David (DC) Stephenson (pictured
above) was born on August 21, 1891 in Houston, TX. This out of work printer
was a former National Guardsman. Stephenson was also robust, charismatic
and well groomed. He arrived in Indiana in 1922 and became a partner in
a thriving coal business. Within the next year, he would also become the
Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. It has never been made clear how he
became affiliated with the Klan.
Under Stephenson’s guidance,
Klan membership would surpass 300,000 in the State of Indiana. In the
1924 elections, Klan favorites won all but one of Indiana’s U.S Congressional
seats: The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, The Mayor, The Sheriff and the Secretary
In his spare time, Stephenson
read psychology books, he also mastered the English language to improve his
orator skills. These feats were impressive, considering he had an eighth
grade education. Stephenson would captivate audiences with his non-stop
rhetoric. On one occasion, he spoke for six hours.
Stephenson became wealthy
and powerful. He often boasted, “I am the law in Indiana.”
His wealth was derived from Klan membership fees, Klan regalia and political
pay offs. He was a multi-millionaire at the age of 33.
He resided in an opulent mansion,
drove a fleet of cars and he had a personal bodyguard. Stephenson also
purchased a private jet and he had a yacht on Lake Erie.
Stephenson was treated like
a celebrity in Indiana. Crowds gathered at the airfield when his plane
landed and he was often approached for an autograph.
He would soon diversify his
holdings and purchase a newspaper, “The Fiery Cross.” In 1923,
circulation was 500,000. This enabled him to control the local press by
broadcasting his Klan ideology.
Stephenson also planned on
turning a vacant college campus into a Klan college where young people could
be educated in Klan philosophy but plans fell through.
Financial backers urged Stephenson
to run for President in 1928. Stephenson was excited and began planning
In the meantime, at every
opportunity, Stephenson’s chief targets were blacks, Jews and Catholics.
He also spoke out against promiscuity, alcohol and immoral books and
What the public didn’t
know, Stephenson was a big hypocrite. He hosted orgies in his mansion;
he was a discreet alcoholic and a sexual deviate with an uncontrollable dark
side. He loved to abuse, degrade, humiliate and rape women. These
incidents were usually hushed up.
In 1924, one incident did
come to light. Stephenson was put on trial for “gross dereliction”
which included charges that he tried to seduce a young Evansville woman and
had committed additional crimes against women in Ohio, Indiana and Georgia.
Stephenson paid of his accusers
and bribed public officials. He never went to jail and returned to power.
One evening, Stephenson attended
a function at the Governor’s mansion. He was enthralled by a young
woman named Madge Oberholtzer.
Stephenson was impressed because
she was unfamiliar with his beliefs and background.
Madge Oberholtzer (above) worked for
the State Education Department. She was the opposite of Stephenson, she
believed all men were created equal and she taught black children how to read
Oberholtzer went on two dates
with Stephenson, after the second date, she was informed that he was the Grand
Dragon of the KKK. She was incensed and broke off the relationship. Stephenson
A few days later, Stephenson
called Madge under false pretenses. It was important that they meet; it
concerned her job.
Madge reluctantly agreed to
meet him. She arrived and his home and became nervous when she realized
he was drunk. Madge tried to leave, he overpowered her and led her to
the kitchen where he forced three glasses of spiked alcohol down her throat.
Madge became dizzy and vomited. She was near collapse when Stephenson
and two of his men carried her outside into a waiting car.
Madge awoke on a train. Without
warning, Stephenson pounced on her. He ripped off her clothes and brutally
raped her. During the attack he savagely bit her neck, face, back, legs
and ankles. She had bites on every inch of her body. He even chewed
her tongue and he chewed her breasts until they bled and then he sodomized her.
Madge blacked out.
When she awoke, she was in
severe pain. With sheer determination, she gathered her strength and asked
Stephenson if she could go to the drug store. After some hesitation, he
asked one of his men to accompany her to the store.
The man guarding Madge was
distracted, Madge took the opportunity to purchase a box of eighteen bichloride
mercury tablets (poison) and put them in her coat pocket.
Stephenson was napping when
they returned. Madge felt if she retaliated against Stephenson, he would take
it out on her family and ruin their good name. Still in shock and not
thinking clearly, she swallowed six mercury tablets.
Madge became violently ill
and vomited after swallowing the tablets. Stephenson panicked and had
his men load Madge into the car. Instead of getting medical help, they drove
non-stop to Indiana with Madge moaning in the back seat.
Stephenson was dropped off
at his house, the men drove Madge to her parents home, they refused to answer
any questions as they lay Madge on the couch. Madge said, “I’m
Her parents were outraged
and immediately called a doctor. Madge seemed to improve and even related
the story to her parents as her mother took dictation, afterwards, Madge signed
the dictation statement and then she took a turn for the worse.
On April 2nd, Madge’s
father filed a criminal complaint against Stephenson, charging him with assault
On April 14th, Madge Oberholtzer
On April 18th, David Curtis
Stephenson and his accomplices, Gentry and Klinck were indicted on first-degree
murder charges, assault, battery, kidnapping and conspiracy with special circumstances
for refusal to get Madge Obeholtzer medical attention and a antidote for the
The trial began on Oct. 12,
1925. Public sentiment turned against Stephenson as they learned of his
alcoholism and his abuse towards women.
Stephenson was found guilty
and sentenced to life in prison. Gentry and Klinck were acquitted of all
charges. Stephenson was 34 when he entered prison.
Stephenson was cocky and expected
a pardon. After all, the Governor owed his career to Stephenson.
Numerous letters were sent to the Governor, they went unanswered.
Stephenson was ready to play
He decided to divulge information
and incriminating documents that detailed bribery and payoffs among public officials,
he also had cancelled checks and letters. The letters and checks were
stacked at 6 ½ feet long and 3 ½ feed wide. A criminal investigation
ensued and the political structure of Indiana collapsed.
The Stephenson scandal destroyed
the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana.
On March 23, 1950, Stephenson,
at age 65, was granted parole. In 1961, at age 70, he was arrested in
Missouri for assaulting a sixteen-year old girl. He was found guilty and
sentenced to four months in jail.
At age 75, David Curtis Stephenson
died on June 28th, 1966 of a heart attack in Jonesboro, Tennessee.
Comment On This Story