Seen and Overheard

See something, say something. Blogger and Smart Mouth columnist Amelia Robinson delivers what Daytonians are and should be talking about.

The University of Dayton football team chased off the KKK in 1923

Yes, you read that right. No, it's not satire.

According to Tom Archdeacon, famed sports writer for the Dayton Daily News, there was a moment one fall night in 1923 where the University of Dayton football team squared off with the KKK.

"They [the UD football team] not only kept their fellow students safe, but they managed to terrorize a bunch of terrorists," Archdeacon wrote.

During that time, the KKK regularly harassed UD students:

"At night, they burned crosses on the campus grounds. Around the city, the group vilified UD at public rallies, including a gathering at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds that drew 32,000, and it attacked the school in print in the pair of Klan newspapers — the Klan Kourier and the Ohio edition of the Fiery Cross — printed in Dayton."

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The tipping point:

"Then, in December 1923, the Klan launched its most brazen attack on the UD. According to a Dayton Daily News report, some 40 carloads of Klan members converged on the school — which was on the first day of Christmas break — and along with their usual burning-cross harassment, they set off a dozen bombs around campus."

Archdeacon, who was a student at the school in the late '60s and early '70s, doesn't remember hearing anything about it. Neither had Doug Hauschild, the director of athletic communications at UD.

But there's one person who does:

"And the man who best tells it is William Vance Trollinger Jr., a professor in UD’s history and religious studies department and the director of its CORE program."

Here's some context:

  • In the early '20s, Dayton's growing factories attracted many immigrants -- and according to a 1920 census, 28% of Dayton's population was either foreign or had foreign-born parents.
  • As UD's prominence grew after changing its name from St. Mary's College, the catholic presence of the institution became a pretty good target for a xenophobic, white Protestant hate group.
  • At that time, Ohio was estimated to have the most KKK members of any state.
  • According to Trollinger, Dayton was "one of six cities in the nation to be designated Klan-friendly ‘hooded capitals.' There were said to be 15,000 Klan members here."

Read the full story about what happened on Sept. 21, 1923 on


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