Billy Sunday, Creationism, and the Klan connection

There is nothing new about the alliance between American evangelical Christianity and white supremacism, although the party alignment of this alliance has changed over the years. And one of the pleasures of blogging is how one comes across interesting facts, and interesting people. My email today illustrates both these points:

Research query: Billy Sunday

Hello Paul Braterman,

By way of introduction I am the retired bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and retired Professor of Trombone at Arizona State University. I am at work on a book for University of Illinois Press about Homer Rodeheaver, the trombone-playing song leader for Billy Sunday in the first third of the 20th century.

A research thread that is currently occupying my interest is the role the Ku Klux Klan played in Billy Sunday meetings.
I came across your blog post: [the link is to my post, The Scopes “Monkey trial”, Part 2: Evidence, Confrontation, Resolution, Consequences]

In the paragraph below the image of Sunday preaching by George Bellows, you write “There also was a Klan night.”

The image referred to: Billy Sunday portrait by George Bellows, Metropolitan Magazine 1915, via Wikipedia. Click to enlarge (it’s worth it)

I am aware of a number of occasions when Klan members- both hooded and  in street clothes – attended Sunday meetings and made presentations of monetary gifts, flowers and neckties to those on the platform. Such as in Richmond, VA, Spartanburg SC, Charleston WV and Memphis TN between 1922 and 1925. But your mention of Sunday meeting that was a “Klan night” is something that I have not found in the literature. I wonder if you can tell me your source for this as it is of great interest to me.

With thanks,

Douglas Yeo

Professor of Trombone, Arizona State University (2012-2016, retired)

Bass Trombonist, Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985-2012, retired)

To Douglas Yeo

Thanks for your interest.

I am away from home and will check when I return but my recollection is that my source was Edward J Larsen’s excellent “Summer for the Gods”, sitting on my bookshelf.



Hi Paul,

Thanks very much for this. I was able to find the book on the ACLS Humanities ebook site and found the reference; your memory serves you well. Thanks very much for your help.


Dear Douglas,

I am glad to have been of help.

I find it interesting that the link between evangelical creationism and racism is nothing new, and look forward to learning more about this aspect of your work.

Best wishes,


About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on March 12, 2017, in Creationism, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin and commented:
    Well creationists are often racist but like to claim only evilutionists are!!!!!!!!


  2. Interesting.


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