Ron Stallworth as the grand marshal for 2019
On Thursday, officials with the Sun Bowl Association and Oscar Leeser’s Hyundai of El Paso announced that Ron Stallworth will be leading the 83rd Annual Oscar Leeser’s Hyundai of El Paso Sun Bowl Parade, which is themed ‘Bobbleheads on Parade.’
The parade is set for the traditional date of Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 with start time set for 10 a.m. (MT) in El Paso, Texas on Montana Avenue, from Ochoa Street to Copia Street.
Stallworth, who is widely known for his book that was published in 2014, Black Klansman, which speaks about his experience during the investigation of the KKK. He was born June 18, 1953 in Chicago, Illinois and was raised in El Paso, after his mother moved the family to the Borderland.
According to Stallworth, “my mother’s moving our family to El Paso was the best decision she ever made, as the city was a far cry from the poverty, gangs, and conflict in Chicago’s South Side, where I would have come of age if she had not left.”
Stallworth graduated from Austin High School in 1971, where he was a cheerleader, a member of student council, and a member of a district-wide advisory board; he was also voted “most popular.”
“We have so many amazing people in El Paso with amazing stories and history, which always makes it a challenge to choose a grand marshal for this historical parade,” said Sun Bowl Association Executive Director Bernie Olivas. “But with the recent accomplishments by Mr. Ron Stallworth, the decision was a bit easier.”
The El Pasoan’s infiltration of the KKK provided the basis for Spike Lee’s movie, ‘BlacKkKlansman,’ which was released in October of 2018 and received acclaim from critics, who praised the performances (particularly of Washington and Driver) and timely themes, as well as noting it as a return to form for Lee.
It received six nominations at the 91st Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Lee’s first directing nomination), and Best Supporting Actor for Driver, and won for Best Adapted Screenplay, making it Lee’s first non-honorary Academy Award.
The American Film Institute also selected it as one of the top 10 films of the 2018, and at the 76th Golden Globe Awards it earned four nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama.
Stallworth was sworn in as a Colorado Springs police officer on his 21st birthday in 1974, making him the first African-American to graduate from the ranks of the Police Cadet Program. Stallworth was intrigued by the undercover narcotics investigators, and spent his first years peppering them with questions and pitching himself as a worthy undercover cop.
In 1979, Stallworth noticed a classified ad in the local paper seeking members to start a new chapter of the KKK in Colorado Springs. He saw that as a threat to the community, so he responded to the ad via mail to a P.O. Box and provided them an address and phone number. That was followed up with a member of the KKK contacting Stallworth, who posed as a racist white man.
Stallworth then arranged to meet the man at a local bar and sent a white undercover narcotics officer, wired to record any conversations, to stand in for him at the meetings. The subterfuge was a success and Stallworth continued to pose a KKK member for the next nine months.
After the investigation of the Klan closed, Stallworth kept it a secret and told no one about his role in it, given the KKK membership certificate displayed in his office, was a remarkable achievement in itself. He transferred to the Utah Department of Public Safety, where he retired in 2005 after working as an investigator for 20 years.
In January 2006, Stallworth gave an interview to the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, in which he related the details of his infiltration and investigation of the KKK. He disclosed that the investigation revealed several Klan members were active members of the US Armed Forces.
In 2014, Stallworth published a book, Black Klansman, about his experience investigation the KKK and used a casebook that he assembled during the assignment to assist in the writing of the book. The book was taken to QC Entertainment and a movie was released in 2018.
After retirement Stallworth earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Columbia Colleges’ Salt Lake City Campus in 2007
The 83rd Annual Oscar Leeser’s Hyundai of El Paso Sun Bowl Parade is scheduled for Thanksgiving morning, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019 with a start-time of 10 a.m. (MT). The parade runs down Montana Ave from Ochoa Street and ends at Copia Street.
The El Paso Downtown Lions Club organized the Parade in 1935. The parade was held on New Year’s Day from 1936 until 1978, when the event was rescheduled for Thanksgiving Day.
The holiday pageant is planned, coordinated and produced by volunteer efforts and draws tens of thousands of spectators. The Sun Bowl Parade is the largest community event in the west Texas, New Mexico and Mexico area, it brings together service clubs and civic organizations as well as all sectors of business and industries within the community.
For more information on the parade go to the Sun Bowl Association website.