Livingston’s past race relations explored in annual cemetery event

Samantha Hill

An African-American and a former mayor who was also a Klu Klux Klan member will be represented during this year’s Park County Cemetery Walk on Saturday.

Livingston historian Jack Luther will be playing Lewis Terwilliger. Terwilliger was a Park High School Principal for several years, a mayor for over three years and a Grand Wizard for the KKK of Montana.

 Luther explained that Terwilliger moved from Minnesota in 1895 and began teaching and eventually became the principal of what was then called Park County High School, leaving to pursue business in 1913. Around that time he became more interested in the Klan which was losing popularity in many states across the country.

In 1923, he established an area KKK in which he was a leader, the Grand Wizard. The organization was dropped shortly thereafter in 1931, after membership was at an all-time low. He was also the mayor of the city for a few years during this time.

Terwilliger passed away on Oct. 10, 1948.

The Park County Genealogy Society and Historical Society walk around the different cemetery they will be profiling in order to get a feel for what people may be buried there.

Luther said he saw the name of Terwilliger and remembered that he was interested in learning some of the man’s history.

He said when he plays the character, he will give a rounded view of his history examining all parts of him including his success in business as well as his involvement in the Klan.

He also plans to wear a suit, not a white cape representing the Klan.

As far from the KKK as you can get “King Kong” Leroy Clayton will be represented, an African-American man well respected in the community while his wife played the piano at the Melodee. There will also be people portraying doctors and interesting famiily members.

The Cemetery Walk will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 29 at Mountain View Cemetery.