On March 2, 2022, approximately fifty residents of the Town of Malverne, New York attended a meeting of the town board to demand the renaming of Lindner Place because Paul W. F. Lindner was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan in New York State during the 1920s. At the board’s February meeting, Mayor Keith Corbett requested that proponents of the renaming come prepared with additional documents about Lindner’s life to support the request. Speaker after speaker provided the evidence including Malverne High School student Olivia Brown, local lawyer Don Pupke, and community activists Jamie Bellamy, a member of the Lindner Place Renaming Committee, and Michael Anderson, President of the Lakeview Library. I testified as a local historian.
Testimony by Dr. Alan Singer, Hofstra University, to Mayor Keith Corbett and the Malverne Board of Trustees, March 2, 2022
My name is Alan Singer. I am a professor of education and history at Hofstra University. I speak as a historian, not as a representative of the university. I am speaking tonight in support of the Malverne High School student campaign and petition to change the name of Lindner Place to Cherry Lane. As a teacher, Olivia’s presentation and community activism deserves a grade of “A.”
The historical record is always incomplete because documentation was not created, not saved, or did not survive. The job of the historian includes reconstructing the past from incomplete records. However, there is sufficient surviving documentation so we know beyond a doubt that Paul W. F. Lindner, a founder of the Village of Malverne, was active as a leader of the Ku Klux Klan on Long Island and New York State during the 1920s. I am distributing a packet with the documentation to Board members. The material is from the Long Island Studies special collection at Hofstra University.
Local historians estimate that in the 1920s, over 10% of the population of Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk Counties in New York, were members of the Ku Klux Klan. The individual most responsible for the growth of the Klan was Paul W. F. Lindner, who lived on Long Island from 1878 until 1962 and was the New York State Exalted Cyclops of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s.
Much of this biographical information comes from the website West Hempstead Now and Them. Paul Lindner attended Princeton Theological Seminary and Princeton University and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church. At the start of the 20th century, Lindner purchased a farm on Hempstead Avenue in an area that was then known as Norwood. Lindner’s first involvement in local politics was as President of the Norwood school board, a position he held for more than ten years. In 1918, Lindner was involved in a property dispute that was ultimately decided in his favor by the New York State Court of Appeals
In 1911 the Amsterdam Development and Sales Company, headed by Alfred H. Wagg began developing the area by the LIRR station. This was the beginning of the Village of Malverne, which became an incorporated village in 1920. Rather than working his farm, Paul Lindner sold most of the land to the Amsterdam Development Company, later known as the Malverne Building Company. Lindner then became President of the Malverne Club and partnered with Wagg in the development of the village. In 1926, Lindner founded the Malverne Bank and was its president for the next five years. Lindner was also President of the Homeland Corporation, with offices on Hempstead Avenue in Malverne. The Homeland Corporation took a full page add in a journal published in conjunction with a July 1926 Klan “Klorero” at the Mineola Fair Grounds.
Lindner’s original home was destroyed by fire in 1921. He rebuilt the house and according to the 1930 federal manuscript census, Lindner, age 53, owned a home at 566 Hempstead Avenue in Malverne, where he lived with his wife Margaret, age 54, daughter Donna, age 30, and son Nowell, age 21. Lindner’s occupation is listed as bank clerk. Soon after that, Lindner and his family moved to Smithtown. Lindner’s Malverne property was sold to the Grace Lutheran Church in 1952.
Klan activities in Malverne are documented back to March 1924 when a Klan supported candidate, George McIntosh, was elected mayor. In celebration, the Klan erected two 15-foot tall burning crosses, one at the Malverne railroad station and the other at the Paul Lindner’s farm, where the Klan also set off dynamite.
On Saturday September 20, 1924, Lindner addressed a Klan “Konklave” in Freeport that was covered by the New York Times. An estimated 2,000 Klan members marched in a parade with 30,000 spectators. It was followed by a women's KKK rally. The women’s rally was attended by 8,000 local people and addressed by Lindner and Mrs. J. O. Katton, the New York State Klan’s women’s Kleagle. The Times article identified Lindner of Malverne, whose name was misspelled, as Exalted Cyclops. An undated newspaper article including two photographs from the Long Island Studies archives at Hofstra, probably from the Nassau Daily Review, reported that 100 Klansmen, “hooded but unmasked, attended a funeral in Port Washington where they burned a cross. A caption identifies Paul W. F. Lindner as the leader of the procession. An article from the Nassau Daily Review published on March 9, 1925 documents Paul Lindner’s leadership role in the Klan. It reported that almost two hundred “Men and Women of Klan Led By Kleagle Paul Lindner” marched into the First Baptist Church of Hempstead during Sunday services where Lindner spoke to congregants.
One speaker tonight expressed concern that if Malverne changes the name of Lindner Place students would not learn about the history of the town. They can still learn its history, but in addition, they will learn how community activism can make a difference.
In February, the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama voted to rename a building that bore the name of the state’s former governor from the 1920s and 1930s because he was also the Grand Cyclops of the Montgomery, Alabama Klavern of the Ku Klux Klan.
As I said earlier, he historical record is always incomplete because documentation was not created, not saved, or did not survive. However, there is sufficient surviving documentation so we know beyond a doubt that Paul W. F. Lindner, a founder of the Village of Malverne, was a leader of the Ku Klux Klan on Long Island and New York State during the 1920s. As in Alabama, there is nothing that balances this out. It dishonors the Malverne community to continue to have a street named after him in the village.
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