Goodloe Sutton, the 79-year-old editor and publisher of a small Alabama newspaper founded by his father a century ago suggests that the Ku Klux Klan should robe up and ride into Washington D.C. under the cover of darkness and lynch Democratic lawmakers, elected officials he claims are actually “socialist communists.”
Sutton’s paper is the Democrat-Reporter, a small weekly with a circulation of around 2,000. It wasn’t always struggling and once had a much wider readership, but not unlike many newspapers in small local markets, it’s struggled to survive, it was reported. It’s a relic. And now some are saying good riddance.
Sutton’s paper has an apparent history of racist reporting and editorials. Democrat Sen. Bobby Singleton of Greensboro, Alabama told AL.com that Sutton has “been making that kind of racist epithets for a long time …Goodloe is just being Goodloe as far as I’m concerned.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sutton Said the KKK Should Night Ride Again
Editors at nearby small papers, including a collegiate one, saw the editorial.
The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama doesn’t have a website; it’s strictly ink-on-paper for the couple thousand readers. When the Montgomery Advertiser called Sutton to confirm if he, in fact, wrote the editorial that ran in his paper last week, he said yes, it was him.
This is what he wrote (this report has not been edited):
Time for the Ku Klux Klan tonight ride again. Democrats in the Republican Party and Democrats are plotting to raise taxes in Alabama. They do not understand how to eliminate expenses when money is needed in other areas. This socialist communist ideology sounds good to the ignorant, the uneducated, and the simpleminded people.
People who do not understand the constitution do not like to be responsible. Slaves, just freed after the Civil War, were not stupid. At times, they borrowed their former masters’ robes and horses and rode through the night to frighten some evil doer. Sometimes they had to kill one or two of them, but so what.
This is the same so what used when Democrats got us into World War I and World War II. Then they got us fighting in Korea. Next when the industrial northeast wanted more money, they got us in the Vietnam war, and now in the Middle East war.
If you haven’t noticed, they did away with the draft so their sons would not have to go into battle. Seems like the Klan would be a welcome to raid the gated communities up there they called him compounds now. Truly, they are the ruling class.
Sutton told the paper, “If we could get the Klan to go up there and clean out D.C., we’d all been better off.”
Apparently, he was referring to Democrats in Congress.
“Asked to elaborate what he meant by ‘cleaning up D.C.,’ Sutton suggested lynching.
‘We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them,’ Sutton said.
When asked if he felt it was appropriate for the publisher of a newspaper to call for the lynching of Americans, Sutton doubled down on his position.
‘… It’s not calling for the lynchings of Americans. These are socialist-communists we’re talking about. Do you know what socialism and communism is?’ Sutton said.”
2. Sutton Has a History of Racist Rhetoric & ‘Racial References in Headlines & Stories …Some Dismiss Them as Examples of Goodloe Being Goodloe‘
In a story from the Advertiser in 2015, ‘Small-town publisher tries to hold on,’ Sutton’s paper’s financial problems were explored. As was his journalism legacy in the region, but also, mention, albeit brief, of Sutton’s prior racist journalism: ‘Selma black thugs murder Demopolite Saturday night.’ Meaning a resident of Demopolis, Alabama.
And despite the editorial rife with shocking statements, it’s the line about slaves donning master’s robes, that had some horrified.
In a 2017 editorial, Sutton wrote about NFL layers taking a knee.
“Some of the news programs are making a big to-do about black football players kneeling in the stadiums. That’s what black folks were taught to do 200 years ago, kneel before the white man. Is that it? Let them kneel!”
And worse. A story about a young African-American girl who had committed suicide as a result of racist bullying, this was Sutton’s paper’s story and headline:
Journalist chip Brownlee, who first tweeted about Sutton’s Klan editorial said, ” love and value local journalism. But this newspaper has a history of bad decisions. When a local 9-year-old black girl died by suicide after racist bullying, the Democrat-Reporter ran this headline.”
3. Sutton’s a Now-Former University of Southern Mississippi Journalism Hall of Fame Member, a Now-Former Chamber of Commerce Leader & Said a DUI From 2004 Was a Police Set-Up
Sutton and his wife Jean, also a journalist and who passed away in 2003, were graduates of The University of Southern Mississippi. The school of journalism inducted them into their Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Southern Miss graduates, Goodloe and Jean Sutton, lived their lives and shared their journalism careers together, beginning when they both worked on the staff of The Student Printz, Goodloe as an executive editor and Jean as a business manager,” the University wrote. “In 1964, they went to work for The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama – Goodloe as editor and publisher and Jean as a reporter.”
They founded and owned several local newspapers in Demopolis, Camden, Thomasville and Sumter County, Alabama. Southern Miss said the couple was “well respected civic leaders in Linden and in Western Alabama.”
But when he was busted and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, he later said he was set up by police because of his paper’s reporting on local corruption in the sheriff’s office, as was reported by the Tuscaloosa News.
Tuesday afternoon, the University removed Sutton from the Journalism Hall of Fame per the Clarion-Ledger: “The University of Southern Mississippi’s journalism department has removed an Alabama newspaper editor from its Hall of Fame after news broke he wrote an editorial calling for the return of the Ku Klux Klan and lynching….”
4. The Sutton’s Were ThisClose to a Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting on Police Corruption
In the 1990s, the paper’s investigative and watchdog reporting that exposed corruption in the local sheriff’s office “was recognized with numerous regional, national and international journalism awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists Sunshine Award and the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award.
Though years later, Sutton would say that his wife Jean was the reason the paper was able to publish the reports it did.
The Advertiser wrote in 2015, “He always credited her with laboring over courthouse records that helped The Democrat-Reporter win acclaim for exposing crooked cops, Marengo County’s sorry former sheriff who got his hand caught in the public’s cookie jar and an assortment of other ne’er-do-wells.”
According to the Congressional Record, then-Rep. Earl F Hilliard in 1998 did an official tribute to Sutton in the House of Representatives. Hilliard said the town was “lucky because they have such a brave and fearless man of letters to look after their interests.” Hilliard said the paper’s investigative series on police corruption showed he was a man of “integrity” who “suffered many many injustices at the hands of the sheriff’s department.” The congressman said Sutton was a man who believed in the principle of equal justice under the law.
5. Sutton’s Father Founded the Paper in 1917. It Celebrated Its Centennial 2 Years Ago. Some Say it’s Time to Put the Paper to Bed. For Good
“OMG! What rock did this guy crawl out from under? This editorial is absolutely disgusting & he should resign -NOW!
I have seen what happens when we stand by while people-especially those with influence- publish racist, hateful views.
Words matter. Actions matter. Resign now!”
“You know you’ve been working in the newspaper business in Alabama too long when you see the headline “Alabama newspaper editor calls for Klan return to ‘clean out D.C.’ “ and think, “I bet it was Goodloe Sutton.”
And then you’re right.”
This story has been updated to reflect Sutton’s removal from the University of Southern Mississippi journalism Hall of Fame and to reflect that he is not a trustee nor a member of the Vestavia Chamber of Commerce. His name, and other information about Sutton were listed on the website, but the page was removed after this story was published.