Ron Stallworth was the first African American police officer and detective hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. He also holds the distinction of being the only African American “member” of the Ku Klux Klan.
Stallworth was born on June 18, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois, but was raised in El Paso, Texas. He graduated from Austin High School in 1971. The family moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado in the summer of 1972. Stallworth became a cadet in the Fort Carson, Colorado police department on November 13, 1972. He became the first African-American member of the Colorado Springs police department sworn in on June 18, 1974, his 21st birthday.
Stallworth spent two years in uniform before becoming the youngest undercover agent in the department. He received his first assignment in April 1975, when former Black Panther Party Leader Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Toure) came to speak at a local nightclub. Stallworth attended the meeting and spoke briefly with Carmichael afterwards. Stallworth moved on to work in the intelligence department, and as a detective in the narcotics division.
In October of 1978, Stallworth saw an ad in the local Colorado Springs newspaper, stating that the Ku Klux Klan was starting a new chapter and looking for members. Stallworth, who later learned the man was a soldier at Fort Carson, sent a letter to the post office box listed, including an office phone number, but mistakenly signed his real name to the letter, thinking nothing would come from it. On November 1, 1978, just two weeks after sending the letter, Stallworth received a call, and was invited to join the Klan. When asked to come to a meet and greet, Stallworth had to use a Caucasian undercover officer to take his place. While waiting for his application to come through, Stallworth contacted a regional Ku Klux Klan office and spoke directly with David Duke, Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan at the time at his headquarters in New Orleans, Louisiana.
On January 10, 1979, Stallworth was assigned to protect Duke during his visit to Colorado Springs. During the meeting, Stallworth asked Duke if he would take a photo with him, as no one would believe that he was Duke’s bodyguard. Just before the photo was captured, Stallworth put his hands on the shoulders of Duke and another Klansman. Duke tried to take the photo from Stallworth, but was met with a threat of being charged with assaulting an officer of the law. The investigation lasted nine months and identified many local Klansmen as soldiers including two who were stationed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the central facility near Colorado Springs as well as high-ranking government officials.
When the investigation was closed, Stallworth transferred to the Utah Department of Public Safety, working as an investigator. He retired in 2005. Stallworth gave his first interview about his infiltration in 2005, having kept the story a secret for twenty-seven years. In 2014, Stallworth wrote and published Black Klansman, which was brought to the attention of movie directors Jordan Peele and Spike Lee. The movie, BlacKkKlansman, debuted at the May 2018 Cannes Film Festival in France, winning the Gran Prix Award, and was released on August 10, 2018. Stallworth currently lives with his second wife, Patsy, in Utah.