The 1928 presidential election had active political fallout in Alabama. While Bourbon elites celebrated their success in delivering the state's electors to Al Smith, they grieved the larger Pepublican triumph and realized how narrowly their own state had escaped. Still, the bareness of their victory did not prevent the oligarchy from issuing yet another round of declarations that the KKK was dead. This time the pronouncement was far more accurate, especially in a political sense.1
For a while the Klan leaders of Alabama's Hoovercrats did some celebrating of their own. Their neck-and-neck race proved that the politics of prejudice was alive and well in the Deep South. Such a remarkably close vote in a Solid South state was a powerful testament to the ability of politicians to prey upon the deepest insecurities of their fellow Alabamians. By threatening to cost a party the loss of Alabama in a national election, the KKK's leading strategists, perhaps for the first time, began to realize the potential of waging a politics based almost exclusively on racial fear and hatred.
Although Tom Heflin, Hugh Locke, and Horace Wilkinson most likely felt cheerful about the future, for two of them the 1928 election actually marked the zenith of their political careers. While the trio clung to the politics of intolerance after 1928, they increasingly fought a rearguard action that even they eventually recognized as untenable. Hugo Black and Bibb Graves, though, were rewarded for the discretion they displayed in 1928. While Heflin and Locke's political stock plummeted, Graves and Black moved further from the Klan and consequently thrived. Wilkinson marched to his own drummer. After 1928 Wilkinson increasingly concentrated his efforts on dominating politics and patronage in Birmingham.2