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Patrick Springer, Published March 02 2013

As academic exercise, Davies once debated pro-KKK position

FARGO – Ronald N. Davies, who achieved fame for his role as a federal judge who forced the integration of schools in Little Rock, Ark., once argued on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan as an academic exercise.

Davies, then a student at the University of North Dakota, was assigned the pro-KKK position in a debate in February 1923, when the Klan was active.

His rhetorical position on behalf of the Klan was ironic, since Davies was a Catholic, a denomination despised by the Klan, which also railed against blacks, Jews, Asians and foreigners.

Years later, Davies told stories about the debate, which he found amusing.

“It was so contrary to what he believed,” said one of his daughters, Jean Schmith, the youngest of his five children. “He laughed about it. He was very proud of his debating skills.”

The debate was reported in the Grand Forks Herald, and years later Davies, who died in 1996, spoke of it in an interview archived with his papers.

Before sitting on the federal bench in Fargo and Grand Forks, Davies was elected a municipal judge in Grand Forks in 1932, beating a Klan supporter, he once told an interviewer.

Ronald N. Davies High School in Fargo is named in his honor, and the school’s hockey team was playing Grand Forks Red River High School when three Red River fans donned hooded KKK robes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522