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David Curtiss Stephenson
Birth: Aug. 21, 1891
Harris County
Texas, USA
Death: Jun. 28, 1966
Washington County
Tennessee, USA

Murderer. Once a rising political figure in Indiana and national politics, he was convicted of the rape and murder of Madge Oberholtzer. Born in Houston, Texas, he left school at the end of the 8th grade, to support his family. When he turned twenty, he joined the Texas National Guard, and during World War I, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, serving in Company D, 36th Infantry Regiment in France. In his spare hours, he would read psychology books, and took public speaking courses to improve his ability to talk. He soon developed the ability to captivate audiences with his speaking. In 1922, he became a partner in the coal business, and moved to Indiana. The next year, he joined the local Ku Klux Klan, and his speaking ability quickly enabled him to become its Grand Dragon (State head of the KKK). He also became active in the state's Republican Party, and soon became so powerful that he was considered a contender for President of the United States, with the intention of entering the Presidential race of 1928. In 1924, by the age of 33, he was a multi-millionaire, lived in a large mansion, and had a staff of several bodyguards, a small fleet of cars, a personal train, and even a yacht on Lake Erie. His oratory soon expanded the Indiana KKK membership to an estimated 180,000 members. His newspaper, "The Fiery Cross," had a circulation of 500,000. His influence was so strong that he was often a guest of the governor, and often boasted, "I am the law in Indiana." As much as Stephenson would speak out against Blacks and Jews, promiscuity, alcohol, and immoral books and movies, he would hypocritically have orgies in his mansion, was an alcoholic and sexual deviate that enjoyed degrading and humiliating women. In early 1924, one woman charged him with seduction and he paid off his accuser. Other women came forward, and he bribed local officials to look the other way. In late 1924, he attended a dinner at the Governor's Mansion, where he met Madge Oberholtzer. Instantly attracted to her, they went on a couple of dates together, but when he revealed that he was the Grand Dragon of the Indiana KKK, she immediately broke off the relationship. A few days later, he tricked her into coming to his home, where he forced her into unconsciousness with liquor. When she woke up, she was on his private train going to Chicago. There he raped her several times, also mutilating her until she blacked out. When she woke up in Chicago, she asked to go to the drug store, where she purchased a small supply of mercuric chloride tablets, and when no one was looking, swallowed six of the poison tablets. That evening she became extremely sick, and Stephenson discovered what she had done, but refused to call a doctor. The next afternoon, she was so sick that he directed his bodyguards to hire a car and drive her home to her parents back in Indiana. When the men dropped her off at her parents' home, her parents immediately called a doctor, but it was too late to do anything, and Madge died ten days later in extreme pain. Stephenson was indicted on charges of kidnapping, rape, and second-degree murder. Although his lawyers argued that she committed suicide, the doctor testified that her mutilation injuries alone were sufficient to cause her death. By failing to take any action to help her for 24 hours, he ensured her death. The jury convicted Stephenson of all counts, and he was sentenced to life in prison. Stephenson requested a pardon from the Governor, who owed his election to Stephenson's influence, but the Governor ignored all of his letters. So Stephenson sent copies of letters and checks that told of his years of bribing public officials to the newspapers. The resulting scandal destroyed both the political structure and the KKK in Indiana. Within two years, the KKK in Indiana went from 180,000 members to virtual non-existence. On March 23, 1956, Stephenson, aged 65, was paroled. Five years later, he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 16 year-old girl, found guilty, and sentenced to four months in jail. He died in 1966 in Jonesboro, Tennessee, of a heart attack. (bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson) 
Family links: 
  Nathan Forrest Layman (1912 - 1966)*
*Calculated relationship
Mountain Home National Cemetery
Johnson City
Washington County
Tennessee, USA
Plot: L, 6/9 Marked w/VA marker [unmarked]
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Mar 04, 2000
Find A Grave Memorial# 3179291
David Curtiss Stephenson
Added by: Anonymous
David Curtiss Stephenson
Added by: Tom Denardo
David Curtiss Stephenson
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Mitch Dingus
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