The state of Georgia will not allow the Ku Klux Klan to adopt a stretch of Georgia Highway 515 near the North Carolina state line.
That word came late Tuesday in a letter to the Klan from the Georgia Department of Transportation.
But WSB legal analyst Ron Carlson is almost certain this is not the last we’ll hear of this case.
“I have to admit I was surprised,” Carlson said.
Carlson, a professor emeritus of law at the University of Georgia, earlier predicted the state would have little choice but to approve the KKK’s request to adopt a stretch of highway near Blairsville. The Klan would be responsible for picking up trash along the highway in Union County, and in return, would be recognized for its efforts with a sign in that area.
But instead, the Georgia Department of Transportation denied the Klan’s application late Tuesday.
The letter from Georgia Transportation Commissioner Keith Golden said the Klan has a reputation for civil disruption of which the state wants no part.
“The impact of erecting a sign naming an organization which has a long rooted history of civil disturbance would cause a significant public concern," Golden wrote. "Impacts include safety of the travelling public, potential social unrest, driver distraction, or interference with the flow of traffic. These potential impacts are such that were the application granted, the goal of the program, to allow civic minded organizations to participate in public service for the State of Georgia, would not be met.”
The commissioner also told the woman who applied for the Adopt-a-Highway program, April Chambers, that the stretch of road in question is too dangerous and is not eligible for the program because the speed limit is higher than 55 MPH.
“You have applied for a controlled access section of SR 515, with a speed limit of 65 mph. The Department has determined, in accordance with the written Adopt-a-Highway documentation, for the safety of any volunteers and the travelling public, this location is not an area which may be adopted,” explained Golden.
But Carlson said the KKK could get around that. “Let’s see if the Klan asks for a spot in a 35 MPH or a 40 MPH zone,” he said.
Carlson predicted this case is headed for court in what he thinks will be a long- and expensive lawsuit – one he believes the state is almost certain to lose.
Some KKK officials are quoted as saying if denied they would seek help from the American Civil Liberties Union. Calls and emails from News/Talk WSB to April Chambers, the Klan official whose name appears on the application, have gone unanswered.
The organization submitted an application to the state's Adopt-A-Highway Program May 21. In 1997, a similar request in Missouri touched off a court fight that lasted for years and reached the Supreme Court. The high court declined to hear the case. The lower court had held that the state could not keep the KKK from participating in the program.
Missouri's DOT eventually kicked the Klan out of the program for "not picking up trash as agreed," and later renamed the stretch of Interstate 55 after civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks.