Ruth Covell Hotalen Dr. William Earl Hotalen
Reverend William Earl Hotalen
Born in Tennessee on September 22, 1897 to William and Myrtle Hotalen, he was the first born with four brothers and a sister. His father was a laundry foreman in Chattanouga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. His father and grandfather migrated from New Jersey where many Hotalen descendants live today. "Earl" as he was called by close relatives became a Methodist minister at an early age as he was the Methodist-Episcopal minister at the Red Bank community church in Chattanouga, Tennessee in 1918 until the 1920's. He participated by holding church services on two Sundays a month while the Baptist minister, Reverend Joe Maples, and the Cumberland Presbyterian minister, Reverend George Wiggins held service one Sunday per month. Later, the Methodist and Baptist congregations withdrew. He continued his ministries in Tennessee and other areas under the Holsten Conference of the Methodist Church. He met Elizabeth Francess Burke, from Tennessee and they were married on May 26, 1920 in Walker County, Georgia. She gave birth to their only child, William Burke Hotalen on August 24, 1921. His wife died early on at age 24 on May 18, 1925 at home in Chattanouga.
Earl married for the second time about a year later to Ruth Covell on March 19, 1926 and eventually took up residence in the State of Alabama. In 1930 they lived in Homewood, Jefferson County, Alabama. Ruth and Earl had no children together, but were strongly engaged in the ministries of the protestant churches and the prohibition of alcohol. Earl traveled around the United States and throughout Europe in the exercise and preaching of his beliefs.
In the mid 1920's, when the Ku Klux Klan was rapidly growing in membership, he joined them and became a spokesperson for their beliefs. This was the "second Klan" as history books record the first Klan as the organization that developed after the Civil War. William J. Simmons founded this second Klan in 1915, promoting the white, Protestant, Anglo-Saxon as the only true Americans.
While the Klan today is considered different than the golden age of the organization in the 1920's, it still holds many of the same beliefs. Membership of the second one declined in the late '20's and eventually Earl Hotalen also dropped his membership. By 1930 the membership in Alabama had dropped from several hundred thousand to only a few. In 1930, Earl still held the position of secretary of the Alabama section of the Klan.
In 1928, when New York Democrat Governor, Alfred E. Smith, was running for President of the United States against Herbert Hoover, Earl campaigned against Governor Smith because he was a Catholic. The Alabama newspapers kept up a steady attack on the Klan as un-American and violent. This counterattack by the media was successful; the state voted for Al Smith for President in 1928. The Klans membership declined after this to only about 3 thousand in 1930 from a high of about 6 million members nationally in the early 1920's. While many of us in today's society consider the beliefs of the Klan to be extreme and just plain religiously and morally wrong, Earl held to those beliefs as per the following excerpts from newspapers in 1928:
August 27, 1928 from "The Landmark, Statesville, N.C."
Quoting "Good Sound Christian Doctrine" (reprinted from the Greensboro News)
In these columns attention has been called to the type of attacks made upon a candidate of one of the two great political parties for the Presidency of the United States by a lecturer of the Ku Klux Klan in an address at Lamberton. Monday night the same lecturer spoke in Greensboro.
We call one paragraph to your attention: Said W. Earl Hotalen, "the imperial lecturer from Alabama" "That what money I spend I am not going to spend with any Jew merchant, I am not going to spend it with any Roman Catholic merchant, I am not going to spend it with any negro merchant. But I am going to walk into the store of some American and spend money. That is good sound Christian doctrine -- to prefer one another"
(continuing the article) The Daily News has always doubted whether the Democratic candidate would have more than a long chance in a country so strongly wedded to the Republican party, but with enough of the "good, sound Christian doctrine" spread around. It would not be surprising to see Al Smith chosen President of the United States.
Needless to say, Republican Herbert Hoover won.
January 26, 1928 from the Helena Independent, Helena, Montana:
KLAN WILL NOT OUST MEMBERS WHO VOTE FOR GOV. AL SMITH
St. Petersburg, Fla, Jan 25 (AP) - General unmasking of the Ku Klux Klan, February22, will follow conferment of the K-Trio or third degree upon all members of the order, and will signalize the abolition of secrecy in membership on the Klan, Dr. W. A. Hotalen, Klan evangelist of Birmingham, Ala, said here today. He told reporters he was authorized to make official statements for the Klan.
The statement denied reports that the robe and helmet would be abolished and declared emphatically that the unmasking did not result from any anticipated anti-masking legislation of recent agitation in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, or Pennsylvania.
Answering specific questions, Dr. Hotalen said in effect that the Klan's policy will be opposed to demonstrations and parades, although such action might be taken by members on occasion, but marchers will be unmasked. The declared ignorance of any threat by Dr. Hiram W. Evans that members voting for Al Smith for president would be dismissed, characterizing such reports as "the invention of some unscrupulous reporters" (note-Dr. Hiram Evans followed William Simmons as national leader of the Klan)
Finally a letter sent from Amos C. Duncan, Grand Dragon:
Forest City, N.C.
August 15th, 1928
You have been vouched for as a man who is thoroughly American, Protestant to the core, a law abider and lover of our Constitution, and one who has the welfare of our country close to your heart. As such you are invited to attend a Lecture on "Americanism" by Dr. W. Earl Hotalen, a Lecturer of National reputation, at
8:00 P.M., TUESDAY NIGHT, AUGUST 21ST, IN THE HALL
ON THE THIRD FLOOR OVER RECTOR'S CAFE, 7-1/2 W. PACK
SQUARE, ASHEVILLE, N. C.
Dr. Hotalen will appear in Asheville under the auspices of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. If your only source of information regarding the Klan has been obtained through the Newspapers, many of which are unfriendly to us due to lack of information regarding our Organization, then you have no doubt a biased opinion toward the Klan and the principles it espouses.
Now, just be fair and come out and hear our side. Dr. Hotalen will have some facts and statistics to present that will astound you.
If you wish, bring a good Protestant friend whom you can vouch for. You will be under no obligation in attending this meeting.
Yours very truly
Amos C. Duncan
REALM OF NORTH CAROLINA
KNIGHTS OF THE KU KLUX KLAN, INC.
It is assumed that Earl separated from the Klan in later years, however his beliefs continued to be the same as those of the Klan.
When alcohol was legalized in Alabama, Earl continued his battle to prohibit alcohol in various counties. Some counties were changing their laws to legalize consumption of alcohol and those counties were referred to as "wet" counties. Those that prohibited alcohol consumption were referred to as "dry" counties. After exiting the Klan, Earl was chosen to be Executive Secretary of the Alabama Temperance Alliance. This organization waged war on the wet counties of Alabama.
An example of the attacks on alcoholic legislation follows from a paid political advertisement by the Alabama Temperance Alliance, published several times in Alabama newspapers in 1937 and signed by W. Earl Hotalen;
Another Surprise For The Wets!
The Holy Scriptures say that "the wicked flee when no man pursueth." In a recently published statement, Messrs. D. T. Kinney and his associates of the Legalization League claim that their standing, reputation and moral character have been attacked by the Cullman County Temperance Alliance. This claim is based upon two paragraphs contained on the last page of the Temperance Bulletin, now being circulated throughout this County by the Temperance Alliance, which two paragraphs read as follows:
"Who can be trusted for wise and good counsel in this matter? Will our voters take the word of messer. Kenney, Stiefelmeyer, Tucker, Baier, Clark and Dunlap? Or will they trust such men as Dr. John E. Marion, Dr. W. Glenn Bartee, Judge S. J. Griffin, Rev. T. J. Chitwood, Rev. S. J. Calvert, Mr. J. M. Bright and Mr. H. Clav Smith?
"Citizens who vote for the legalization of alcoholic beverages in Cullman County on the 28th day of this month will find themselves in the same company with every bootlegger and every man and woman of low character in the county. Those who vote "NO" will find themselves in the company of the ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the godly fathers and mothers, the sober and intelligent farmers, the upright business men, and the people of unquestioned character and integrity in Cullman County."
The writer of these lines wishes to say that he is the author of the entire article, entitled, CULLMAN COUNTY VOTERS FACE THE FACTS, which appears on the last page of the TEMPERANCE BULLETIN and in which occurs the paragraphs to which Mr. Kinney and his associates take exception. The writer wishes to say further that he does not retract a single word of those paragraphs. A careful reading and appraisal of those paragraphs will discover that nobody's character and integrity have been attacked at all. If Mr. Kinney and his associated think themselves to have been maligned, it must be a guilty conscience that accuses them and makes them blush with shame. It is a fact that the gentlemen of the Legalization League have made a foolish mistake and have gotten into bad company by giving their allegiance to the wet scheme to legalize the iniquitous Liquor Traffic. They, who profess to be good citizens, have shown such bad judgment in joining the Wet Crowd that we only raise a very proper and pertinent question when we ask: "Who can be trusted for wise and good council in this matter?"
It is a fact that every known bootlegger in Cullman County signed the petition asking for an election on the liquor issue. That fact alone brands as absolutely false the claims of the Legalization League that the State Liquor Stores Scheme will do away with bootlegging. Whoever heard of a bootlegger working against his own interests! The man who is said to have been named "The Kingfish of Cullman County" and who is alleged to have Cullman County in his pocket ready for delivery to the Wet Political Machine in our State, has only made himself more ridiculous by howling when he had not even been hit.
The Alabama Beverage Control Act has opened State Liquor Stores in 24 Wet Counties and has thereby immediately increased bootlegging and crimes of every kind traceable to alcohol consumption. Cullman County Voters have witnessed the tragic farces of legalization in these 24 counties and now know that THE ALABAMA BEVERAGE CONTROL ACT IS A FAILURE? You can not deliver the Cullman County vote, Mr. Kinney. Your fellow citizens will not follow you into the camp of the bootleggers. You ought to withdraw from that evil company yourself.
W. Earl Hotalen, Executive Sec.
ALABAMA TEMPERANCE ALLIANCE
Earl continued to accept speaking engagements at protestant churches around the nation and announcements were made in many newspapers. His portrait was published numerous times along with articles of information about the content of his speeches. In 1948 he is field director of the National Temperance Movement, Inc. and fellow of the Yale school of alcohol studies. In the 1950's-1960's he is a representative of an evangelical group called the Louisiana Moral and Civic Foundation, Inc., located in Baton Rouge. This group is a nondenominational organization that deals with public policy issues. Earl was respected by many groups as well as family and was invited to speak to many of those groups.
His second wife, Ruth Covell passed away on October 26, 1982 and Earl passed away the following year on July 7, 1983 in the hometown of his son, Dr. William Burke Hotalen, in Fort Payne, Alabama. They were both buried in Resthaven Gardens of Memories on Jefferson Highway in Baton Rouge, LA.