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Ex-Grand Wizard of KKK Takes Louisiana House Seat

February 22, 1989

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, overcame two last- minute challenges and was sworn into the Louisiana Legislature on Wednesday as black lawmakers vowed to keep an eye on him.

Duke took the oath of office after surviving a lawsuit and an attempt by a lawmaker to deny him his House seat in a dispute over whether Duke was a legal resident of his suburban New Orleans district, which is 99.6 percent white.

″I want to allay fears that I will be divisive or a problem in this great body,″ Duke told his new colleagues. ″I truly believe when we took the pledge of allegiance this morning and we said justice for all, I believe in that for America.

″And I believe that discrimination is wrong and reprehensible when it is waged against anyone, black or white, in this country.″

Duke, 38, smiled broadly and waved before Speaker Jim Dimos administered the oath, which followed an attempt by Rep. Odon Bacque to have the House investigate whether Duke lived in the Metairie district a year as required by law. Opponents have said Duke lives a couple of blocks outside the district.

Earlier Wednesday, John Treen, a 63-year-old Metairie homebuilder who fell to Duke by 227 votes in Saturday’s special election, lost a last-minute lawsuit in state court to block Duke from being seated for not meeting the residency requirement.

Duke also was accepted by the House Republicans as one of their own, despite a move by national party chairman Lee Atwater to repudiate him as a member of the GOP. An anti-Duke resolution was drawn up Tuesday for action on Friday by the GOP executive council.

President Bush and former President Reagan had taken the extraordinary step of throwing their support to Treen, a longtime Republican. Duke, who ran for president in 1988 as a Democrat, joined the GOP just a few days before declaring his candidacy for the House seat.

Duke was cheered by supporters who packed the House chamber on Wednesday. Some lined up along the side of the House floor and others grabbed seats in the balcony. Duke’s entourage booed House members who rose to object to the swearing-in, but Dimos banged his gavel and threatened to expel them.

Two black House members walked out when Duke was sworn in.

″This a democracy and no one is above those laws,″ Bacque told the House. ″The question before us today is, is Mr. Duke eligible to serve?″

Democrat Rep. John Alario argued that the time to challenge Duke’s residency was before the election, and he asked the House to table Bacque’s motion, effectively moving to seat Duke.

After the motion was approved 69-33, Bacque said he would have no further comment on his action. ″It’s over,″ he said.

A string of lawmakers, many of them black, took turns at the microphone warning Duke that they would be keeping an eye on him.

″We are resolved and committed to make sure that racism will not become the order of the day,″ said Rep. C.D. Jones.

Duke was also welcomed as a member of the Republican legislative caucus and met informally with other GOP legislators. ″It was a nice fit. We talked about tax reform,″ said Rep. Jim St. Raymond.

Outside on the Capitol steps, about 15 young adults marched in protest, carrying signs reading ″David Duke’s a Nazi Kook″ and chanting.

Duke was a grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1970s and an international spokesman for the group, and was founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People. He once was photographed in a Nazi uniform.

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