Ron Stallworth

Ronell Eugene Stallworth (born June 18, 1953) is an American retired police officer who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs in the late 1970s. He was the first African-American police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department. The 2018 film BlacKkKlansman is based on his experience infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan. Stallworth was born in Chicago and raised in El Paso, Texas, after his mother moved the family there. "My mother's moving our family to El Paso was the best decision she ever made, as the city was a far cry from the poverty, gangs, and conflict in Chicago's South Side, where I would have come of age if she had not left."

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Ron Stallworth
Born
Ronell Eugene Stallworth[1]

(1953-06-18) June 18, 1953 (age 65)
Known forInfiltration of the KKK
Notable work
Black Klansman (2014)
Police career
DepartmentColorado Springs Police
Service years1972–1980
RankDetective
Civilian police career
DepartmentUtah Public Safety
Service years1986–2005
RankSergeant
WebsiteOfficial website

Ronell Eugene Stallworth (born June 18, 1953) is an American retired police officer who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs in the late 1970s. He was the first African-American police officer and detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department.[2][3]

The 2018 film BlacKkKlansman is based on his experience infiltrating the Ku Klux Klan.

Early life

Stallworth as a high-school junior, from his 1970 yearbook

Stallworth was born in Chicago and raised in El Paso, Texas, after his mother moved the family there. "My mother's moving our family to El Paso was the best decision she ever made, as the city was a far cry from the poverty, gangs, and conflict in Chicago's South Side, where I would have come of age if she had not left."[4]

Stallworth graduated from Austin High School in 1971, where he was a cheerleader, a member of the student council, and a member of a district-wide advisory board; he was also voted "most popular".[5]

In the summer of 1972, his family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he first took an interest in a career in law enforcement.[2] Stallworth joined the department as a cadet in November 1972 and was initially assigned to work in the Identifications and Records Bureau.

He quickly developed an interest in undercover police work, which persisted well after he was formally sworn in as an officer in June 1974. After 10 months of uniformed patrol duty, he was offered an undercover assignment to observe a gathering at a local black nightclub, where Stokely Carmichael had been invited to speak. Stallworth accepted the assignment and was transferred to the department's intelligence section afterward.[2]

Infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan

In 1979, Stallworth noticed a want-ad in the local paper seeking members to start a new chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs. Stallworth called the phone number listed, and posed as a racist white man who "hated blacks, Jews, Mexicans, Asians." During the conversation, he learned that the man founding the new chapter was a soldier at nearby Fort Carson. Stallworth arranged to meet the man at a local bar and sent a white undercover narcotics officer, wired to record any conversations, to stand in for him at the meeting.[6]

The subterfuge was a success, and Stallworth continued to pose as a KKK member for the next nine months, usually talking on the phone with other members, and sending the white officer in his place when face-to-face meetings were necessary. At one point, Stallworth phoned David Duke, who was head of the KKK at the time, at his headquarters in New Orleans to ask about the status of his membership application. Duke looked through his paperwork, apologized for the delay in getting it processed, and promised to see to it personally that Stallworth's application was processed and sent back to him. Within a short time, Stallworth's Klan certificate of membership arrived in the mail, signed by Duke. He framed it and hung it on the wall of his office, where it stayed for years.[6]

Retirement

After the investigation into the Klan was closed, Stallworth kept it a secret and told no one about his role in it. He transferred to the Utah Department of Public Safety, where he worked as an investigator for nearly 20 years, and retired in 2005.

In January 2006, he gave an interview to the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, in which he related all the details of his infiltration and investigation of the KKK.[7] He disclosed that the investigation had revealed several Klan members who were active members of the US Armed Forces, including two at NORAD that controlled triggers for nuclear weapons. The pair were both reassigned; Stallworth was told that they went to "somewhere like the North Pole or Greenland."[8]

In 2014, Stallworth published a book, Black Klansman, about his experience investigating the KKK. For his source material, he used a casebook that he assembled during the assignment and kept for himself after it was over.[9] The book was brought to QC Entertainment by producer Shaun Redick in order to make a film based on it; BlacKkKlansman. Spike Lee signed on as co-producer and director.[10] It was released in 2018, with John David Washington playing the role of Stallworth.[11][12] The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.[13]

Footnotes

  1. US Public Records, 2000–2009.
  2. 1 2 3 Taylor, M. (May 30, 2014). "The Black Undercover Cop Who Infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado". Vice. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  3. Simon, S. (June 9, 2018). "How A Black Detective Infiltrated The KKK". NPR. Retrieved June 24, 2018.
  4. Stallworth 2014, p. 9.
  5. "AHS 2018 Outstanding Ex". Austin High School Alumni Association.
  6. 1 2 Gordon, E. (February 16, 2006). "How a Black Cop Joined the KKK". NPR. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  7. Vogrin, B. (May 21, 2014). "Ex-Colorado Springs cop recalls his time as black member of Ku Klux Klan". The Gazette. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  8. Bulkeley, D. (January 12, 2006). "Black sergeant was 'loyal Klansman'". Deseret News. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  9. Dickerson, J. (May 13, 2014). "Ron Stallworth, Police Sergeant, Chronicles His Experience As Undercover KKK Member". Huffington Post. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  10. Kit, B. (September 8, 2017). "'Black Klansman' KKK Thriller in the Works From Spike Lee, Jordan Peele". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  11. Johnson, T. (May 15, 2018). "Spike Lee's true-story thriller 'BlacKkKlansman' debuts to standing ovation at Cannes Film Festival". NBC News. Retrieved May 15, 2018.
  12. Brown, D. L. (August 10, 2018). "'BlacKkKlansman': How black detective Ron Stallworth infiltrated the Colorado Klan". Washington Post. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  13. "Festival de Cannes Feature Films". Retrieved September 3, 2018.

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