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William M. Chaney oral history

Identifier: OH057

Scope and Contents

This collection includes a transcript and a reel-to-reel audiotape from an oral history interview with WIlliam M. Chaney, conducted by Randall W. Jehs for the Indiana State Library on June 6, 1971. Chaney talks briefly about his family, childhood in Kentucky, and military service during World War II. For most of the interview, he discusses the history of the Ku Klux Klan, their financial structure, and the Klan and politics. Chaney also discusses his position in the organization, Klan activities, membership in the Klan, and his attitude towards other races.

The transcript also contains a picture of Chaney wearing his Klan regalia.


  • 1971/06/06


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Biographical Note

William Chaney was Grand Dragon of the Indiana Ku Klux Klan during the 1970s. He was born on July 22, 1922 in Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky son of, Willilam Amos and Eva Marie (Calhoun) Chaney, one of 10 children. Chaney served the U.S. Army during World War II, achieving the rank of staff sergeant. He married Mae Marie Smith on December 1, 1945, in Meece, Kentucky and they had two daughters, Berneta and Jane S., and one son, William Marshall, Jr. They family moved to central Indiana soon after the war. He worked as a driver for over 20 years, for a transport company and city bus company, though at some points he earned money as a Klan member and through an unnamed political position.

Chaney joined the Klan in the early 1960s and quickly advanced at the local and natioanl level until he became Grand Dragon of Indiana. In October 1976, Chaney was convicted of possession of an unregistered explosive device and throwing it at a building in connection with the firebombing of the Naegele Outdoor Advertising Company in May 1976. After several appeals, on May 26, 1979 he was sentenced to five years in prison with five years probation.

Chaney died on May 27, 2002 and was buried in Mills Springs National Cemetery in Nancy, Kentucky.


Item in the collection. "William M. Chaney, Sr." Find a Grave Memorial. Accessed November 2, 2019.

"William M. Chaney Sr." Obituary. Franklin Daily Journal, May 29, 2002.

Smulevitz, Howard. "Klan's Chaney Gets 5 Years in Prison." The Indianapolis Star, May 26, 1979, 49.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 transcript, 1 folder, 1/2 reel-to-reel audiotape)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by format.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation from the Indiana State Library Oral History Project.


No further additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN:

SP061: William Chaney photographs

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Marcia Caudell during November 2011. EAD finding aid completed by Bethany Fiechter on 2019/07/02. Collection reprocessing completed 2020/03/09 by Brittany Kropf. EAD finding aid revised 2020/03/09 and 2020/08/27 by Brittany Kropf.


William M. Chaney oral history
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.