KENTLAND — A conservative Hoosier governor who attempted to thwart the 1920s rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, but later resigned from office following a federal mail fraud conviction, will be immortalized Saturday in his Newton County hometown.
The Indiana Historical Bureau is set to unveil a state historical marker commemorating the life of Gov. Warren McCray at 1 p.m. local time at the Kentland Depot in Cast Park, 2775 W. 1500 S., Kentland.
McCray, a Republican, was Indiana's 30th governor, serving from 1921 to 1924. He was just one of two, along with LaPorte native Harold Handley, the state's 40th governor, to hail from Northwest Indiana.
As governor, McCray partnered with Republican legislative supermajorities to generally roll back Progressive-era reforms, and worked to limit state government to a few, essential tasks, such as education.
At the same time, McCray supported the construction of the Lincoln Highway, now U.S. 30, through Northwest Indiana, and approved the state's first gasoline tax to pay for it.
His governorship coincided with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist, anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic secret society, whose membership at the time included at least half the General Assembly and GOP Secretary of State Ed Jackson.
After McCray vetoed legislation providing for a Klan Day at the Indiana State Fair, complete with nighttime cross burning, attempted to revoke the Klan's Jackson-issued charter and refused a bribe to put more Klan members in state jobs, the Klan decided McCray had to go.
McCray was indicted in Marion County for embezzling state funds in connection with a $155,000-loan McCray received from the State Agricultural Board after a post-World War I farm price depression hit McCray's nationally-known cattle dealing business hard.
His trial ended in a hung jury. But McCray later was convicted in federal court for soliciting private loans through the mail using fraudulent documents.
McCray resigned as governor minutes before being sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. He was paroled in 1927 and returned to his Kentland farm.
In 1930, President Herbert Hoover learned of the Klan connection to McCray's conviction and awarded him a pardon. McCray died in 1938.
Speaking at the dedication ceremony for McCray's historical marker will be Mike Rowe, Kentland Town Council; Kealy Myers, Kay Babcock, Beth Bassett and Janet Miller of the Newton County Historical Society; and Casey Pfeiffer, historical marker program director at the Indiana Historical Bureau.