Beginning with the May primary race for mayor in the Republican Party, the city elections of 1925 were dominated by the presence of the Ku Klux Klan. In May 1925, John L. Duvall, former Marion County treasurer and Klan member, defeated anti-Klan candidate Ralph Lemcke for the Republican nomination for mayor of Indianapolis. Following his victory over A. G. Emhardt, former city attorney Walter Myers emerged as the Democratic nominee. Although the mayoral race that followed was labeled by political insiders as the most featureless in years, the 1925 election proved to be a great Ku Klux Klan victory involving several important issues that emerged in the school board and city council races.

Operating under an at-large scheme for electing city councilmen, six pro-Klan Republican candidates were elected to the nine-member city council where their sympathy toward white neighborhood associations led to the passage of a residential segregation ordinance in 1926. Overturned by the courts before it could be put into effect, the ordinance gave whites the right to exclude Black families from moving into their neighborhoods.

The triumph of the Klan-supported United Protestant school board slate, however, seemed to be more a matter of widespread support for a proposed building and modernization program than sympathy for the Klan’s racial agenda. In the mayoral race, Duvall ran on a combination of his record of efficiency as Marion County treasurer and allegations of Myers’ involvement with the corrupt Bull Perrott Bush machine.

The resulting election in November was marked by low voter turnout, with only 95,872 out of the estimated 150,000 registered voters going to the polls. Capturing every ward except the 12th and 13th , Duvall won the mayor’s race with about 52,000 votes to Myers’ 43,000. More significantly, however, many Republicans on the ticket under Duvall surpassed his vote total in individual wards and his victory was due, at least in part, to his carrying the city’s predominately Black 5th and 6th wards.

Revised April 2021

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