T.T. Wentworth: Exalted Cyclops of KKK

T.T. Wentworth, Jr., former Escambia County elected official, historian and namesake of the UWF Historic Trust’s T.T. Wentworth Museum in downtown Pensacola, was also the Exalted Cyclops of the local Ku Klux Klan.

Historian Tom Garner has reviewed documents that record the founding of Escambia’s Klan in 1920, with Wentworth as its first Kligrapp, or secretary. In 1925, Wentworth was elected Exalted Cyclops, or president.

“These documents, held in the museum archives, are from Wentworth’s personal files.” wrote Garner, in a paper entitled “Pensacola’s Confederate Monument and the Erasure of History.”

“Among the many Klan-related items in the files are Wentworth’s Klan membership cards, correspondence between Wentworth and the Grand Dragon, Realm of Florida, and an invoice for Wentworth’s specially ordered satin Exalted Cyclops robe.”

The T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum is housed in the city of Pensacola’s former city hall and operated by the University of West Florida Historic Trust.

In 1920, Wentworth was elected to the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, the youngest commissioner ever elected in Florida. From 1928 to 1940, Wentworth served as Escambia County’s tax collector.

Wentworth is also remembered as a historian who owned a bicycle shop and sporting goods store in Ensley. He was a collector of memorabilia. Former Pensacola News Journal editor Earle Bowden honored Wentworth with the nickname “Mr. History.”

“T. T. Wentworth, Jr.’s association with the Ku Klux Klan has long been an open secret,” writes Garner in his footnotes. “I was first told of this association in the mid-1980s by the late Norman Simons, the first curator of the T. T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum, in relation to a collection of Klan robes and associated materials found by workmen renovating a historic meeting hall. These Klan items were placed in the collections of what has since become the UWF Historic Trust.”

Garner also points out the past of W.D. Chipley that we covered last month. Read “Chipley: The Man Behind the Monument.”

Read Garner’s Confederate Monument Staff Report.

 

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2 thoughts on “T.T. Wentworth: Exalted Cyclops of KKK

  1. I live in the Scenic Heights part of the city. In 1978, a KKK member, his son and another boy burned a cross on the lawn of the home where I have lived since 1984. At the time, my wife lived in the house with her first husband a UWF professor. Their oldest daughter had invited her friend from Woodham H.S. over for dinner on a Sunday. The friend was black, the daughter of a minister. The result, and I think it happened a few days later, was a cross put on the lawn with burning gas-soaked t-shirts wrapped around it. My wife once vaguely mentioned the horror of seeing it. In 2018, one of the guys involved came by to apologize to my wife for what he had done. He clearly had some “issues” and said that he had been in and out of jail and institutions his own life and wanted to get right with God. A neighbor who was then a student at Woodham knew the man and told me that he had seen the cross burning from two houses away and filled me in on the details. He died in 2019. Several years ago, he said he once worked for ECUA. He told me how his work crew once staged a mock-lynching of a black worker who was not working hard enough. They tied a rope around the guy’s neck, swung the rope over a tree branch and put him in the back of their truck. Also in 2019, a lady who lives near Hilltop and Creighton told me about stories she had heard from her landlady about northeast Pensacola once a hotbed of KKK activity.

  2. The skeletons of racism and discrimination are clearly hidden in the closet of Pensacola’s past. In fact the remnants of this past is still present in Pensacola today!

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