stated how he meant to achieve that goal in a letter to Ezra Pound: “We are aiming for a people’s grass-roots, actionist, nationalist, ATTACK organization. . .” [quoted Marsh, p.144, caps in original] (“Action” was a common term used by fascists. In his writings, Kasper usually couples it with “Attack”.)

That’s my take and it was also that of Charles Beaumont, whose novel, The Intruder, is based on Kasper in Clinton.

Charles Beaumont and Roger Corman Tackle “The Intruder”

Charles Beaumont wrote fiction, and film and TV scripts. Some classic Twilight Zone episodes are probably his best known work. The Intruder was published 1958, but the manuscript was likely finished sometime in 1957. The title was probably suggested by Arthur Gordon’s article “Intruder in the South”, Look Magazine, Feb. 19, 1957. And I think the black student character is based on Bobby Cain from the article quoted above. Other characters are based on locals, white and black. Beaumont himself played a part in the movie.

D.J.Brittain, principal Clinton High School. [from See It Now: Clinton and the Law]; Charles Beaumont, high school principal in The Intruder.

The Intruder tells of Adam Cramer who visits a Southern town and stirs up racial antagonism there. Why? Because Cramer has a vision of himself as “the man on horseback”, the dictator who will clean up after messy democracy collapses (from Georges Boulanger, the original “man on horseback”). He is the decisive figure who brings order from chaos. In one scene, Cramer compares himself to Hannibal. He writes his old academic mentor and asks if he wants a role in the New Order he is creating. This is very much like the letters between Kasper and Ezra Pound. Pound even joked about being Kasper’s Aristotle — Aristotle having tutored Alexander the Great. [letter to Bo Setterlind, cited in Marsh, p.157; also see here]

Cramer’s mentor is Max Blake, a college professor who runs a “nursery for dictators”. Blake’s strategy: seize “upon an area of unrest” and “gain the support of the sheep who would not yet consciously understand the concept of single authority”. The masses are kept in a state of flux while the would-be dictator consolidates his power. “Play upon their ignorance; underline and reflect their prejudices; make them afraid.”

Cramer is presented as a man who desperately needs some kind of self-validating success, so he follows Blake’s plan. Pound was not so simple as Max Blake, and perhaps his concepts of political organizing were not as sharply defined, but Kasper’s desire for Pound’s approval is very much like that of Cramer’s for Blake.

In the novel, Max Blake visits Cramer and tells him that the theories he espoused were just conversation fodder, not to be taken seriously, only a bit of contrarian irony ha-ha. He tries to persuade Cramer to quit rabble-rousing and leave town, but Cramer realizes that his old mentor is just a second-rate professor who is frightened about losing his job and cuts himself loose from Blake.

There are elements of the relationship that hint at Blake being gay. Sublimated homosexuality is one of two common psychiatric tropes used in the 1950s. The other is: “It’s all the Mother’s fault.” Beaumont uses that one, too. Neither seem particularly useful in understanding Kasper, but the man did wish to live up to some kind of ideal that would please his father who died in 1954. Kasper wrote about him several times to Pound.

Max Blake does not appear at all in the movie version of The Intruder and viewers may find themselves wondering what motivates Cramer. Otherwise, Beaumont’s script follows the novel. Cramer, played by William Shatner, arrives in a small town and begins stirring up mischief. He makes incendiary speeches and creates an organization. But Cramer has a problem: he is somewhat confused about sex. He comes on to teen-aged girls, but never consummates the relationship — the novel suggests this is something he may not be able to do, even though he beds older, less chaste women. I’m not certain what Beaumont is after here; some kind of virgin/whore thing, I suppose.

There is a curious note in Kasper’s FBI files that he was fired from Household Finance for “peculiar” remarks he made around a fifteen-year-old girl. But it should be noted that this part of the FBI files includes a bunch of reports jammed together that are often questionable. (For instance, Kasper’s bookstore was hardly a hangout for “liberals” as one report has it.) Investigators tried very hard to discover some warped sexual motivation for Kasper, but came up with nothing substantial.

Anyway, in The Intruder, a sexual encounter eventually brings Cramer down in an unconvincing dramatic climax. Before that, a church is bombed and the black minister killed. The white editor of the local paper is attacked and hospitalized. And Cramer threatens a high-school girl into accusing a black student of rape.

Beaumont attempts to portray some of the pain that the Kasper/Cramer incident caused black people in 1956, and the centuries-long suffering that preceded these events. He also has white characters, decent white characters who have failed to change things:

It’s us, the nice people, the intelligent, sophisticated people — we’re the ones to blame for this, not the ignorant hillbillies and the cheap neurotics! They have no power to act; we have, and always have had. But we didn’t act. The guilt is ours. . .

Charles Beaumont, The Intruder, Ch. 18
William Shatner as Adam Cramer in The Intruder.

Maybe Adam Cramer is just into villainy for its own sake. Shatner plays him as a mysterious presence, a man battling inner demons as he seeks to create chaos. He wears shades and sweats a lot. Kasper was image-conscious. He wore a white stetson hat that added to his 6’4″ height. Both Kasper and Shatner wore white linen suits.

Kasper in his big white hat addressing a crowd in Nashville, September, 1957. [Nashville Public Library, reprinted Southern Cultures, Winter, 2014]

Roger Corman wanted to make a film that said something important. He and his brother, Gene, managed to produce the movie, then couldn’t get it distributed. It was the only movie Corman ever made that lost money.

The Intruder was filmed in Missouri and the movie people felt that they were outsiders who were in danger. Shatner pranked the crew once, by pretending that a mob was moving on the motel where they were staying. The last shots were taken while the crew was literally on the run, chased out of town.

Graduation

May 17, 1957, Bobby Cain became the first black graduate from Clinton High School. He went to the gym to turn in his cap and gown, when the lights suddenly went out and he was attacked by a group of white kids. In the dark, they hit each other as much as they did Cain. The light snapped on and off, the fighting went on until some adults walked in. Bobby Cain went home and grabbed a shotgun. He meant, he said, to walk down the hill and shoot everyone who “didn’t look like him”. His family stopped him. In the Fall, Cain went on to Tennessee Tech.

October 5, 1958, Clinton High School was destroyed by a dynamite blast. The town of Oak Ridge opened up some buildings that were used as Clinton’s high school for the next two years. Students were bussed in and greeted by the Oak Ridge High School band who played the Clinton Alma Mater. No one was ever charged with the bombing.

After the destruction of the high school, Billy Graham used Clinton as a site for his crusade. Kasper attacked him, but did not win any support doing so. Graham said it was time for white people to take the lead in integration. Perhaps he changed some minds.

At the beginning of 1957, Kasper was famous and as important as he ever would be in his life; by the Fall of 1958, he was a spent force. Part 3 is about Kasper’s end — and that of Pound’s kindergarten, as well.

Statues of the Clinton 12 outside the Green-McAdoo Cultural Center, Clinton, Tennessee. The Twelve: Maurice Soles, Anna Theresser Caswell, Alfred Williams, Regina Turner Smith, William R. Latham, Gail Ann Epps Upton, Ronald Gordon “Poochie” Hayden, JoAnn Crozier Allen Boyce, Robert Thacker, Bobby Cain, Minnie Ann Dickey Jones, Alvah McSwain [Photo: Jeaneane Payne, Knoxville Sun, February 1, 2022]

Notes:

Alec Marsh, Ezra Pound and John Kasper, Saving the Republic
Clive Webb, Rabble Rousers: the American Far Right in the Civil Rights Era has a chapter on Bryant Bowles as well as one on Kasper.
FBI reports on Kasper.
FBI reports on Asa Carter
Ernie Lazar FOIA Collection: Extreme Right Groups

David Moody, Ezra Pound: Poet. Volume III, The Tragic Years: 1939 – 1972.

The entire Clinton incident was covered one year later on Edward Murrow’s See It Now: Clinton and the Law. Well worth watching. Includes video of Kasper orating.
The Clinton 12 are the subject of a documentary
Jeaneane Payne, “Black History: The Clinton 12”
George McMillan, “The Ordeal of Bobby Cain”, also Cain in a 2022 interview.
Memoir of an auxiliary officer during the Clinton riot.
Margaret Anderson, The Children of the South. Anderson was a teacher and guidance counselor at Clinton HS.
Holden et al, Clinton, Tennessee: A Tentative Description and Analysis of the School Desegregation Crisis (Field Reports on Desegregation, published by Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith)

Charles Beaumont, The Intruder

The Intruder is on both YouTube and the Internet Archive.
Roger Corman, How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime
Documentary about Charles Beaumont and The Intruder.

Marie-Noëlle Little, The Knight and the Troubadour – Dag Hammarskjöld and Ezra Pound (free on-line)

One comment on “John Kasper, The Intruder: Part 2, Kasper Goes to Tennessee

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