Robert Echols Scoggin was born to John and Pearl McEntyre Scoggin on May 12, 1922, in Green Creek, Polk County, North Carolina. It should be noted that on several documents in his papers, his name is often spelled “Scoggins,” rather than “Scoggin,” and even his birth certificate lists his name as “Robert Eckles Scoggins.”
Though he was born in North Carolina, his family moved across the state line, to South Carolina, early in his life. While he was in his late teens, he got a job at the Beaumont Textile Mills in Spartanburg, as a head doffer. Just a few weeks before his twentieth birthday, Scoggin married Rachel Pecolier Hawkins, on May 5, 1942. Apparently, the couple foresaw Robert’s future induction into the military, and decided to marry before his enlistment.
Scoggin enlisted in the Navy on August 30, 1942, and served as a coxswain. His training included food preparation, and anti-aircraft gunnery operation. Later, he received a wound as the result of an enemy engagement, and belatedly received a Purple Heart from the Department of the Navy (on December 5, 1960). As with all new seamen who cross the equator for the first time, he was initiated with ceremonial rites into the “Ancient Order of the Deep” by Neptunus Rex. This ritualistic ceremony may have had a lasting effect on Scoggin, as he was a member of several fraternal organizations, each embracing its own rituals and ceremonies. According to his son, Jonathan Scoggin, Robert served in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and two of the ships on which he served were sunk. He received an honorable discharge on October 17, 1945, and his discharge papers provide the largest amount of information about Scoggin and his personal life up to 1946. In 1950, he enlisted in the US Coast Guard as a seaman. However, his papers do not reveal the length of time he served in CG.
Though this collection of approximately two cubic feet of documentation, pertain mostly to the Ku Klux Klan, it provides scant information concerning when he joined the Klan, or how he rose through the ranks to a leadership position. His letter of temporary resignation, written just prior to his incarceration in March of 1969, indicates that he joined the Klan in April 1953, and another letter, dated January 5, 1970 indicates that he was the South Carolina grand dragon from January 1, 1962 to January 1, 1969.
His papers include a typed transcript of charges made against him by a US Grand Jury (Criminal Case No. 229-66), in which the House Committee on Un-American Activities subpoenaed him and other Klan officials to turn over Klan membership records. Scoggin refused to comply, and eventually was sentenced to imprisonment (in LaTuna, Texas) for one year for contempt of Congress, beginning in April 1969. He was granted a parole on November 19, 1969, and was released shortly before Christmas that year. Scoggin temporarily resigned from his position as grand dragon of the South Carolina Klan on March 17, 1969 so that another member could fulfill his duties while he served his sentence—with the stipulation that he would resume his office and duties after his release from prison.
By 1968, Soggin’s relationship with certain members of the national leadership of the United Klans of America, Inc., was already starting to deteriorate, and by early 1969, he began making public statements (many of them published in newspapers), asserting his belief that the KKK was in a state of decline and under the wrong leadership. For his publicized criticisms, the UKA banished him on April 20, 1969. However, he still had his supporters, and assumed the office of grand dragon of the Invisible Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (as opposed to the United Klans of America), which he re-incorporated in June of 1970. He resigned from the Invisible Empire in late 1973 due to his wife’s declining health and his other personal obligations. Rachel died of cancer on September 15, 1980. In spite of his “resignations” Scoggin remained active in the Klan as long as his health permitted.
According to interviews of two of his children (Peggy Scoggin-Holland, and Jonathon Scoggin), Robert was a good-looking, and intelligent man. They also describe him as a good organizer and charismatic with a wide range of people. Both described him as being very opinionated, with unchanging values; and Klan membership and leadership served as his venue for publicizing his opinions. Jonathon remarked that he would have made a great politician, and could have made a career in public service. According to Peggy, it was Robert’s charismatic personality as well as his organizational skills that fueled his rapid ascent through the ranks. Both described him as a strict disciplinarian, but not cruel or mean, as a father. Neither thought of him as being intolerant, but they did say that he believed that the African-American and Jewish communities had a hidden agenda. Moreover, Scoggin believed that these and other groups were trying to use the federal government to restrict personal liberties, and infringe private property rights. He and other Klansmen seemed to have thought that anyone with left-wing values—were “communists.” He also believed that left-wingers were conspiring with Jews and Negroes to subvert the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant establishment. Lastly, he was steadfastly opposed to people living on government hand-outs.
Oddly enough, Scoggin was strongly opposed to violence, and governed the South Carolina Klan with a very firm hand, insuring that his “realm” would not become involved in violence. Those in his Klan who were inclined toward violence, he quickly banished. His administration was one that distinctly differed from the usual Klan image. It only typified other Klans with its white robes, hooded regalia, ritualistic ceremonies, and cross burning rallies. One of the things about the Klan that appealed to him was its fraternal nature. The Realm of South Carolina, under Scoggin’s administration also engaged in philanthropic charitable work by making financial donations to needy families, including black families. Jonathon pointed out that the Scoggin family also gave generously to black families from their extensive vegetable garden. According to Peggy, her father planted flowers in the garden of a black woman in his neighborhood, and Jon said that his father treated others (including blacks) with respect, that his Klan ideology was a matter of political opinion, rather than a personal hatred toward non-white minorities.
As the bulk of records in this collection are most comprehensive for the 1960s and 1970s, there is little documentation of Scoggin’s life or work in the Klan for the 1990s. There is, however, a small amount of material to indicate that he was still, at least somewhat involved in advancing his values of “American-ism” late in his life. Robert Scoggin died in South Carolina on March 29, 2003. His daughter, Ms. Peggy Holland, of Concord, NC, deposited Scoggin’s papers to the University of North Carolina-Charlotte Library in August of 2003. [Jonathon Scoggin, interview by Ruth Faye Griffin, November 20, 2004. Peggy Scoggin-Holland, interviewed by Griffin, November 5, 2004.]