Jim Melvin

Former Mayor Jim Melvin. JOSEPH RODRIGUEZ/News & Record

The man who was mayor at the time says he supports the idea of a historical marker denoting the site of the bloody confrontation between KKK members and communist protesters on Nov. 3, 1979.

“I don’t have any problem with the marker,” Jim Melvin said today. “It was a historic event.”

Melvin did say he would prefer a term other than “massacre” to describe the event.

“The CWP picked a fight,” Melvin said, “but they never intended on getting killed.”

Five people were killed and 10 were wounded by heavily armed Klansmen and Neo-Nazis during the clash in the Morningside Homes public housing complex. A gunfight erupted after a caravan of cars and trucks carrying KKK members and Nazis drove up to the “Death to the Klan" rally.

The protesters had dared them to show.

Melvin also agreed that the event was major news worldwide.

“That afternoon there were 300 news people there,” he said. “We were on the tip of every news tongue in the world.”

In almost a heartbeat, that changed.

“The next day there were five,” Melvin said.

Melvin conceded that five is an estimate, not an exact number. But the shootout had become a local news story at that point.

On Nov. 4, 1979, Iranians stormed the U.S. Embassy and took hostages.

One peeve Melvin shared about news coverage: Calling the event the “Klan/Nazi shootings” leaves out the other party in the clash: the communists.

Load comments