There is a glass and wood door just off of our sun porch. It doesn’t honestly look like much of interest. It’s just on an ordinary-looking old door. It wears the patina of almost a hundred years and the brass doorknob is worn smooth by decades of wear and tear. It certainly doesn’t look like the bold political statement it was when it was hung there or the danger that the door meant to the whole family who once lived here.
Dr. and Mrs. Smith moved into our house right after returning from their honeymoon, which was sometime in early 1920. He was the only dentist in our small town with his office set up right down on the square. Dr. Smith was liked and well-respected among the citizens on this side of F-Ville except for his insistence on seeing Black patients as well as White.
He was a sensible man and didn’t allow his patients to mix in his waiting room. He saw his White patients openly during the day, and his Black and Hispanic patients after his office had closed, bringing them in the back door to keep it all as quiet as possible. It didn’t take long before the whole town knew that Dr. Smith was seeing “Colored” patients on the down-low, and soon after that the Klan paid him a visit. Stop seeing your Black patients, they told him, or we’ll run you out of town.
He didn’t change his clientele, and the Klan swung into action. They let it be known around town that Dr. Smith was anathema and that anyone who knew what was good for them would stop seeing him immediately. They then posted a giant of a man on the sidewalk outside his office to scare off anyone who ignored their ban and brought a Klan-friendly dentist into town to set up shop and run Dr. Smith out of business.
Dr. Smith wasn’t dropping any of his patients, or letting the Klan push him around. Instead, he hired a contractor to add a side entrance onto his house, renovated to change the downstairs bedroom into a waiting room and the backroom into an exam room, and added a parking space on the front lawn. He’d made an end-run around the Klan and brought his office home.
The KKK muscle man soon showed up on the sidewalk in front of our house, trying to keep the embargo in place. Dr. Smith had had enough. He grabbed his double-barrelled shotgun and ran at the goon screaming, “Get away from my house you sum-bitch!” The Klansman hightailed it out of there with the good doctor hot on his heels.
It was the last that Dr. Smith saw of the Klan around his business. He continued his practice here at home for years after that.
*We were fortunate to meet a few of his grandsons and one great-grandson last year. They stopped by to see the house where they’d spent their summers, and over a few glasses of sweet tea and Southern hospitality, they regaled us with the stories of the house we now call home.