Beno Hall: Tulsa’s Ku Klux Klan Klubhouse

by Steve Gerkin –


Beno Hall, Tulsa's Klan Headquarters at 501 N Main St. in Tulsa

 

Think of a hall. Well, there's a pool hall, city hall, concert hall, dining hall, great hall, and Carnegie Hall. So many halls. Tulsa had a historically significant hall that few know about today. One might call it a public secret. It was a clubhouse filled with men of conviction, men for law and order, men who espoused Christianity, men for America first, men who were manly: their opinions.


My dad went to his Masonic hall — an extravagant temple, really — in Sioux City, Iowa. It was hush, hush, about the goings on inside the three-story building close to the YMCA. They had rings, rituals, and rites. That much I knew. They were community leaders, who espoused to the value of law, God, and nationalism. That much I knew. But they did not wear white sheets, nor rough-up Black Americans. The members of this specific hall on Tulsa’s North Main Street did. That much I know.

Men asked to join went through a ceremonial induction, like a fraternity. There were nominal dues, like those of the Elk, Rotary, or Moose Clubs, whose credos have the public's best interests at heart. One such Tulsa brotherhood built a meeting hall, a physical structure to plan secret ceremonies and clandestine adventures for the good of the community; actions steeped in post-civil war traditions, sacred beliefs, and a history of violence. And when they chose, their services became public spectacles to remind the citizens the Klan still cared. In today's political world of the 2020s and commensurate with the number of immigrants entering America—immigrants of color, this group has seen its numbers swell. There are no apparent temples today. Oh, but there was in early Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a sight to see. Beno Hall was north of downtown, for members only and during social occasions for their wives and kids, no matter the ages—kids in training to be members one day, like their heroes, like their dads. Perhaps, a family that terrorizes together stays together?


The monstrous, three-story, steel-reinforced, stucco building towered along the western edge of race massacre-decimated Greenwood. It dominated the landscape at the foot of Standpipe Hill, sporting a bright whitewash, the favorite color of its primary residents. Inside, its members vowed to protect their "100% Americanism notion." They reasoned that you had to swear to secrecy and seclusion to become a guardian of liberty. And you had to embrace intimidation and violence as a way to assert your values.

In January 1922, the Tulsa Benevolent Association of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was officially formed as a holding company for the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Incorporated. Among its founding members was Washington E. Hudson, the at